“None of us sees the whole truth,” says our son’s ex-girlfriend, a beautiful 20-year-old math genius now majoring in Ethnic and Gender studies and destined for law school, as she sits with the Bearded One and me at our kitchen table during a rare, lovely visit this week. “We have different truths.” She is talking about Ultimate Frisbee, the sport that both she and our son love, and then she suddenly stops chewing. “This is the best broccoli I have ever had.”
“Thanks,” I say, but I’m still thinking of how this brilliant young woman sees Ultimate Frisbee as a tool for social justice. She’s worked as a legal advocate in Africa. She talks about the common good, and how Ultimate has no referees, that it is self-officiating based on the Spirit of the Game — a statement of inclusion and clean competitive play. Any player can call a foul and disputes are solved between the parties on the field, only rarely inviting in agreed-upon Observers to offer their truth. The former girlfriend acknowledges cheaters exist, even on her own team, usually calling fouls as a tactic. She’s working with young, poor girls in south Seattle now, coaching them in Ultimate and in life.
I think of the cats — Garfield and our daughter’s visiting cat Ditto. “We’ve broken up three cat fights this week,” I say. “No claws. They just sit a foot or so apart and yell at each other.” Ruby is supposed to Observe. She’s the official diplomat they both tolerate, but she’s usually asleep when the feline yowling starts and isn’t a great help.
“Bummer,” says the ex-girlfriend, and eats another broccoli floweret. We decide to tour the farmlet before dessert, and stop at the single blueberry bush left in the Circle Garden. She says, “Aren’t blueberries one of those plants that need two?”
The Bearded One tells the story of the other blueberry bush, how there used to be two but a year or so ago we discovered one sheered off and dragged, by a bear according to the Bearded One’s reading of the ‘sign’, across the yard into some thicket and stripped clean of berries. There were no Observers. Since then, we say, there have been fewer berries. None? Maybe that’s why. It takes a Gender Studies major to point this out to us.
We need Observers. As this young woman tours the barn and chicken house, I make my case to her, that these animals will not be slaves. They will be protected and have tons of free ranging time, I crow.
I will not insist that the goats stay pregnant their whole lives in order for me to milk them. She nods. Back at the house, we have cheesecake I made with store-bought Lucerne low-fat cream cheese and sour cream, which came from enslaved cows somewhere. Still, it’s one of the most delicious complements to fresh strawberries I know of.
Later, I tell my younger twenty-something daughter, the nurse, about the visit, how hopeful I am for the world, how her generation is so can-do for the common good, and how we need each other for the whole truth because that is where compassion comes from.
She listens and nods as she eats the last piece of cheesecake. She pats my wrinkling, 54-year-old hand, gently guides me down off my soapbox, then laughs as she leaves to sit with her cat. “Ditto is my slave,” she coos.