Weirdly, on Saturdays, I don’t have a great deal to do. My children grew up in this business and they learned the basic tools of the trade better than I have. “Tend thy shop, and thy family,” I think, (improving Poor Richard’s advice), “and they will tend to you.”
That leaves me “hospitality” as a task, and to that end, I sat next to the band in the tavern and watched the crowd. Across the room, next to the fireplace, three generations of one family sat together, transfixed by their investment in the future—a beautiful child who swayed, with her mother, to the music. She was half Asian and half Anglo, and mother and child were enraptured by 18th century English music. After a few songs, the grandmother brought the child over to a bench next to mine, and, try as I might, I could only coax a few smiles from the little one, even though I think the grandmother liked me. She was a long time customer, anxious to tell me how much she loved our “Sleepy Hollow” production. Wrapped in the music, and the good food, and the presence of her grandchild, I believe an impartial jury would have to call her “very happy,” at the very least and more likely, “ecstatic.” I felt their joy and I noticed something about their clothing. Grandmother, daughter in-law, and granddaughter had a similar blue and white check pattern.
“You’re color coordinated,” I remarked.
They laughed. This was planned on their part, and they seemed pleased to include me in their sense of the afternoon. Somewhere, Louis Armstrong was performing “Wonderful World” and we all heard it, and parted, singing.
An hour later, I sat in the waiting area, across from a beautiful Mexican woman, surrounded by her children and their friends. I don’t want to intrude, but it’s my job after all, so I struggled to find some way of welcoming her.
“So how did you like the farm today?”
There was a silence for just a second that could have gone south. Who was this guy dressed up as Patrick Henry asking her how her day went? But we fell into easy, happy conversation. We had once lived in the same town, (Riverside). My wife had once attended her high school. When I related a story about my charming, handsome grandson, Peter, who can smile at you and then head, high-speed for the parking lot, taunting you, her daughter burst out into laughter. For a few minutes, we were all fast friends.
There’s a theme here. I went out to the ale garden. An African American woman sat down next to me, with her daughter. I asked her about her day. She had traveled the whole Oak Glen loop, from Parrish Pioneer to Los Rios to us, and she was tired. She began to tell me a vague memory of the farm from decades ago. Sleepy Hollow. I confirmed it for her, and she smiled. I complimented her on the striking beauty of her daughter. She laughed and gave her husband the credit. When the rest of the family arrived, she appeared pleased to be able to introduce them to “Mr. Riley – the guy who owns this place.”
In these, and a dozen other encounters today, even though I may have called attention to race here, I didn’t feel any difference when we were speaking to each other. Everyone loves music, their grandchildren, their beautiful daughters, their town, and their country. Everyone wants to feel the harvest, the smell of apples ripening, and the calming joy of a story shared over a feast together. I could see it on all of your faces.
I’m a nerd, an observer. I don’t jump in, but I can register the love you all have for each other. It’s more powerful than you may know. You just plan a trip to our farm, but it represents so much more than that. I represents a thousand other trips you’ve planned, and moments you share, because you love each other. The guy in the stupid tricorn hat sees it, and I hope you do too.
My hope is that America can calm down and remember this truth, this powerful love that draws us together, when we address the very real problems we need to confront.
Those problems are very small in the face of the sort of strength I saw today, and every day.