I’m getting in my car to drive to our local farmer’s market and my ten year old rushes out of the house, waving frantically, an intense expression on her face. “PLEASE get me the lotus root and spicy daikon. They go so well together. I’m serious, Mom. If you don’t get both, DON’T EVEN BOTHER COMING HOME!”
She sure told me.
As I drive off with my strict orders in tow, I can’t help but think: OMG, that is so LA! I mean, where else in the whole United States would a ten year old be jonesing for daikon, lotus root and seaweed tempeh? And while it might have made me barf a little a few years back, I am now super stoked to be an LA mom.
My youngest daughter does gardening and yoga in preschool. I once walked in while they were all doing their “cell phone” pose: the kids flat on their back, one leg stretched up behind the ear, talking to their foot…“Hello, hello, one moment please”. One five-year old boy was imitating his father: “Morty, it’s your agent. Let’s do lunch!”
Okay, I give you permission to barf a little right now.
In a recent cooking class, these preschoolers rolled sushi using seaweed, sushi rice, avocado, cucumber and Japanese radish. Come on, we used to make jello mold! Admit it, it’s kind of bitchin’.
My eldest daughter’s fifth grade class helps with their school’s edible garden and even had a hot-shot TV chef come in and teach them how to make “sauce” using all ingredients from their garden. This being LA, they don’t just grow carrots and tomatoes. Heck, no! They grow things like cilantro, quinoa and root vegetables. And even though it’s a public school, from third grade on, they practice composting as well. I am hopeless in the kitchen and this gives me serious hope that my daughters won’t subsist on popcorn, cabbage and ramen noodle soups, the way I did after college.
My mom and dad who live back East roll their eyes at some of the entitlement that pervades the lives of these So Cal kids. I get it. There are a lot of Veruca Salts out there. But there are also children who march the picket lines when their parents’ union goes on strike (Writer’s Guild) or march in support of the Brady Foundation for those killed at a mass shooting (Newtown, MA). These same kids work tirelessly for the animal adoption sites and work bake sales to help raise money for numerous causes.
My daughter and her best friend (and her BFF’s brother) supplied big boxes and drew fliers to encourage parents at their school to donate to a specific orphanage in Africa. And they are not alone. This charitable spirit extends to many of the California schools. I know quite a few children who, alongside their parents, work the soup kitchens at either Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I also totally appreciate that LA public schools take off the few, big Jewish holidays as well as the Christian ones. I get to teach my kids about their heritage without worrying about missing tests and finals. In my daughters’ progressive Sunday School, the humanistic approach to Judaism teaches social activism and respect of all faiths. We have Muslim and Christian leaders come in and share face time with the members. There is dialogue and there is debate. These California kids are awake and involved, their eyes open to the world at large. They are earnest about making a difference.
It took me years to embrace Southern California, to really get down and dirty with it. It took my children to appreciate this wonderful state and all that it has to offer, through their various activities and by meeting other like-minded parents.
My parents were recently in town and made mention of how some of their friends back East don’t envy their many excursions to Los Angeles. It took twenty years, but I finally had LA’s back. “I’m sorry they feel that way, but I love this city. It is my home” were the words that flowed out of my mouth, surprising even me.
I’m proud to be an LA mom. I wouldn’t want to raise my kids anywhere else.
That is, until the next earthquake.