via Wikimedia Commons
“People don’t expect that people like us,” he said, pausing and looking me dead in the eye to make sure I understood, “will have well-behaved children. But I always tell them, why wouldn’t we?”
I gave him the same broad distracted smile I give anyone who engages me while I’m in full-blown parent mode. I knew what he meant, but didn’t want to talk about societal expectations just as I was trying to get my extended family all properly queued up at the salad bar line in Souplantation. First I had to orchestrate a proper serving of vegetables onto my son’s plate, then get him and my six-month-old daughter to a table. I was on a mission.
Of course, I got to thinking about it later. Everything that arises comes back to me later – it floats up in meditation as if to be chewed a second time. The first ten minutes of meditation, for me, is almost always about chewing the cud.
Whenever I come down into the village – and these days, all streets in all cities sort of look like the same village – I spend a few minutes trying to get my physical appearance into a somewhat acceptable state. I try to tame my unkempt beard, hide away the skull necklace that means detachment to Buddhists but appeals to others for different reasons, and so forth. When I’m doing that, the little thought always comes up, “Don’t scare the muggles.” Muggles are, of course, non-magical people in the world of Harry Potter – the term’s about the only thing that stuck with me from that series.
It generally doesn’t work. I am easily approached and made an instant friend by the homeless, the weird, and other non-muggles. I still get the odd look or shyness from others, even though beards appear to be in vogue these days. In this case, I think the grandpa who wanted to chat was a biker. I’m not sure what he thought he meant, but I know exactly what he meant – he was trying to say that it’s not expected that people on the fringe will have children who behave as expected. And that’s right, and his answer to the question he himself asked was right.
I thought at the time that the comment was irrelevant. Our appearances have nothing at all to do with spirituality, truth, or happiness. Since I handle most of my customer service by phone, I let my beard flow as genes and God would have it. There’s nothing sophisticated, cultural, or even particularly spiritual about it to my usual thinking.
Except, of course, I try not to scare the muggles who aren’t occasionally struck in awe by the sheer beauty of the sky and are deaf to the whisper of the wind. And I apparently charmed an old biker, and when I sit at coffee houses I frequently find myself having single-day friendships with people who are clearly mentally ill, and because of my uncivilized approach I had a wonderful friendship with a dear friend who died a little while after I met him from severe diabetes. So perhaps, really, I should forget about the expectations of my son’s friends’ parents and the people who stock the salad bar at Souplantation.
Perhaps the doorman at the meeting-place for vegans and non-vegans was a messenger. Perhaps that Child of God was speaking the truth when he implied that I should just scare the muggles.
After all, people like us have well-behaved children too.