Segal: Like son, like father
They say kids say the darnedest things. But sometimes when I listen to myself talking to my son, I can’t believe what I’m saying! As it turns out, I can be a monster. Let me explain.
Like most children, my son likes bedtime stories. Some nights he asks for true stories from my childhood. Once I told him about riding horses at summer camp. Good, I thought, I’ll enthrall him with the thrills of equine recreation.
“The wranglers showed us how you tie the reins — that’s like rope — around the horse’s face and neck, with a metal bar locked in its mouth. That’s how you steer — you pull the reins left or right, and the horse turns. To go, you kick the horse with your heels. Real cowboys use spurs. Do you know what a spur is? It’s a piece of sharp metal attached to the heel that ‘poinks’ (my son’s coinage) the horse’s belly. When you kick with a spur, you really get the horse’s attention because it’s like stabbing! Wait, son, why are you crying?”
Another night he asked me to tell him about when we got a dog. Good, I thought, I’ll spin a heartwarming yarn about a young couple adopting their first dog.
“Soon after your mother and I moved to Colorado, we told the local shelter we were looking. A litter of puppies was coming in the next day, so we went to meet them. One of them cuddled up to us and we took her home. The first night in her crate, she cried and cried.”
“Why did she cry?” my son asked.
“Because she missed her mother. When you pick out a dog, you take it away from its mother, its family, its pack — everyone it’s ever known! Suddenly she was in a new place with total strangers. She was lonely, afraid and sad.
“Wait, son, why are you crying?”
To get our minds off bedtime stories gone wrong, I thought I’d take my son to the zoo. He loves the zoo. That’s a whimsical, carefree zone, right? Good, I thought, here comes another successful father-son outing.
We went to the tiger habitat but couldn’t find the tiger. At last, I spotted it.
“Over there, by the fence. Look, he’s just pacing back and forth, over and over. His eyes look desperate yet vacant. Haha — fun! — right, son? Anyway, let’s go get some lunch at the zoo restaurant. Now that we’re done looking at animals, we can go eat animals.
“Wait, son, why are you crying?”
As I took my wallet out to pay for the overpriced zoo food, a $20 bill caught my eye. My mind wandered as I stared at Andrew Jackson’s mugshot.
I said to myself, “So, they’re replacing this genocidal slave-owner with Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave turned freedom fighter. Seems like a reasonable idea to me. Most people seem to support it.
“And then there are people with … reservations. On public Facebook groups for a leading presidential candidate, one critical thinker said, ‘I can’t think of one useful or helpful thing a black person has ever done for this country.’ An intellectually curious wordsmith added, ‘WTF did she do so great she gave some slaves a box lunch a nights sleep and pointed them north to start the welfare and food stamp system (sic).’ An American history buff said, ‘Leave our money alone! Let’s take a president of the U.S. off the $10 bill and put an idiot that wouldn’t give up her seat on the bus. Stupid as hell!’”
“Wait, dad, why are you crying?”
Rabbi David Segal, of the Aspen Jewish Congregation, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-925-8245. His column runs the first Sunday of the month.