Now that our son is 27 months old, he’s been getting curious about a lot of things around him. It’s definitely a good development, but it can also be a bad thing, especially since I have a tendency to give straight answers to questions.
For example, the area above our kitchen table is covered by my collection of African folk art, which I’ve always been drawn to, for reasons I’ve never been able to understand. They’re mostly woodcarvings, with a painting and other sculptures thrown in, and while some were made to be purely decorative, others are religious art, like representations of various Orisha (in oversimplified terms, Orisha are aspects of Olodumare, the supreme being in some West African and syncretic Western Hemisphere belief systems).
So today, the kid was pointing at one of them and asking, “WaDat?”
“That’s a wooden mask of an Orisha,” I said.
“Yup. It’s like a deity from West Africa.”
“KA!!!” he shouted, happy about recognizing the word (his grandparents got him a talking globe a while ago, which he loves playing with. He’s become able to identify Africa, Asia, Japan, and North and South America by name without our help at all, and he seems to know that Canada and Mexico are somewhere in North America, and that China and India are somewhere in Asia. Somehow, he ended up knowing more world geography than most Americans before he turned two.)
“That’s right,” I said. “Orisha are in some American religions like Vodou and Santería, too.”
“Fuh-doo,” he said.
It was at this point that I realized, given the general mentality of our area coupled with the fact that most of the preschools around here are run by and/or in churches, we should probably not be having this conversation right now. It’s a shame, really. I can all too easily picture our kids getting thrown out of preschool in a couple of years for trying to do something like explain the tenets of Voodoo to other kids in a completely even-handed and non-hysterical manner. Either that, or a scene like this unfolding:
Churchy Preschool Teacher: (holding up a cross) Can anybody tell me what this means?
One Of Our Kids: Legba and Ghede!!!!
Churchy Preschool Teacher: IN THE CORNER!!! NOW!!!!! (squirts the kid with a spray bottle of holy water)
Good times . . .