Monday, December 26, 2022

The Caretaker

If withholding praise builds the tenacity and determination to scale a wall higher than one would otherwise attempt, I am a failure as a parent. I just can’t stop praising my two daughters. Younger daughter Talia for her extraordinary genius as a teacher, her physical grit as a marathon runner and her spiritual connection to the natural world realized in constant weekend camping trips. Older daughter Kerala for her breathtaking writing, splendid organization skills and admirable equanimity. And both are excellent cooks!


Today I want to heap more praise on Kerala here in our Palm Springs vacation retreat. But let me back up a step.


Here is a clear truth: I like to be in charge. Given a choice, I will almost always choose the driver’s seat and in just about any circus I encounter, I like to be the ringmaster. Certainly in my music classes, in school ceremonies, in concerts with my band, in public lectures, I am most at home directing the show— still with plenty of space for other’s voices, but me determining the rhythm, the pacing, the shape and design. 


Yet I also love to occasionally go on those Hop on-Hop off buses, take a guided tour or go on the rides at the Boardwalk. Rare moments to completely let go control and just say, “Hey, I’m all yours! Take me away!”


And being on vacation with Kerala, that’s a lot of what it’s like. I know how to get around in the kitchen and love to cook, but when she’s in there, I just back off. Likewise, at lunchtime, when she comes out with a tray full of perfectly arranged foods artfully arranged. Every day, we go hike somewhere, but darn if I know where until we get there. I just get in the car and follow Kerala to the site she has chosen. I’m happy to direct some of the games at night (though that’s more Talia’s territory), but Kerala’s organizational skills when it comes to food and hikes and snacks for the hikes  and directions to the hikes and the routes within the hikes are just breathtaking. I feel small pangs of guilt that I’m not doing more (I do wash the dishes!), but I also see how much she genuinely enjoys it.


Let me be clear. Kerala adamantly refuses the imposed identity of woman as caretaker. Read her pieces about both the imbalanced emotional and physical labor put on her shoulders and her outrage over the patriarchy. She is a strong, independent woman who knows in her bones that her skillset ranges far and wide into all sorts of previously male territory. Caretaking, of course, is probably one of the most honorable faculties any human being can develop, but works best when we choose when and how and how much on our terms. 


Meanwhile, thanks to my daughter for the “Ker’-taking. And maybe tomorrow, I’ll plan the hike, make the lunch and cook the dinner. 

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