Last week, three teens, a tween and I piled into the car and headed for Brooklyn to attend Sakura Matsuri, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Driving from Connecticut to Brooklyn can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 17 hours, depending on traffic. Sometimes it’s worth the effort.
The festival is a celebration of all things Japanese, from traditional tea ceremonies and martial arts performances to J-Pop concerts and anime activities. There were hundreds of cos-players wandering through the crowd, posing for pictures with fans and paying tribute to their favorite Japanese anime characters. I don’t have a ton of photos, because random people kept wandering into my shots. The crowd typically reaches 70,000 people at this event, so as the day wore on, the crowd got thicker, and thicker and thicker.
We did manage to see a few things.
There was much excitement over the sighting of No Face from the movie Spirited Away. We are all huge fans of Studio Ghibli films for multiple reasons, a primary reason being that all of the female characters save themselves, and sometimes the world from destruction.
Five minutes later I spotted the real NY Senator Chuck Schumer, and the kids were like yeah, whatever, so I didn’t bother with a photo. They were anxious to visit the teeny, tiny trees.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is home to one of the largest bonsai tree collections on display outside of Japan. The collection contains more than 300 tiny trees. This lilac tree was my favorite:
Then we visited the full sized lilac trees on our way to the Japanese Marketplace. I wish I could share the heavenly smell with you…
The marketplace was so crowded that we had to wait and push just to see what the vendors were offering. My 12 year-old was disappointed to find that the affordable sushi-pillows were sold out and all that was left was a giant $50 dragon roll. She opted for some cutesy pastel decora jewelry instead. Have you seen this stuff? It’s toothache cute.
The photo below was taken along the Cherry Esplanade, the main attraction and the location of the main stage, which we couldn’t really get close enough to see. It was difficult to capture the colors in a quick shot. The crowd moved (and we had to go with it!) down the path through the rows and rows of blossoming trees, and stopping for a carefully planned photo was impossible. Have you ever experienced the human gridlock at Rockefeller Plaza at Christmas? It was a little like that, except we didn’t get body-slammed into a store window. I had to focus on keeping track of my dear suburban teens in the crowd. I only lost one once, for about 10 seconds.
People watching was as much of a treat as the teeny tiny trees, and the girls were delighted by random unexpected sights. These hardcore Kimmy Schmidt fans were immediately able to identify recent gentrification of Brooklyn neighborhoods on the drive to Prospect Park. Their favorite? Hipster spotting in Williamsburg. Sorry, no authentic photos to share. I was driving.
I told them about my obsession with cool doors, and we all agreed, this one wins.
We seemed to take the long way home, though on a Saturday afternoon in NYC I don’t think there is a short way. My GPS didn’t seem to understand Brooklyn any better than I did, so I just headed for the Manhattan skyline. While we sat in traffic, they discussed their plans for returning to the festival next year. And they people watched some more as the traffic moved us across the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown, the Village and eventually up the west side toward home.
Conversation rarely ceased, and teen girls can get real deep, real fast, so I focused on navigating the traffic while they had a mini-therapy session in the back seat. They have so much on their plates. What will they do with their lives? Where will they go to college? Why do their parents do the things they do? And why the hell does Trump own all these buildings lining the Hudson River?
Then, politics. It held them over from the Upper West Side, through the Bronx and back into Westchester, where I had to stop for coffee.
As I sipped my coffee and turned the car north, I thought about these girls in my car. I’ve watched them go through phase after phase, I’ve heard them discuss everything from Shakespeare to gun control, mean girls to boys. I know within the next year at least one of them will be driving and my time with them will be increasingly less and less.
To these strong, brilliant and amazing young women, I say this:
It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be your driver.