America through my 3-Year-Old’s Eyes
We just arrived in Baltimore for my parents’ 50th anniversary celebration next weekend.
On Friday, on the way to the kosher grocery store in the Orthodox area, I thought it would be fun to play “Who sees a Jew?” with 3-year-old Yaakov. So I called out “Jew!” several times and pointed to men in kippahs and be-sheitled women driving minivans. But Yaakov wasn’t interested in my game. He’s seen Jews before.
Then yesterday, on Shabbat morning, my father and I walked over with the kids to a new playground, and Yaakov actually did see several things he’s never seen before.
As we headed up the block from my parent’s home, Yaakov suddenly stopped walking and pointed, “Look, it’s a girl mouse!”
“That’s not a mouse,” I corrected, “that is a squirrel. There are many of them in America.” Yaakov proceeded to point out every squirrel he saw along the way, “Look there’s another one!” But no matter how hard he tried, he didn’t manage to catch a single one.
And then, halfway to the playground, again Yaakov stopped walking and pointed, “What is that?” “That, Yaakov, is a fire hydrant! If there is a fire, there is a lot of water in the hydrant so the firemen can put out the fire.” Yaakov thought that was cool, and he also discovered that hydrants are easier to catch than squirrels. The next one he saw, he gave it a big hug, exclaiming something I didn’t exactly catch about his hero, Fireman Sam.
But that was nothing compared to Yaakov’s excitement over that noisy thing we saw several men pushing across their yards. A lawn mower! “This cuts up leaves AND ants!” he declared with his new, characteristic “I-am-almost-4!” certainty.
Truth is, when I visit my parents, I like going to shul on Shabbat morning. And I had been a little disappointed that I had to spend this past Shabbat morning on little-boy duty. But in the end, Yaakov more than repaid me for my sacrifice. Opening my eyes to the special within the humdrum, the new within the old, which I pray, please G-d, will accompany me even further than the new playground and back.