ONLY IN AMERICA

“The little prince sat down on a rock and looked up into the sky.

“‘I wonder,’ he said, ‘if the stars are lit up so that each of us can find his own, someday. Look at my planet—it’s just overhead. But so far away!’

“’It’s lovely,’ the snake said. ‘What have you come to Earth for?’

“’I’m having difficulties with a flower,’ the little prince said.

“’Ah!’ said the snake.

“And they were both silent.” (St Exupery)

Imagine having difficulties with a flower. Bees and butterflies might have difficulties, hovering over a half-closed dahlia: What’s the matter? Was it the pounding rain last night? Are you discouraged by the clouds? Don’t get on with the neighboring apples?

Many years ago I said to someone I then loved: “It’s so hard for me to go through layer after layer after layer before I can get to your heart.”

Contemplating that this morning, I called my mother. “How are you doing, mom?”

“Everything is fine,” she said, which she has said every time I call over the past 4 months. “But I was remembering something that happened a long time ago.”

“What’s that?”

“When we came to America, your father worked in a synagogue.  One of the things he had to do was prepare the young boys who were turning 13 for their Bar-Mitzvah, which meant they had to chant the weekly portion of the Torah and recite the blessing on the Sabbath of their Bar-Mitzvah. None of these boys were religious; they just did this to please their parents.

There was an elderly man there who was very rich, I think his name was Morris I’m not sure. He had a grandson, the son of his son, coming up for his Bar-Mitzvah. Your father worked with the boy, the Sabbath came, the boy read as he was supposed to and said the correct blessing, and everyone was happy.

Two months later your father had to prepare Morris’s second grandson, David, the son of his daughter, for his Bar-Mitzvah. Morris was a little nervous about this grandson, so he came early on Friday, the eve of the Sabbath, to see how the boy was doing. Your father took him into the synagogue to see the boy practicing on the bimah in the synagogue.

‘David,’ Morris said, ‘I want you to do well tomorrow. I want you to make me proud. And if you do that, I’ll give you the same gift I gave your cousin two weeks ago.’

‘What did you give him?’ wondered your father.

‘I gave him one million dollars,’ Morris said.

‘I don’t want a million dollars, grandpa,’ David said. ‘I want a gun!'”