One of the great pleasures of raising children is passing down to them the things that you have loved in this life. From reading to them The Little Engine That Could to Charlotte’s Web to The Hobbit, initiating them into their first Hitchcock or Frank Capra or Charlie Chaplin film, taking them to the first symphony or jazz concert, the first trip to the art or science museum, the first camping trip and so on and so on. You hope they will be as thrilled as you were by some of these things and they might but then again, they might not. One of the few disappointments I have in my kids is that they roll their eyes if I suggest they sit down on the couch with me and watch—Heaven forbid!—an old black-and-white film. And my wife is dismayed that they won’t enthusiastically accompany her to the next art exhibit at the museum.
Oh well. They have their own loves and rightly so. But one of the great pleasures of grandparenthood is getting to do it all over again with the grandchildren. And this time with more pleasure and attention because you’re not so busy feeding them and sheltering them and keeping them from beating each other up and so on.
And so it was that my wife Karen and I took granddaughter Zadie to her first professionally-produced play, A Christmas Story. It was a perfect choice because we had watched the movie with her the year before and she watched again with her parents a few weeks ago. So the story was familiar and fresh in her mind and she could perfectly follow everything.
It felt like a very grown-up night out on the town, Zadie dressed up in her black dress, dinner at an elegant restaurant where she got to try out her new attached-at-the-top chopsticks, a walk through Union Square still bustling in its finest holiday dress with the big tree outside in the square and another inside Neiman-Marcus, Macy’s windows lit with wreathes, ice-skaters zipping about, a peek into the St. Francis Hotel with its gingerbread house and sugar castle. Then the excitement of the lights coming down in the theater, the music starting up and a two-hour production that had her full attention every step of the way, ending with the magical snowflakes coming down while the cast sang out the ending in full voice. Beautiful! And topped off with an It’s It ice cream walking back to the car.
Well, I missed Zadie’s first camping trip, but ahead I look forward to those old films and books, more plays and concerts and museums, a first trip out of the country. And then also with her younger brother Malik, waiting for his moments of readiness as well.
Alfie is not the only one who has wondered “what’s it all about?” (a film that didn’t quite hold-up and is not on my Zadie-Malik list), but if we have to put words to life’s meaning, I would say that all the encounters that have captured our hearts, have made time stop, have helped us feel that all is well and we belong to it, that remembering them all and passing them down to the next generation, be they our blood relations or the children we teach or our friends and neighbors, is as good an answer as any. Zadie, it was a perfect evening with you. May there be many more to come!