Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Childhood Lessons - 4 December, 2016
Growing up, I ate a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. My grandmother, who lived with us, had grown up in that region and that's where she
learned to cook. She passed those lessons on to my mother. Because of that, we ate a lot of potato pancakes, fat flour noodles in chicken broth
(which we referred to as chicken pot pie) and other dishes that came out of the southern middle region of Pennsylvania.
The thing is that I didn't know that we ate Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. To me, it was just cooking and the fact that I never ate these foods
anywhere else but at home never occurred to me. It was not until a couple of years ago when, on a driving tour from Virginia up to the New
England area, Suzanne and I happened to stay in the Lancaster region that I discovered there were restaurants dedicated to the sort of cooking
that I grew up with. It was then that I learned that I ate Pennsylvania Dutch growing up. My mother never told me this. It would not have occurred
to her. It was simply cooking to her. It is sort of like the joke about how "Chinese food" is just called "food" in China.
We teach our children a lot as they grow up and a lot of what we teach them, we do deliberately. For example, I worked diligently to teach all of my
sons when to lie, when to tell the truth and when to just shut up (any guy who has ever been asked if a certain outfit makes the wearer look bad
knows what I am talking about here). I did my best to teach them that, if you can see that the results of your actions mean that you will have to
apologize to someone, you should rethink your actions. I taught them, I believe, to think for themselves and their mothers taught them how to love
well the people in their lives.
But there are undoubtedly things that I taught them that I didn't intend to. These aren't good or bad things - they are simply things that are so
ingrained in me that I never questioned them. We teach our children by the way we let them live.
Now, I know that this is not earth-shattering news. However, it was brought home to me recently that cruising people, with children, teach those
children a different set of lessons, simply by existing. Some of those lessons are deliberate, but a lot simply flow out of their existence.
I spent some time with a cruising couple that have three kids recently. I saw something that I have seen before but didn't really think about until
now. Perhaps it is because of the current political environment in the United States that I noticed this (no, this is not going to be a political
comment). The children I have met who have done long-distance cruising all seem to have a different attitude about the United States than the
ones that I meet who have not.
I think the difference is that cruising kids, having lived in different environments, don't have the sense that one country is better than another that
people who have only lived in the United States seem to have. In most cruising kids, what I hear is how one country is different from another or
how they enjoyed one aspect of one country more than another's. There seems to be far less emphasis on better and more on difference.
I compare this attitude with that of one of my nephews. In talking to him in the past, he has explained to me how much better America is than
certain other countries. He has been quite passionate about this. However, he has never been out of the United States. In fact, except for a few
vacations, he has never been out of his own state and lives less than twenty-five miles from where he was born. When I asked him, some years
ago, why this was so, he explained that there was no point in moving any place else because everywhere else that he had heard of was worse than
where he lived.
I need to say, at this point, that I do not think my nephew is wrong. I think he actually does live in the absolute best place in the world for him. He
would be very unhappy anywhere else in the world and that is not an indictment of his viewpoint - it is simply an objective fact.
However, I think that part of the reason for his viewpoint is because, as a child, he never traveled anywhere. His father, my brother, has never
lived more than twenty-five miles from where he grew up. My siblings, for the most part, wanted to be close to each other and my mother. It was
the way they were raised, the way they were taught. My mother was born in southern Pennsylvania, married my father, who joined the Navy,
moved to England for two years and then moved to Northern Virginia. We never left there after that. When we lived in England, I am the only one
who actually has memories of that period. My sister was too young, one brother was born there but came back to America before he was one and
my other brother was born back here.
My siblings were not taught to travel. On the other hand, I remembered England - vaguely. I learned from my father. I wanted to join the Navy and
'see the world." He didn't teach me that. In fact, he left after going to Seoul for a year and I didn't see him more than three times in my life after
that. But he taught me to want to travel - just by his example.
We teach our kids by our lives and cruisers teach a different lesson than most people. We teach our kids that staying in one place is not
necessarily a good thing. We teach them that there are other ways of life, other ways of thinking. We teach them that you don't need a lot of
personal space or material possessions to be happy.
These are not always "good" lessons from a societal point of view. Man advanced as a society because he stopped being a nomadic
hunter-gatherer. He started keeping things, he developed an affinity for place and he developed a society in order to defend that place from
others who would take it and force him to wander again. Having a connection with a place is what made humans what they are today - and for all
the warts, humans are not doing too shabbily.
But there have always been the few that wander, that trade, that take ideas from country A and teach them to country B. They are the bees that
pollinate the societies they touch. Without them, we would not have a society, anymore than we would if we did not have the ones who stay in one
place for generations.
Teach the children well, not only what you know, but who you are. We need the wanderers.