I love the farmer’s market. I feel comfortable. There are people like me at farmer’s markets. There are people with canvas bags, no doubt tons of vegetarians, and older parents. That makes me smile because though I feel young at heart, and I hate it when I’m the only parent around that remembers the Reagan administration. I love sitting with people who dress their children in colors from the 70’s, including stripes, dots, and patterns in one outfit. I feel at home.
This weekend at the farmer’s market, we were lucky. We got a front row bench to the band playing in the corner–usually it’s a bluegrass trio or Celtic music, both of which I love, but this time we got somewhat of a treat–Kletzmer music. A group called Ezekiel’s Wheels out of Boston, some of whom, I learned, were financing grad school, and a couple of whom were full-time professional musicians.
I love Kletzmer music. It’s entrancing. It makes me feel a combination of emotions all in the space of one song that few other types of music evoke. It’s the only music that can sound joyful even in the minor key.
I think Declan thought so, too. Irish music holds his attention for a little while, within limits, probably because you are supposed to get a beer. It’s in the Irish Rulebook. Kletzmer kept him hypnotized and dancing for an hour and a half–a world’s record for a kid who flits around faster than the thoughts in my brain.
As soon as the first song ended, he said, “THAT IS THE UGLIEST GUITAR!” I bent down to shush him as soon as I heard the word “ugly,” because I didn’t want a repeat of past public incidents like the “Why is your nose so big?” scandal or the more horrific “Why are you so fat?” But it was too late–he bolted away toward the quartet. He stopped in front of the bass player with wonder in his eyes. “That’s a funny guitar.”
“It’s a stand-up bass,” the musician informed him.
I thought that was a good answer. There was another parent there. An older parent. His little person was dancing too. “Ahhhh!” she shrieked.
“What’s that?” He said, “Right, it is a stand up bass.” I didn’t want to argue, but there is no way that “Ahhhh!” coming from a pre-verbal child translates to “Daddy, that’s a stand up bass,” any more than Declan’s original applause at the scales played by the fiddle player and clarinetist meant, “Mommy! I love those arpeggios!” But alas, we older parents are ever so hopeful our child will be the next Einstein or Yo Yo Ma. In this economy, it’s our only retirement plan.
By the third song, Declan had forged a solid relationship with the fiddle player, Jonathan, a grad student at BU who Declan apparently booked for his bar mitzvah. Then, being informed he is not Jewish he converted on the spot, reciting half the Torah so that in just seven or eight short years he can have a bar mitzvah and get a fiddle of his own.
The amazing part to watch both as a smiling parent and a failed musician was that the boy really got the emotion of the music–during the slow pieces, he stomped around like a dinosaur, and said, “Mommy, this is sad.” During the fast songs, he was a five-year old whirling dervish spinning toward the heavens reminding me that music truly touches the soul at all ages.
By the end of the farmer’s market, I’d scored ten pounds of B-grade apples and a nice cup of New Harvest Roaster’s “Steamroller Blend,” which, I might add, though delicious, certainly required a “you will move faster today” warning label. I enjoyed a spinach-feta crepe from The Creperie, a fantastic local restaurant that can turn anything into a flat pancake and have you asking for more.
Declan stuck with the standard fare–kettle corn and a cupcake, both of which had the nutrition police lurking, I’m sure, but a kid needs to keep up his energy to dance and contemplate a career in Kletzmer. He confirmed that he still wants to be a paleontologist, but he does like “this music.” Maybe if Kletzmer had been around, the dinosaurs would have been happier, and a few would have made it–who knows. That will be his job to find out.
There are a couple more weekends of indoor Winter Farmer’s Market, and then we move outdoors for the season of mud and planting. This year, I’ll be busy planting my own large sustainable enterprise. But moments like these will bring me back to the farmer’s market, not just for the musicians, but for the sense of adventure and community–to support the people who made their products for me, who came out to play for me, who fished for me, and grew vegetables for me. It’s the sense of community in a world where we sometimes forget about such things that keeps me coming back for more.
It’s nice to see Rhode Island building that community once again–it’s definitely gaining momentum here–the small businesses growing, the family farms gaining prestige, the entrepreneurs coming into the state; I’m glad we’re putting Rhode Island back on the map. I can see it more and more clearly every day–Startup Weekends, storefronts filling, and businesses like my husband’s expanding. It will be nice to see this trend continue. It’s even nicer seeing Rhode Islanders support it with such enthusiasm.
My ultimate goal is that we can sustain this sense of community–where everyone supports each other and takes a moment to chat and smile at places like the farmer’s market, and we all stop and enjoy the music. That is what I find at these markets. And it truly is magic.