For the past month, I’ve embarked on a new natural lifestyle. I have been walking around my neighborhood, for health and beauty’s sake, I’ve been eating more natural food, and eliminating junk food bit by bit. I’ve been doing more studying of our black culture and have been uplifting my life in general, with God’s help.
And for that reason, I have decided to start going to the farmer’s market that happens in downtown Oakland every Friday. It’s about two blocks long and wide, and has a very nice group of vendors selling vegetables and fruits. There are also vendors selling kettle corn, soaps and perfumes, cakes and cookies.
As I browsed the market last week, I noticed a woman who had a small group of black children with her. They were about 9 to 10 years old. It seemed that they were on a little field trip. Remember the times when you went on field trips? Oh, how I loved field trips when I was a kid! I so looked forward to them since they were a wonderful opportunity to get out of the confines of the classroom, to explore and have fun.
Well these children, maybe about 5 or 6 of them were having a ball at the market. It was a nice day and the weather was perfect. My path and the children’s crossed at the Plant Lady’s booth. She was selling small herb plants, such as lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, tomato plants, basil, etc. All for only $3 and $4 dollars a piece for the small ones. She also had small trees. (Now that’s a business I could really get into). Then the teacher showed the children how these beautiful little plants actually release a scent when one rubs their leaves slightly.
When the children realized this magical thing, they became very excited! They were running back and forth around the rack filled with all kinds of little herbs and were nearly tripping over each other as they touched and rubbed the leaves of this plant and that plant. “Hey, check out this one!! It smells like perfume!” “Oooh, that one smells good!” “Oh, and this one!” “Let me touch that one!” It was so sweet to watch their exuberance at discovering that the little green plants actually smell “like perfume”. What was also sweet was that the plant lady showed no concern that the children would bruise or damage her plants. She probably enjoyed watching the children’s excitement.
It all reminded me of my sixth grade teacher who showed us how to sprout beans in a plastic cup using a paper towel. I remember clearly that once I got home, I raided my mother’s bean supply and started sprouting to my heart’s content. I totally loved it. And as I grew, I always had the opportunity in my classes to do “experiments”, collect dirty water to observe under the microscope, dissect a frog, do artwork in my jewelry shop where we had access to dangerous machinery, do artwork in my ceramics class where we had access to a kiln.
And now days, I don’t know that children have this type of access anymore. At least not in public schools. Many schools dont even have physical education class, much less music and art class. It’s a shame because some kids shine and excel at academics, and others at sports, science or arts. Back then each child had an opportunity to shine somewhere. My own son shined in music. Back in the day, his father and I went through the hardships to get him in one school district over another, and we stretched the truth and manipulated to insure he’d get in a good school (something that would land me in jail these days). I was able to get my son in an excellent music class once I got him in the school.
From one district in Oakland to another in San Francisco, he was in the 7th grade and that music program actually started for the kids in the 6th grade. He entered the program in intermediate since he was already in the 7th grade at the time. But he was able to catch up and quickly excelled all the kids who had been there since the 6th grade. Music was his saving grace! We patiently suffered his blowing that saxaphone until he got it right, and we didnt need to make him practice.
I guess I’m lamenting the demise of well rounded public schools. But I was happy to see those children getting a basic education in the beauty of herbs and aromatherapy and nature. I thank their teacher who had the foresight to take them to the Farmer’s Market, which was completely free, and very educational. Teachers are always having to be extra creative, and are not supported the way they should be. They have a heart for their students, (most of them) and often will pay for supplies out of their own paltry salaries, which to me is a travesty. But I thank them for their sacrifice.
(That’s a picture of my son standing on the pumpkin at the pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay or some city. He was about 7 or 8 so that would be about 1988 -89)