Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Box of Buttons

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last week, Tim Youngs from Spokane left a review of Children’s Fairyland on Facebook. He said our park is “the last truly non-cynical destination in the Bay.”

Sometimes it really does feel like our little park is an oasis: a place where families can go to escape the troubles and fears in an uncertain world. Gentle  animals, art, storytelling, fantastic play structures, gardens, puppet shows — we present them all in a manner that respects the innocence of childhood, encourages the imagination to take flight and demonstrates the kindness we’re all capable of.

The Fairyland Card Maze (and one rose).

Many of us are glad to leave 2016 behind. We lost many talented and spirited young people in the Ghost Ship Fire. I lost two remarkable people very special to me personally — also under circumstances that could have been prevented. And Trump’s election has elevated cynicism — no matter your political preference — to a new level, and that level is off the charts.

And yet every day I am surrounded by toddlers of all colors who are delighted by bubbles, sing along to stories, slide down hills and pet ponies’ noses. For kids who have experienced trauma in their young lives, Fairyland is a particularly therapeutic environment where they can just be kids.

Bubbles make everything better.

This year we had a lot of “firsts” at Fairyland. Our first Turn the Page! children’s literature festival celebrated local authors and illustrators. We hosted a Forbidden Puppet Cabaret for adults. And we were proud to co-produce, with Bay Area Children’s Theatre,  the West Coast’s first productions of Theatre for the Very Young, which engaged kids as young as 6 months.

Those of us in the nonprofit field are talking about how the election may impact local giving. Larger nonprofits, such as the ACLU, the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood, are reported to have received unprecedented outpourings of support since Nov. 8. We’ll have to see whether there will be a corresponding rise  – or drop – in support for smaller, more local causes.

I choose to remain optimistic. To that end, I am trying to channel Fairyland’s non-cynical heart whenever possible. And a recent event buoyed my spirits.

Some of you may be familiar with Ike’s Shoe Repair on Lakeshore Ave. Ike is known for working magic not only with shoes but also with recalcitrant zippers. 
Ike's on Lakeshore.

I had taken in a pair of relatively new shoes that had lost an ornamental button. Amazingly, the shoe’s maker had no more of these buttons to replace the one that fell off. I went to Ike’s, not feeling particularly hopeful, as my last option.

One, two, button my shoe...

I’d almost lost hope altogether by the time Ike pulled out a little cardboard box that contained all kinds of random buttons that looked like they were from the 1950s. Amazingly, he fished out one black leather button that was an exact match for the one missing from my shoe. The odds against this happening were huge, and yet …

The box of buttons.

I choose to focus on this particular box of buttons as I end 2016. I think it’s a good omen, and I wish all of you many moments of optimism and playfulness in the new year.


C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children's Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation's first storybook theme park.

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