Getting Back to Basics

Great Zamboni often has trouble understanding American idioms, like “all you can eat” or “I know you are but what am I?”, and things of that ilk. In these cases he has to admit there are things he doesn’t know and ask me for translation.

One such slogan that preplexed him recently arose while we were watching TV. The narrator of a commercial spoke of America “getting back to basics” and Zamboni raised an eyebrow. It was harder than I thought to elucidate this, but I tried.

I said that we are working harder now than ever, carrying devices which make us always online and ready to e-mail and multitask. I explained that we are worrying so much about the future that even in educating our children we are not focusing on teaching them how to do things but rather on how to get into colleges so they can compete. Kids can send a mass text before they can boil an egg.

“So what are these ‘basics’ then you all wish to get back to?”, he asked between puffs of fine English Cavendish from his white Meershcaum pipe carved into the shape of a Merman. I told him for everyone they’re different. For me it’s my son winning his first little league baseball game, on his 10th birthday, when it came that close to being rained out and when the last two games were rained out.  And his cake-blowing-out wish the night before was that he could play his game, that the weather would hold.

It’s crazy college football fans rushing onto the field after a win and players taking the time to smile into the camera with some kid they never met.

It’s a  lot of things, I tried to explain to Zamboni. It’s sitting at a table eating with your whole damn extended family even if your mom is not speaking to your brother,  or everyone has been divorced several times and is still friends with everybody they’ve divorced because, well, just because.

It’s your grandfathers gold pen he got for retirement half a century ago and how you haven’t lost it and somehow it still writes because it was made a long time ago when we made things that last. It’s things that last, I told him.

“This makes very little sense to me,” Zamboni said. “Then again, my powerful DNA makes me too potent to have children with a mortal, I despise this boring baseball that has no timer to stop game, and no grandfather ever of mine could  retire or else they would starve.”

Well, I tried. -jw

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