It takes roughly 10-15 minutes to drive from our home to my daughters’ school, and it never ceases to amaze me the conversations that we have in that brief period of time. I have a very open, honest, and loving relationship with my extraordinary girls, and we share lots of love, laughs, and stories. Even though we talk a lot wherever we are, there is something almost sacred about being together in the car that has been the setting for some very poignant conversations. I treasure that time, and the following stories are priceless to me.
A couple of years ago, we were heading to school on St. Patrick’s Day, and my oldest daughter asked me if we were Irish. I explained that I am Polish and that their Dad is Dutch, German, and Polish, with a bit of Irish thrown into the mixture. She went on to ask me what the Polish people are known for, and I thought for a moment before responding, “We are a very brave and strong people, for we fought back as best we could against the Nazis who invaded Poland during World War II.” The girls both asked why the Nazis wanted to harm the Polish people and what happened during the war. At the time, the girls were 8 and 7 years old, respectively, and I wanted to be honest, yet age appropriate, when answering their questions. Trying to explain the Holocaust to innocent little girls at 7:20 a.m. was no easy task, and I proceeded with great care and sensitivity. I explained that Hitler was an evil man who wanted to dominate the world, and he invaded Poland, imprisoned many of our people in ghettos and concentration camps, and murdered over 6 million innocent people in his quest to create a master race. With that brief explanation, I was overcome with emotion and became tearful, and my oldest daughter reassured me by saying, “Mom, if we had been there, you never would have let anything bad happen to us, and we would have been okay.” Her naive trust in my ability to protect them from such atrocities made me choke back even more tears, for I recently had learned how many of my family members had died in a concentration camp and knew for certain that I would not have been able to save them or myself from a horrific death. My youngest daughter, ever the one for details, wanted to know exactly what happened in the concentration camps, and I told her that when they were older, I would tell them more, but that little girls should not be exposed to such horror. Thankfully, I later relayed this story to my parents, so, my Dad was prepared when my youngest daughter asked him if he knew what happened during the Holocaust and pressed him for details, which he declined to give. Can’t blame a girl for trying,though! The conversation then somehow turned to the U.S. Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, and I actually was relieved when we arrived at the carpool drop off, as I was emotionally exhausted. That brief conversation has instilled in the girls such great pride in their Polish heritage, and even though, we do not have a festive day of celebration like St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrate who we are and where we come from every day by being the best people we can be.
Another meaningful conversation took place last year on the way home from school, when out-of-the-blue, my oldest daughter asked, “Mom, can a mans (sic) love another mans (sic)?” I have a number of very dear friends who are a part of the LGBTQ community, but I had never discussed sexual orientation or gender identification with the girls, so, her question caught me off guard. I simply responded, “Yes; a man can love another man.” She then asked, “Can a lady love another lady?, and I replied, “Yes.” She thought for a moment before posing the next question, “Can a mans (sic) marry another mans (sic)?” I explained that in Kentucky men could not marry men and women could not marry women, but in other states, such unions were legal. I went on to explain that some people and certain religions oppose such marriages and that some people believe that homosexuality is wrong, including our Catholic faith, but that I do not subscribe to such beliefs. She paused and said very sweetly, “Oh, Mom, that’s just silly. It shouldn’t matter who you love at all.” I could not agree with my wise little girl more; love is love. I was curious as to what prompted her line of questioning and asked if she had heard something about this at school or on television, and she explained that she saw the title of Haircut 100’s song, “Love Plus One”, on my satellite radio screen on our way home that day and said it made her think, “Love plus one could mean a mans (sic) plus another mans (sic).” Yet more proof that my satellite radio is one of the best gifts ever, for it spawned a conversation that I shall never forget. Here’s to open hearts and open minds!
Satellite radio is to thank for our most recent memorable car chat, as well. Last week, we were heading to school, when U2’s “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday” came on, and my youngest daughter asked what the song was about. Again, trying to summarize the ongoing Irish “troubles” in a brief, age appropriate way early in the morning was a task I felt ill-prepared to tackle, but I gave it a valiant effort. I explained that the Catholics and Protestants were fighting for control over Ireland and that U2 wrote that song in response to particularly brutal attacks and bombings that were carried out one Sunday. My youngest daughter did not say anything for a bit, but never being one for a loss for words, much like me, she said ever so astutely, “It’s wrong that they are fighting, Mom, and I don’t think that God is happy about that one bit. They should just be nice and get along with one another in Ireland.” She is far too young and sheltered to realize how adults can be very adept at destroying one another for a myriad of reasons, but her simplistic view of how easily the “troubles” could be remedied renewed my faith in the world.
Each time, I turn the key in the ignition of my car, I wonder what thoughts and feelings will be ignited in the minds and hearts of my girls that they will, in turn, share with me. Those simple, yet powerful, moments touch my heart deeply and make me view the world with a different lens, and I look forward to many, many more such moments and conversations. Their observations and stories definitely are far better than any of my own, and I will be their grateful audience forever and always. You just never know what they are going to say, but I guarantee that it always is worth listening to and remembering.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story