This afternoon, we joined our friends, Patty, John and their son Harry at the annual picnic of the Basque Club in Chino, a town about 40 miles east of LA, which is one of the hubs of Basque culture in California. Patty is Basque on her father’s side and wants to make sure Harry grows up with a strong sense of his heritage. She and John have been driving out to Chino regularly so that Harry can learn traditional Basque dancing. Today was the day all the kids got to perform their dances in front of all their families and friends. We went along to show our support for Harry and to join in the Labor Day weekend festivities with the people of this close-knit relatively rural community.
After the dancing was over, we stayed for a couple of hours and joined in the “picnic,” which really involved drinking a lot and eating a huge prepared meal of piles of lamb chops, beans, bread, cheese and salad. While the adults sat around eating and drinking, the older kids sat around texting and looking at things on their phones, while the younger kids ran around on the stage in the community center, danced around outside or played soccer on the large grassy area nearby. Our son Theo had been wanting to play soccer today, so we had brought along his soccer ball. I decided to give away the little soccer ball he had played with in preschool and thought there might be some younger kids there we could give it to. So I asked Theo and Harry to try to find some kids to give it to They reported back to me in a short while and said they had found some kids who wanted it and they those kids left and didn’t take the ball with them. We decided together to just donate it to the field so that any kid who turned up there would have a ball to play with.
As I savored the music, food and costumes of people from an culture unfamiliar to me, and watched the kids running around and laughing with each other in a large area filled with people from their community, I realized that it was the latter experience that was foreign and exotic to my city kid. To an almost-10-year old boy living in LA, it doesn’t get more special than having the freedom to run around kicking a ball in the dark with other kids on a warm summer’s evening.