Thursday, December 16, 2010
A Wildebeest Kind of Winter
I was ready for my his questions. He'd been too young the previous two years to notice anything as we drove around our tiny Jewish world - to our synagogue, to his Jewish preschool and back to our Jewish home. This bubble had to burst sometime.
It wasn't like he hadn't been exposed to the outside world. My family is so diverse it's like a United Nations conference. I was ready for an age-appropriate discussion of religious pluralism. Sure enough, I noticed he was staring out of the window, his mouth open, his eyes wide.
He pointed at the neighbor's house and yelled, "Mom! A wildebeest!"
This I didn't expect. Of course, I knew there wasn't actually a wildebeest in my neighbor's front yard. Even my HOA couldn't be that lax. But I said, "A wildebeest? Where?"
He was pointing at a reindeer. I thought quickly. Should I tell him the truth or should I let him have a little magic for one more year?
I said, "Wow! A wildebeest!"
Sometime earlier that year Bar Mitzvahzilla had become obsessed with the movie "The Lion King." After watching it every day for a year, I came to like it, too. For some reason, his favorite scene was when Simba's father Mufasa fell off the cliff into the stampeding wildebeests. He re-enacted this in our home day after day, clinging to the clifflike edge of my bed, while I, Mufasa's evil brother, Scar, flung him off the cliff. Bar Mitzvahzilla would fall to the floor onto a herd of toy wildebeests that just happened to be stampeding by on the carpet.
So he was a little obsessed with wildebeests. Having them appear all over the neighorhood that December was an truly a wonderful thing.
After he noticed the first wildebeest in our neighborhood, we started taking walks each night for wildebeest sightings. There were the ones who moved their heads up and down as they fed, the ones that looked off to the side, watching warily for lions, the ones that were frozen, caught in mid-prance, or skittering in the hunt, running from hyenas. If something didn't make sense - like the wildebeest that leapt in the air with the blinking red nose - Bar Mitzvahzilla just ignored it. His only disappointment? That there were no elephants adorning my neighbors' lawns, no giraffes with their heads sticking up as tall as the palm trees, and no actual predators lurking in the bushes.
Eventually it ended. He grew older, and we had the talk we needed to have. But for a while, our neighborhood became an African savannah, with wildebeests magically standing in each yard and lions just around the bend.
Has your child ever made up their own answer to a question that was very different than the answer you may have given? Any obsessions with movies, watching them over and over again? Do remember seeing magically through your kids' eyes?
* Although I've always written original pieces for this blog, I wanted to tell my Wildebeest story so I reran it here. This piece originally appeared in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix on December 11, 2009. Here's the link to the original piece: http://www.jewishaz.com/issues/story.mv?091211+winter