Radical Jewish Culture

Tonight at dinner, we were listening to a wonderful jazz record by Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, and Joe Lavano called I Have the Room Above Her. It's a cool minimalist thing, very atmospheric. Great for the complete chill out. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

As Mormon people we probably ought to have been playing something by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or a Disney movie. But we weren't. Instead we were whiling away the sabbath with jazz. This Motian record was in the CD tray right after the Chet Baker Christmas album Silent Nights, which I believe should be in every Christmas-observing American home, along with the Nashville Superpicker's Picking on Christmas and Vince Guaraldi's masterpiece soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The only thing better would be a Hellcaster's Christmas Album--I'm drafting a letter to Santa in the morning.

So, we were about halfway through the Sunday dinner when the song changed. The new track was in a minor key with a melody vaguely Jewish and John Zorn-like. Zoë (who is three) looked up with a piece of chicken in her fingers and said, "Dat song sounds like Chanukah music." Then she popped the chicken into her mouth and chewed it up.

My wife and I looked at each other, listened intently to another two or three measures of the song, and confirmed that the melody did, in fact, have a Jewish cast to it. Then I nearly started weeping--my wife, too. I said, "Zoë you are the most wonderful little girl I have ever met."

Zoë smiled and smiled. I was so happy that this little person could fit into my family so well. Later, as I got myself ready to draft this entry, I began thinking that my daughter is fast on her way to being a High Horser, a snob in the first degree, just like her parents, and that's okay, I think.

I want to reward that kind of thinking. I want her to know that the connections that fire in her head are like gold to her parents. I want her to know how wonderful it feels to make connections no one else is making. I want her to know how valuble her uniqueness is.

Maybe then, during the unrelenting Saturday morning barrage of commercials for Bratz dolls and all the other dreck that is contributing to the trade deficit, maybe my child will continue to announce, "We don't need that stuff, Dad. We have our projects. We don't need all that. It's just junk."

I swear, those are her words not mine. I did not coach her on them any more than I told her that the Paul Motian was Chanukah music. My first child is becoming a marvelous person, a really wonderful girl of the first rank, someone who will probably be a horrible teenager but a wonderful, wonderful woman.