Background Knowledge


Shortly before getting separated

Shortly before getting separated

Last weekend, I was driving a carpool and the conversation turned to the topic that strikes fear into the hearts of all parents: losing your kids. Hannah’s friend regaled me with a story of getting separated from her family at a minor league baseball game. Then she wanted to know whether Hannah and Margaret had ever been lost. 

What I thought to myself was: Yes. Hannah wandered away from us in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on December 23 and was rescued by one of hundreds of tour guides. Margaret turned one way and the rest of us turned the other as we walked out of church in the Old City on Easter Sunday. Our joyous reunion was witnessed by throngs of joyous pilgrims.

What I said to the friends was: yes, they both got lost last year, in places that were crowded with lots of people, just like a baseball game. And we were so happy when we found each other again.

When my kids remember these experiences, will the setting figure into their memories at all? They got lost where Christians believe Jesus was born, and where he was crucified and rose again. But probably all they will remember is the fear of being lost, the relief of being found. That is the important part. Keeping the setting in mind — the uniqueness, the wonder of what we saw and did last year — requires constant narratives from us. And I will tell those stories, just like my father tells how he carried me in a baby backpack up to the top of Mont St. Michel on my first birthday, in the fog.

But I am also a little torn. Why did I not tell the girls’ friends all the details of the story? When I went back to Brittany as a teenager, why did I not tell the other kids on my trip I had seen that abbey rising from the sea before? I guess something in me is a little self conscious at the richness of the world I have been able to experience, and my children have to. “She has a lot of background knowledge!” observed one of Hannah’s new teachers this fall. Indeed.  And for that I am grateful, and I try to get Hannah to be grateful too. I know how lucky we are. I also know that what really matters is the life you are living, not where it happens to happen.


About hilarymead

Taking two young kids, a great husband, and a whole lot of questions to Jerusalem for a year's sabbatical.
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