The Big Tent

In many ways a family is like a circus. There are talented performers and clowns. Moments of danger, laughter, awe, and – sometimes – a side show filled with things unexpected or rarely seen. What makes a circus entertaining and wonder-full is all that amazing diversity gathered under one big tent. In our family, the big tent is a spirit of love and acceptance, values espoused and modeled for generations before I took my seat.

My grandparents were immigrants. They embraced the idea that America is a melting pot quite literally, as much as some fundamentalists interpret the Bible or the Constitution as “The Word”. Originating from Central and Eastern Europe, the language they spoke most frequently at home was Yiddish, a melting pot of languages. Originally a German dialect, Yiddish became an amalgam of words from Hebrew and several modern languages, weaving acceptance and communication among Jewish people driven from their respective homelands by social and economic persecution. While that generation was most comfortable with folks who were similar to themselves, they taught their children to get along with everyone they came in contact with – the Irish, Russian, Polish, and Italian people they went to school and later did business with. Being a displaced immigrant generation, my grandparents followed world affairs in some depth and donated money and goods generously wherever there were others in need.

My parents were born in America and their behavior was shaped early by their parents’ values of respect and kindness toward all mankind. They wove a wider, sturdier, more colorful tent for us, their children. There was some drama as our parents struggled to adapt to the disruptive social changes accompanying our coming of age in the 60’s. But, after delivering lectures on the dangers they feared would hurt us if we pursued our headstrong ways, our parents first tolerated and later came to accept our novel mores. I remember Dad thinking it was “not lady-like” for me to go out in cut off jeans topped by his oversized dress shirt and the day Mom bought her first pair of pants at May’s Department store. Our inter-cultural dating and outspoken politics made “the greatest generation” uncomfortable, but they remained devoted to those for whom “the times were a changing.”

Who are the players under the umbrella of our benevolent family tent now? Let’s see…

Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, and Shinto

Black, White, and Asian

Younger and Older

School-Taught, Self-Taught, and Life Long Learners

Socializers and Loners

Single and Married

Divorced and Remarried

Ex-Wives and Offspring from Previous Marriages

Stepchildren and Half Siblings

Stay at Home Dads and Working Moms

Entrepreneurs, Male and Female

Democrats and Republicans

Wealthy and Middle Class

East Coast, West Coast, North, South, and International Residents

Vegetarians and Omnivores

Musicians, Educators, Artists, Craftspersons,

Writers, Professionals, and Techies

Jokers and Philosophers

Meditators and Mediators

I am blessed to have been hatched under this tent. Because of its diverse fibers, our tent is a resilient expanse, a welcoming circus that consistently offers comfort and rewards. Who’s under your tent?