Saturday, August 14, 2010
T is a cub scout. T was born a cub scout. The checklists, the parades, the vows of effort, duty and faith - the whole process appeals to his acute sense of order and justice. When he first brought home the brochure - pictures of grinning boys in wooded settings, hanging from ropes and lugging canoes - he slapped it on the dining room table and asked, "Can I do this?" And I winced. I've nothing against camping. Or even weekly meetings. And I'm happy to go for a six-mile Family Fun Hike in the cold rain. But BSA is notorious for being unfriendly toward certain...types. The gay type. The atheist type. And I like to think we foster a sense of inclusion in our family. But when your oldest son looks excited about uniforms and derby races, you make some room in your schedule, you recalibrate your moral compass, to gather with members of an organization that won't allow some of your friends to join. You let go of the worry that another cub scout will notice your permanent absence in church, that your son will overhear a predatory remark. Instead we offer our time, we show up to meetings, we give rides to kids who need rides. Mostly the people we meet at cub scouts are like us, only with more church. We all want our children to learn, love, overcome fear, and find their way, to become good citizens and great people. If I had said no to T that day he asked to be a cub scout, I'd have been basing my judgement on politics and fear; instead we'll be open and learn. And we'll go camping.
Summer for us has a certain rhythm and tempo different from the rest of the year. Unlike our friends who dust off their passports and visit other countries, we often stick close to home. In July we always venture north to take part in a camp that's located in the community where we used to live. T has been going since he was 5 years old and I often lend a hand in the kitchen, making grilled cheeses for the masses. This is the fourth year T's also gone to sleepaway circus camp. There he juggles and clowns to his heart's content. Often towards the end of summer we plan to attend one of the local Circus Smirkus performances. We've been to see them in Burlington and Montpelier, but this year we wanted to see the final performance in Greensboro. T and I made plans to meet M there for the first Sunday show. Due to unforeseen circumstances we arrived late and ended up rushing into the tent, only to be seated in the back. I was furious. I couldn't see the kids performing and I didn't feel like clapping for anyone. Instead I sat and silently fumed. Then came intermission and the chance to sit on the ground with the little kids for the second half. I felt all my anger slipping away as I watched the jugglers, aerialists, kids tumbling and riding unicycles. After the show ended I wandered outside, a movement caught my eye and caused me to look up. Somehow I had never noticed the flags around the outside of the Big Top. Several countries were represented, which made perfect sense. In the years that we've been going, we've seen kids from Spain, France, Poland and Mongolia perform. When they get in the ring, though, it's their talent that shines, not their nationality. After many weeks together, I'm sure these kids feel as if they were in their own country, one where race, gender, age and background don't matter. No wonder people want to run away and join the circus. Too bad we can't take up permanent residence there. It's rather like a good book or special place in your mind's eye, we're happy to immerse ourselves while we can, pleased to have the opportunity to visit. No matter how we enter the tent, we always leave smiling - eager to be good citizens and stewards, spreading the whimsical word of the circus to those who haven't yet heard of this magical land.