Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Day the Wallet Was Lost

Sunday afternoon, September 27. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Yesterday morning, Saturday, Nora kept sleeping as Mia and I puttered around the hotel room, taking baths, eating breakfast and playing with her new paper fairy treehouse. My little blondie radiated heat and slept on as I changed her out of her diaper and jammies, gave her a sponge bath and put her in warm clothes.

Our room has a four poster bed with beautiful Balinese details, pillow-like white feather duvets that housekeeping fluffs and makes into long rectangles, one on each side of the bed. At the foot of the bed there is room for a tiny desk, which sits against a room divider, hung with a beautiful silver-framed mirror. Beyond the divider is a futon on which the kids sleep. We have a sweet balcony with table and chairs, an enormous armoire for clothes and a small fridge packed with organic sodas.

I checked my handy map, already well-used, put hats and gloves in my backpack and hoisted Nora to lug down to our rental bike.

The trailer was left overnight in the courtyard. We were lucky with clear skies last night. Next time I'll fasten the plastic cover in case of rain or heavy dew.

Nora slept on on the lobby couch as I struggled with the trailer lynchpin on the sidewalk. Mia stood by, then volunteered to go back to watch Nora. I let the girls out of my sight. What else to do, honestly? The women at the front desk have all been very warm and helpful. I am steps away.

We finally took off down Frederiksberg Alle, a lovely street tree-lined that was once a private drive to the king's palace, then east down Gammel Kongevej, a street of beautiful shops and restaurants, then turned at the dramatically brickworked Planetarium towards the lakes. (Or are they canals? I've heard these lovely lakes were dug as water reservoirs, but another more romantic story says they were a means of hiding ships during take your pick of the Danish-Swedish wars.) Swans and ducks.

Left turns are still difficult. Friday I nearly got caught in a stream to traffic while trying to negotiate a crossing.

A man passes me on the left in our narrow bike lane and says something in Danish, his hand weaving like an unsure snake. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I call and try to keep evenly to the right.

I count no helmets yet but for one woman and an adolescent in a German soldier style one.

We pass the Botanic Gardens and there's Staten Museum for Kunst, the National Gallery. Nora's still groggy, I carry her as much as I can up the entrance stairs. We get tickets and wash up and deposit my backpack in a locker in the whitewashed catacombs below.

I put my wallet and map in my pocket.

Lunch is in the beautiful Republic Cafe. The "kid's menu" offers fish cakes with remoulade or dark bread with pate. The room is part of a modern glass walled addition built on the back of the old brick building. They retained the old facade, so you walk out the old doors to an atrium of light, huge glass walls facing a lake and tall trees.

Nora put her head down on the table and Mia picks out chocolate milk with me. When the beeper chimes, we approach a counter where the man smiles and begins to explain our brunch, served on triangular plates and in tiny glass dishes.

"Cheese?" is all I can say.

"Oh, sorry," he smiles and explains again in English. What a country. They apologize for not recognizing your Americanness.

The girls' plate is a little man made of brown bread and butter with cucumber spear arms and legs, carrot stick hair and a cucumber bit face. When I cut off his head to eat, Mia says, "Give him a sad face." I turn over his cucumber curve of a mouth and we laugh.

Nora eats nothing and lays in my arms while Mia jumps on a blue and white striped platform in a kids' playroom on the same level. No cushioned walls.

On a chalkboard platform, Mia draws and smiles while a little nearly one-year-old in cords, vest and shirt climbs on her to touch her face. "I have to teach him woman like some conversation first," says his friendly father and we laugh.

Upstairs is an art workshop with hot glue guns set out. Mia glues beads and matchsticks to a square of cardboard and uses pastels to make a garden. Nora sleeps on.

When we go down to get my backpack from the catacombs, I throw my wallet in the pack instead of carefully zipping it in my purse as usual. It's the last time I'm aware of where it is.

We bike south to the Nyhaven district where Randy is working. I wonder at how compact this efficient city is. We pass through tiny St. Anne's Passage, a twisty bricked bike and pedestrian street laid between beautiful doorways. Dad's workplace, Duckling, is a warren of locked doors, alleyways and passages into a dim room of computers where he sleeps on a couch. Before this nap, Randy had been up for 56 hours. The film has been cut down to 5 minutes from 15, then back up to 6. Audio has it now. Dad can't give us much - he's a zombie. We only wanted to say hi, so we leave after a few minutes.

We reach two deadends as I try to leave with the girls - I need to reach through a locked gate and ring inside again to ask to be let out. It's fresh air outside where a playground in the middle of the graceful Saint Anne's Place waits for us. Nora sleeps on. Mia is sad I am too tired to be lively but more children appear and cheer her. The kids here stare at our strange talk but have the universal language of play. "I think this will work, don't you?" I asked the boy who stopped to watch Mia attaching a mini car to her tow truck. "Ja," he replies.

I return to the playground at Skt. Anne Plad in my memory, trying to realize some important detail that might give me more information about the wallet. But the pack in the park was on the bench next to the sleeping Nora. Did it bounce out of my pocket as we rode home down charming narrow streets parallel to the Stroet? (I have no Danish keys on my keyboard so you will need to picture struck Os and As with haloes littered here and there in the Danish names.) Did someone reach in and take it from the bag that I left on another bench in the late afternoon gloom as Nora slept on in the trailer and Mia played again at the Castle playground - her favorite, the one I had promised her? It was dusk now and this neighborhood, Vesterbro, is a tiny bit rougher than Duckling's by the Royal Family's residence. Again, I picture Wicker Park - there's graffiti on the back of the churches and boys running with jeers away from their friend walking his pit bull.

It's the only opportunity, the only time I turned my back and if I wove the story in this way you would stop wondering before I did. But I had no funny feeling. There were only families at the park. I never felt jostled or bumped. And this is Denmark. Incredibly helpful, kind, good-humored Denmark.

The bus driver essentially said, "your money's no good here" and waved us to sit down. And when security at Staten Museum for Kunst carries the wallet to me today around noon, two hundred dollars and five hundred Kroner, the three credit cards and my driver's license are undisturbed. I'm glad the man at the travel store at Old Orchard taught me "magna tak" (many thanks) before we left.

"We take care of each other," said the woman on the bus who offered help when she saw my map. Perhaps she has been reading about the 43 million uninsured Americans and the reluctance to reform. Perhaps Obama will get a breath of relief when he comes this week and meets some of the sensible Danish with their matter of fact shrugs, "Of course we take care of each other."


kim @ mommyknows said...

Wonderful post!

My grandfather was Danish. One of my favourite family vacations was to Danmark when I was 12.

I never drink tea, without remembering our trip (we must have drank a ton of tea).

2KoP said...

This sounds like such a wonderful trip. You seem to be having a lot of wallet issues these days. I'm going to have to get you one of these.