Archive for November 4th, 2009

What We Leave Behind

Carla: Last night my husband and I, along with my parents, saw Dave Brubeck in concert. The man is 88 years old and is arguably the greatest jazz musician alive. As I sat there with my parents, I thought about the incredible gift they have given me in instilling a love and appreciation for this legendary artist.

My parents are big jazz fans and we always had jazz music playing in the house. Every chance they had to see one of their favorites in concert, they bought tickets for all of us and we went. Mind you, I grew up in a small town and attending these concerts usually involved a 2-hour drive and often an overnight stay. Even when I was in high school, my parents would haul me along to shows by greats like Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie and a much younger Dave Brubeck. I was often the only child in an audience of adults and I loved it. I loved the time with my parents, I loved the music, and I loved being in the presence of these great performers.

Last night, listening to music I’ve known for most of my life, sitting with the people who taught me to love it, got me thinking about the gifts I am giving my children. I wonder what treasures I am passing on to them. I don’t just mean the big-picture things like faith and love. I mean these little things that are part of our lives that the kids might not even notice right now but will thank us for one day. I wonder how they’ll fill in this blank: “My parents taught me to appreciate ______”

Maybe it will be “the woods.” My sweet husband was not outdoorsy when we met, but he has discovered a love for camping and has made camping with our kids a priority. So every summer, we hit the road at least twice to sleep on the ground and eat food with dirt in it. Our hope is not that our kids become expert campers, but that they learn to see the beauty of creation, that they find the same peace and contentment in the woods that we do.

Maybe it will be “community.” We have people in our house all the time. Sometimes they live here, sometimes they are here for dinner, sometimes they just pop in when they are out walking their dogs. Regardless of why they come or how long they stay, our friends–and their friends and so on and so on–make our lives better. We hope our kids pick up on the beauty of community, the joys and challenges that come from truly sharing life with other people.

Of course it’s just as likely it will be “show tunes.”

So much of what I learned from my parents happened simply because they included me in what they were interested in–theater, music, good food, books, Monty Python. They weren’t intentionally trying to teach me anything, just being themselves and inviting me into their lives.

Caryn: Oh, I love this topic (show tunes, the woods, yes!!). And I must tell this story. The other day I was looking through my son’s “take home folder” and sifting through his worksheets, etc. and I came across his Bible quiz (he goes to a Christian school, remember. No, our public schools don’t teach Bible here). Here was the question:

Jonah disobeyed God. Draw a picture or write about what happened to Jonah when he disobeyed.

My son’s answer: He got slurped up by a big fish.

SLURPED! I nearly squealed. My son—who is an incredible artist, so I’m surprised that he didn’t draw a picture—chose the word “slurped.” His word-loving teacher wrote “interesting word choice!” and put a smiley face next to it.

Darn tootin’ (in words my mom passed down to me) it’s an interesting word choice! But beyond that, I felt like such a roaring (another passed on word) success as a mom because one thing I’ve tried to pass on is a love of words. In English. In Spanish. Big ones. Little ones. Real ones. Made up ones. And here my son writes that Jonah got slurped. I’m still smiling.

Now, who knows what my son will do in life. But if he does it with wise word choices, I’m happy.

I think that’s what makes families so cool—that God plunks these kids into our lives and it’s our job to pass things on. Maybe they’ll grow up sharing our loves—our family’s love of debating issues, questioning, of politics and reading, of God, of animals—or maybe they’ll grow up rejecting some of it. But just that they’ve been exposed to our loves and loved during the “exposing” is so awesome. It’s sort of a branding for families. What makes us special, unique.

Which brings me back to slurped. Note: On that same quiz, my son was also able to list two prophets God used to speak to Israel, which king was 7 when he was crowned and which one was told to destroy Ahab’s family and the Baals. But I’m less impressed. Anyone can know that (except I didn’t). But word choice is an art. Maybe even a family thing.

Carla: I love me a good word choice.

I was talking about this with my husband today and he thinks our kids are picking up goofiness from us. Considering I met him when he was playing the Church Lady in a skit, the chances are pretty good they will indeed learn a little bit about goofiness.

So Revs, how do you think your kids will answer the question: “My parents taught me to appreciate ______”?