Pushcart Prize nominee, KJ Hannah Greenberg wrote JPost's "Old/New World Discourse...
Sat,Aug 23,2014 27 Av 5774
At a wedding that Computer Cowboy and I merited joining this spring, I watched a small child, lauded by the beaming approval of her mother, intentionally, and repeatedly, destroy and then lead other small children to destroy, many beautiful, meaningful, and expensive floral arrangements. Those actions took place in public, under the watchfulness, or lack thereof, of hundreds of guests and tens of family members.
Trashing the property of others remains a crime, both spiritual and civil. At the time, there was no denying that the delinquency was taking place; the little ladies performing the wrongdoing again and again ran repeatedly into the banquet hall to show tables full of adults just how successful they had been at denuding floral displays. Squealing in the happy voices of the very young, those little misses showered on their relatives, and on their relatives’ friends, handfuls of buds and blossoms. As they jumped about in delight, no one seemed to mind or care. In fact, certain adults encouraged them to continue to stay busy, i.e. out of the way of grownups goings on, by ravaging the wedding decorations.
Possibly, in discovering their loss, the party’s hosts, too, would not have cared, but would have been grateful that the attending small children had found a fairly innocuous distraction during a festivity gaged for a bride and groom’s happiness, i.e. for adult joy. In spaces packed with lights, music, gloved service personnel, fine china, and gleaming silver, what were a few dozens of roses and jasmine? Already, the rooms used for the reception, which had preceded the chuppah, and the atrium, where the chuppah itself had been conducted, had been cleared away, relegating all matters of ornament to the dumpster. Imaginably, at evening’s end, the hosts, themselves, would not only have had no care about the destruction of the flowers, but also would not have noticed.
Whether or not the children’s deeds constituted theft, too, remains questionable. All of the offenders were minors, albeit they were provoked, after one girl’s initial act, by the feedback they were receiving from grownups. Also, if the hosts didn’t perceive a problem, assuming they were aware of the goings on, perchance no problem existed.
In balance, transgressions do not automatically, or ever, morph into deeds of loving kindness or into morally neutral acts just because no one notices or articulates concern about them, or just because a significant number of people, even a majority, are engaged in them or approve of them, tacitly or otherwise. Ever human action has intention and result; both ends of causality must remain within the law.
In the above case, bouquets, which were needed for an event, and which were paid for a party other than the one that destroyed them, were ripped to shreds. The aim of the people enacting that behavior was to elevate their diminished egos.
I witnessed those events from their inception. Other than to tsk-tsk the child who started the ruination, though, I remained an observer. I chose not to confront that child’s passionate, and likely misguided, mother in the midst of the wedding ceremony, thereby risking destroying the concord of a chuppah. However, whereas I did not want to make a scene while blessings were being said, I did consider it reasonable to frown and to mutter disapproving noises at the child. Maybe I am culpable because I chose harmony at a union’s onset over global ethics. I’m not sure.
I was seated near the aisle upon which glamoured wee ones walked. Half dozen or so little girls bedecked in layered dresses, embellished hairdos, ribbon and fabric ornaments, and pretty shoes, were given baskets of flower petals to carry down the aisle. They were supposed to toss their petals, although many of those small participants were too young to understand their duties.
Near me stood a mother and daughter. I watched the girl’s eyes grow wide, first as she came into the atrium where the chuppah was conducted, and then shortly thereafter as she noticed the beautiful decorations worn by, and the fun had by, the junior attendants. That those little girls were relatives, mostly nieces, of the bride and groom, and she was not, seemed to make no matter to her; she wanted to look as special as did they and she wanted to engage in their amusements.
Her parent seemed to be in agreement; that young one, though lacking the coordinating hair, dress, shoes, and baskets of the other little girls, had, likewise, been festooned in pricey couture. Her dress was of a silvery, not inexpensive material, her tights were not the drugstore kind, and her boots must have cost what would amount to a month’s salary for most of the rest of us.
That girl looking like a princess was not enough for her or for her mother, though. They had esteemed that she ought to have been a “special” youngster, too. Simply, after the flower girls had tossed or saved their blossoms, the girl guest insisted on tossing flowers, too. Not so surreptitiously, she reached into the vase nearest to where she was standing and extracted a white rose, which she then shred. Her mother look beatifically at her, only holding her back when she began to walk with the flower girls, who had realized, belatedly, that perhaps they ought to scatter their blooms on the white carpet. They make a second trip up the aisle.
While those other girls marched, the troublemaker once more reached for the vase to pluck and to break its contents. Again and again, her mother smiled at her.
When she reached for her third rose, I tsk-tsked her. She winced at my interference, looked at her mother, who had heard no phoneme of my response, and then, with rekindled boldness, plucked another posie. Our pattern looped on itself for some time until she demurred…long enough to go elsewhere and grab not one, but a handful of flowers.
Later, at the festive meal, I noticed that the child had engaged the official celebrants, i.e. the flower girls, in her destructive behavior. Small children, mostly unnoticed, went running around the ballroom grabbing pieces of bouquets and flinging them, after tearing them apart at themselves, at each other, and at the floor.
Parenting, as I’ve experienced, is a complex matter. I do not mean to cast dispersions on the little bandit’s mom, although I strongly question the efficacy of her choices. Frankly, I would have preferred if she had used the initial instance as a teaching moment, as an opportunity to enlighten her child about the importance of respecting the sanctity of other people’s things and about the need to learn how to accept that sometime we can’t and ought not to be the center of attention.