A Visit to the Museum

The Morris Family went to the Nelson Atkins Museum today. The kids loved it for about the first half-hour, but after a while I was struggling to find things about the one-hundred-forty-fifth statue to draw them in and keep them interested.

As we exited the 18th Century China gallery, the way out was flanked by two ceramic dogs, one on each side, sitting in attitudes of attention. One was obviously male, the other obviously female. I pulled Katie over to one of them and asked, “Look at this statue and tell me what you see.”

She shrugged. “It’s a dog.”

“Male or female?”

“Female.”

“How can you tell?”

She pointed to the exposed belly. “It has teats instead of testicles.”

“Well done, Katie,” I said, proud of her observational skill. I called to Jami, and took him to the other statue. Like its twin, the underside told the gender story. The penis was not greatly detailed, but it was obviously male canine genitalia.

We went through the same routine.

“Male or female?”

“Male,” he said, with no hesitation at all.

“How can you tell?”

He pointed. “Says so right on that card.”

Likewise observant, I reminded myself. It’s got to be the Y chromosome.

Later…

kuanyinindex“The Nelson” – we Kansas City residents love shortening the names of our architectural destinations, “The Nelson”, “The K” (Kaufmann Stadium) – has in one of its galleries a Buddhist temple, or at least, a large portion of one. A bodhisattva carved for the most part from a single piece of wood is the centerpiece, and the place smells of teak and very old incense. It’s my favorite room in the whole museum, and while I am not normally a spiritual person, I stepped to one side of the entrance and knelt down, sat on my feet, hands in my lap, and just soaked in the quiet atmosphere.

After a couple of minutes, my Y chromosome-handicapped offspring whispered in the general direction of my ear, “Dad, what are you doing?”

“I’m being quiet.”

He considered that for a minute. “That’s stupid,” he said, looking around. “No offense.”

I didn’t move. “It’s not stupid.”

He regarded me for another minute. “Can I try being quiet?”

I continued not moving. “I doubt that very much,” I said, but I pointed at a spot on the floor beside me. “Have a sit.”

He did. He sat in what I called “Indian style” when I was his age. They call it the more ethnically sensitive, “criss-cross” now. No word from what people named “Criss” think about it.

I studied the much faded painting across the back wall, a structure easily twenty feet high and a hundred feet long. Many Buddhas – at least twenty – reclined, paraded, stood, sat, and jollied their way across it.

After about three minutes, Jami said, very timidly, “Dad, I’m done being quiet.”

I smiled. “I know.”

“Let’s go, okay?”

“I’m not done being quiet.” He stood, indecisive. I let him off the hook. “Let’s go find mom and your sister.”

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