March 19, 2009

Time: Indifferent Mistress

Something charming happened to me today. Charming in this sense. I am watching young people around me grow up, fast. For the first time today, it didn't make me feel old. It made me remember being young. Those days didn't seem so far away instead of ages ago.

A young man, who was one of my favorite Euchre players accepted my invitation on Facebook. He was a shining star, with big dimples and bright blue eyes. I met him when he was 14 and I was the youth director at our then church. Today he's a young college student filled with life. I looked into his posted pictures and smiled remembering a conversation that seemed ages ago.

"I will never party or get drunk, Mrs. Fresh."

"Yes, sweet boy, you will. But when you're 21, I'll go have a beer with you and we'll talk about it."

"You kill brain cells when you do that."

"Yes, you do, but if I hadn't killed a few brain cells in my day, I'd be a nuclear physicist, not your youth director, so I guess it worked out for the best."

Maybe he doesn't know how much I enjoyed watching him grow up. Maybe I didn't either. I just know that today, I smiled when I saw that he was indeed growing up.

As another memory overlapped. My then 5 year old daughter watched the same young man flip a guitar pick for a church scavenger hunt, which she saved and cherished. As you know, she is a rocker girl today, loving her guitar lessons. I'm sure this small gesture was nothing more than being cool on his part, but it impacted her life tremendously. Who knew the flick of a guitar pick by this cool high school kid would shape her wishes today? As every memory swirls I know that time marches forward... indifferent to us.

My other daughter, who is now 13, came home yesterday, blushing. A boy she likes hugged her. Three times. As she shared the story, my heart warmed and my mom side thought cautiously, thank god we didn't let her wear that short dress to school.

Time is indifferent. It moves forward whether we want it to or not.

March 18, 2009

Children of Abraham

…your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you, (Genesis 17:5)

أحب الخاص بك الجدة

Quite literally, the members of my family are children of Abraham. That is a name in our family tree. My husband’s grandparents were born in Syria and Lebanon and came to the United States in the 1930s. We have a lot of Abrahams in the family tree and the heritage is a strong proud one.

Something happened over the weekend that upset my daughter to her core. She is proud of her background and the cultural influences that have shaped her life. She knows a handful of Arabic words and enjoys Middle Eastern food on a regular basis.

Let me introduce you to Sittoo, my husband’s grandmother. That is how to say Grandmother in Arabic. She was born in 1907 on the banks of Lebanon. Her village was a simple one and she would often reminisce about the cedars on the mountainside, the delicious food and the exotic music and dances. She learned 3 different languages before she came to the USA; Arabic, English and French, from the French occupation of Lebanon.

Lebanon was a largely Christian enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druze. Sittoo spoke often of her Muslim neighbors though she herself was a Maronite Catholic. She came to the United States in an arranged marriage, but her husband died shortly after they were married. Her second husband was a Syrian man she knew from her social club. He was my husband’s grandfather, who died in 1978. She brought her rich heritage with her and maintained her native ways until her death at 96. Our children and I were very blessed to have her in our lives, which are more vibrant for knowing her.

Fear has gripped our nation. Thoughtless, naïve comments are made. Comments that come from a place of zero personal knowledge but rather spoon fed hatred. The prejudice towards Middle Eastern people is frightening. The comment that was made was, “those Middle Easterners want to kill all the Christians”. The sad thing, this comment was made by a religious leader. Not all Middle Easterners are terrorists, nor are all terrorists Middle Eastern. It is flawed logic. Some terrorists look like Ted Kaczinski, Timothy McVeigh and John Lee Malvo.

Historically, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all started with Abraham, the father of nations. Each faith embodies slightly different manifestations, yet, the core message is the same. There is one God and we share one same Holy Place, the Temple Mount, where Solomon built a temple, Jesus prayed, and Mohammed ascended. We have many more similarities that are often overlooked. To quote Rabbi David Rosen, "interreligious dialogue is an essential component in facilitating peaceful reconciliation in international relations, for the wellbeing of our world as a whole".

I think we can do better for our brothers and sisters. I think we can reach across the world and set an example for the hate filled extremists. Do not perpetuate their frightened gross generalizations, but rather extend a hand of friendship and love. I think we should stop making religion the bad guy, and remember the core teachings of tolerance and peace, which is central to all Abrahamic religions. Religion gets a bad rap for being at the center of so many wars and people turn away from it for that reason. It’s time to stop arguing about whose God is the better God and embrace our collective faiths that tell us there IS God, who made a promise a long time ago to Abraham.

And I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 26:4)

It’s time to gaze into the night sky and count the twinkling stars, and realize… we’re all in this universe together.

Genesis 6:24

March 10, 2009

The Naked Nanny

I have written in the past about growing up on a farm. I haven't provided a lot of the details, as they just weren't relevant to many of my stories. Plus, they really are quite unusual. My family may also be aghast that I still tell these tales.

Mama was the last of the hippies. Her dream was to live off the land. Papa Fresh was a sales guy & all around wheeler dealer. (This probably explains why they didn't remain married as well was why I have a lot of different influences). Papa’s solution to Mama's dream was a farm just large enough to qualify for tax benefits. Mama decided to grow organic produce.

That meant lots of work. Weeding by the bucketful, hand picking bugs off plants versus spraying poison on them, and composting all the garden scraps. It also means there wasn't much time left to parent. We children had live in nannies. I grew up with assorted young women living in our home from the time I was 8 until about 12. Consider who would want to live on an organic vegetable farm in the 70s. We had the most unusual cast of Bohemian characters living with us. I think in total, we had 7 or 8 different girls. Some didn't last more than a few weeks, but one of them stayed for 2 years. Never Mary Poppins, unless Mary Poppins grew plants in a tin foil encased old VW behind one of the barns. During that era, I learned how to do batik printing, how to tan a sheepskin, how to play the dulcimer, and... how to skinny dip.

Actually, we never had swimsuits. There was no point. We worked in the field, got hot and dropped our clothing at the side of the pond and jumped in. Naturally, the nannies were to supervise us and they joined in. It just was what we did. So from age 8 on, my brothers and myself were regularly exposed to bare bodies of varying sizes and shapes. One of our nannies, Laura, was a bit on the heavy side and she had an extremely large chest. We would climb onto her shoulders and dive off them, and she would joke that we could use her chest as steps.

One summer evening, at a family barbeque, complete with aunts, uncles and grandparents, all the girls (Laura included) decided to go skinny dipping. We did realize in that situation it was not appropriate to mingle the sexes, not with my uncle’s single brother, as well as a few adolescent males there. But, my uncle’s single brother thought it would be amusing to steal Laura's clothing. I don't really know why it didn't occur to me to go get more clothes for Laura, but I was just a kid, oblivious to all the undercurrent nuances of the situation. She faced a conundrum, dripping wet with her nearest clothing at the house.

Her solution was to imitate a horseless Lady Godiva. She pulled her hair forward, barely reaching the top of her breasts, and walked stark naked through the barbeque, into the house to get another outfit. She sauntered past my aunts, grandparents and cousins and also past my uncle’s brother, with a bit of sass. Everyone saw Laura's bare breasts. My grandmother and aunts were horrified that such a bad influence would be around the children. I imagine the men all wanted to avert their eyes, but still needed an rather irate elbow from their female counterpart to succeed.

A few moments later, Laura came back down in clothing and got herself a plate of (just) desserts.


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