Monday, August 30, 2010

Life Lessons and a Side of Fried Butter

Shabbat #30

Guests: Suzanne and Neil and son A. Suzanne went to elementary school with Steve and I know Neil from cycling. Our sons are close in age and had a near miss last fall at the Meramec School carnival ... but things went swimmingly on Friday.

Menu: Sweet Potato Chips and Mango Salsa, Grilled Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde, Watermelon Salad, Garlic Couscous, Toby's Challah, Cheesecake with Hand Picked Michigan Blueberry Sauce

What I Learned:

Truth be told, we're more country than country club. Especially now.

Suzanne's known Steve since the second grade. She can attest. Attest to the plaid shirts with the mother of pearl snaps and Wrangler jeans that were Steve's uniform before a certain high school girlfriend (we'll call her Ann) convinced him that penny loafers and pink polos were more fitting for a Ladue Ram football player. Next time you catch me in blue jeans check out my belt. It'll probably be a leather one with a silver sundial buckle and S-T-E-V-E etched across the back - a precious relic from Steve's cowboy days.

While the plaid shirts may be long gone, Steve's love (and mine) of the slower life, the outdoors and the simple things isn't. A reminder of years of sweet childhood memories made in Innsbrook, Wickenberg and Colorado. Of western saddles, barrel racing and campfires. And a chance for us to make new memories with our children.

Our Friday shabbat dinner was followed by an overnight trip to Sedalia, Missouri for the Missouri State Fair. It's one of several trips we've made as a family to various fairs, rodeos, tractor pulls, monster truck shows, and ... yes, now even a demolition derby. I love it because it's impossibly low key. My $3 straw cowboy is the only accessory I need. Blending in beats standing out.

But maybe even more important is the opportunity it gives us to teach our children things they might not otherwise learn ... or a least learn as easily ... at home.

I feel enormously lucky to be able to raise my children in a neighborhood where I can walk them to one of the best public schools in the country; and I value the importance that the school and our broader community and congregation places upon diversity and sensitivity on everything from peanuts to birthday parties, but sometimes I wonder whether it paints a realistic expectation for my kids. Is this teaching them about the world outside of our sometimes hyper-sensitive bubble?

Sometimes I need to be reminded that the energy I put into teaching Ben and Sarah about being sensitive to differences is equal to the energy I need to put into teaching them about how to sensitively respond to situations that are not so diverse. Life outside the bubble. To embrace and share those aspects of themselves that make them different. And to respect the differences in others.

The state fair is a great place to teach those lessons and gorge ourselves on all things fried.

Take the Dairy Barn -- more than a place to teach the difference between dairy cows and beef cows. Ben met a boy not much older than himself that had dedicated hours upon hours to raising the cow he so proudly led into Coliseum for the Youth Guernsey Cow Judging. Wearing pristine white jeans, a button up shirt and a look of determination. A little bit different from the select baseball league he's watched cousin Jake play in all summer, but no less impressive.

And then there was the quest for the "Rodeo" ball cap from a kiosk of cowboy hats adorned with crosses prompting Ben's question: Why are there X's on all of those hats? An opportunity to teach him that just how sometimes we, as Jews, identify ourselves with the Star of David, Christians identify themselves with a cross ... saving (but perhaps teeing up) the more complicated explanations of what those symbols signify.

Or the demolition derby ... which by the way is NOT like Wresting At the Chase; these guys in these cars are for real. When the announcer takes to the microphone to bless the drivers and leads the fans in the Lord's prayer it is a moment to coach Ben on paying respect to a different kind of prayer. Just as all of his non-Jewish friends that have shared Shabbat dinner with us this year have paid respect to his prayers over the bread and wine.

Yeah ... gotta love the State Fair. Fried butter. Funnel cakes. Meat on a stick. And a few life lessons thrown in for good measure.

No comments:

Post a Comment