When I was eight, my mother took me around the world. It was audacious and efficacious and perspicacious.
Dar is eight. We haven’t taken him around the world. Instead I wonder what the world looks like that he traces in his own mind. He can never tell us.
When I was eight, we visited Hiroshima for the 34thanniversary of you-know-what. We walked past thousands of people holding hands and chanting. We walked into a museum displaying mannequins with permanently melting faces, frozen in their stagger away from the A-bomb. I got all that, and I never forgot all that.
Dar has no visible reaction to death, to loss, to disaster. The word Hiroshima will likely never mean anything to him. Nor the word “nuclear.” Nor the word “disaster.” Dar may get caught in an 8.0 earthquake someday; an hour later he is unlikely to behave as though he noticed.
When I was eight, a Chinese man hauled me in a rickshaw through Hong Kong. Mom and I ate Chinese food and compared it to Japanese food.
Dar isn’t going to ride in a man-drawn rickshaw. None of your kids are. Maybe that’s good.
When I was eight, in 1979, my awesome single mom walked me around Thailand. Before Tim Rice wrote the lyrics, I had seen a “muddy old river” and “reclining Buddha.” I had learned that “not spicy” in Thailand is the equivalent of “spicy” in California.
Dar likes lying down in water.
When I was eight, we walked into and out of the Taj Mahal. I wasn’t one of those snotty eight-year-olds. I didn’t have a device to play with nor something else I wish I’d have been doing. No, I was agape at ivory. When we strolled over to the Red Fort, I wanted to run right back to the Taj. Even (especially?) at eight, I gleaned something of the historical-social-cultural significance of the Taj Mahal and I wanted to somehow subsume its strength.
Dar will never visibly glean any historical-social-significance of anything. He would react or not react in the exact same fashion to Agra’s Taj Mahal, a snow globe of Agra’s Taj Mahal, or Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal.
When I was eight, Mom and I walked around Tokyo, Kyoto, HK, Bangkok, Bombay (they called it that), Delhi, and Katmandu…before we arrived at Dal Lake in Kashmir. I think the hecticness of those cities had something to do with how ready I was to behave wiser than my years in Dal Lake, and simply CHILL…chill in canoes on a warm lake surrounded by snow-covered Himalayas.
In fairness, no Western tourist has visited Kashmir, uh, since we left? But it’s also true that I have never seen Dar chill that way. Although he does have his uncanny appreciation of water.
What does all this have to do with anything? Well, when I was eight and not hobnobbing around the globe, I watched a TV show on ABC called “Eight is Enough.” If I might misappropriate that moniker for a minute, eight is enough. Eight is old enough to see the world, to understand why other societies matter, to build memories that will last a lifetime, to begin thinking beyond a North American perspective. Yes, I understand that such a trip could be considered a construction of white privilege, but such a trip also does much to deconstruct white privilege (when you’re not riding in rickshaws).
One of my favorite things about my friends who have served in the military is that they tend not to sit in a crouch defending the American perspective on every last little thing. My soldier friends are mostly open to ideas that come from other countries. I’m proud to think of them as global citizens, and hope that I’m a little bit of a global citizen as well.
And we always want our kids to do a little bit better than we did, right? I’d say my mom did pretty well with that. She grew up working-class in San Francisco, one of six kids raised by a widowed fresh-off-the-boat Irish Catholic mom. Mom didn’t leave the U.S.A. until well into her 20s. She worked hard and made herself into a global citizen. I got all the benefits; I was supposed to pass those on and even improve upon them.
I have two kids; I would love to have raised two global citizens. But…with Dar it’s just not in the cards. I suppose the glass-half-full way of seeing this is: well, at least he won’t be defensively American, using justifications for his and our behavior that no one outside the United States would ever use. But forget the glass-half-full way for just a minute. Dammit, wallow in that glass-half-empty for a moment. Really. Recognize the ongoing tragedy that is Dar. For just a moment here, don’t sugarcoat it.
For most of my first day ever in Asia, I stared at a half-empty, half-full glass. I had vomited on the transpacific flight, and Mom wanted me to take some Alka-Seltzer. I loathed taking pills, so Mom put the pills in a glass of water to dissolve them. I would sip a tiny bit of the contents of the glass, then stop because the taste was so disgusting. I whined that we needed better than Alka-Seltzer. Mom wasn’t going to search throughout Tokyo for that. While she slept to get over the jetlag, I stared at that glass, waiting for the pills to dissolve like in the commercials I’d seen on shows like “Eight is Enough.” I didn’t pour sugar into the glass (and maybe I should have). Occasionally, I stared out the hotel window at the Tokyo traffic and the pretty Japanese neon letters. Mostly, I stared and stared and stared at the glass. It seemed like the pills were taking forever. It seemed like that half-full-empty glass would never change.