Posts Tagged ‘Childhood’

Sign language

March 11th, 2008    -    5 Comments

My daughter came home from Spanish class one day last week and plastered signs all over the house. Seeing them everywhere has really shed some light on things.


Over at my friend Shawn’s new review blog, The Chunky Purse, she talks about a Spanish-immersion DVD set for teaching language to young children, and it sounds pretty neat. Eight years ago, we didn’t have that, we had something else.


One of Georgia’s first words was “awa” for water. Whether she was speaking Spanish or speaking English, who can tell. We congratulated ourselves for the clever good fortune of having a babysitter who could not only put Georgia down for a nap, but speak Spanish while she did it.


How we all wish we could lock-in these predispositions. We see the astonishing development of our babies and toddlers – their seemingly effortless learning – and what we might overlook is the amount of practice they put in. From where I sit now I view it all a bit differently than I did then.


Every day from birth to age one or so they practice mobility. Every day from age one to two and beyond they practice language. Without maintaining that level of constant practice, nothing gets very far off the rug.

Now I can see that if Georgia acquired any Spanish aptitude at all during her toddlerhood it wasn’t because of the words her nanny spoke, but because of the love in that sweet woman’s mother tongue.


I’m tired of having cards taped all over the house, but love is one language we could all use more practice speaking. And for that, the signs really help me.

Spell d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r

February 20th, 2008    -    8 Comments

F-a-d-e to i-n-v-i-s-i-b-l-e. Step b-a-c-k and a-v-o-i-d becoming a p-e-s-t. After my s-n-e-a-k-y p-l-o-t to t-e-s-t her l-i-s-t for this Friday’s spelling bee she did not d-i-s-g-u-i-s-e her c-r-y. “Mom, you are taking over my life!”

Editorial Note: G-r-i-n. H-a-p-p-y. H-u-g. L-o-v-e. T-h-e-s-e are more than words to m-e-m-o-r-i-z-e.

A floss of a different color

February 7th, 2008    -    13 Comments


Some things said are not to be forgotten:

So last night my husband stuck his head into the office where I was filling out the Scholastic Book order form and all such things I like to do in my spare time said, “Did you get Georgia some different floss sticks?” Then she wandered in holding up the offending specimen and said:

Mommy, these are really hard to use.

I whipped my head around to look at the both of them and said YES I GOT SOME DIFFERENT ONES BECAUSE I DIDN’T MAKE A SPECIAL TRIP TO TARGET.

The thing is, I’m conscientiously avoiding Target for incidentals since they usually extract $200 or more from me before I leave. I’ve written about the peculiar devotion I have for flossing, and my wicked bliss to see my daughter favorably habituated toward dental hygiene because of our early introduction of candy-colored flossing sticks, but criminy guys, HOW ABOUT TRANSITIONING TO SOME NEW FLOSS STICKS BECAUSE I DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TIME TO MAKE SPECIAL TRIPS TO ALL THESE SPECIAL PLACES FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED THINGS LIKE SPECIAL FLOSS STICKS THAT THEY DON’T SELL AT THE GROCERY STORE.

And Georgia looks at me and says:

Mommy, these are really easy to use.

Rinsing off the zen

February 6th, 2008    -    13 Comments


Some things said are not to be forgotten:

“Mommy, make your next book not about Zen. The whole idea of Zen is bogus.”

Pause here before you rush in to soothe my bruise; to bolster my case. There is no purer truth than what she uttered here. No finer precision, nothing clearer. If only I could do it, really do it, then I would earn my place as the dimwit ancestor of the wisest, choicest, sassy ass eight-year-old Master of the Milky Way.

You go, girl! Show me the back door straight out of bogus, as you always do. Truth is more beautiful than beauty treatments.

***

This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.

An outbreak of peace

February 5th, 2008    -    10 Comments


Some things said are not to be forgotten:

Mommy, I’m OK with it.

These four words, I’m OK with it, which jarred so offensively on first hearing, sounding so preternaturally teen, can be useful when the mother in question buys an overpriced jacket from a mall retailer with disturbingly oversexed girl’s clothing, washes it once in cold and extracts its shrunken form from the dryer’s delicate cycle, then shrewdly purchases an oversized and durable black nylon replacement which is worn to the weekly “Totally Girly” after-school club where daughter cultivates self-confidence through the liberal application of nail polish, then arrives home with a streak of non-soluble color down the front of her new jacket, an adornment that proves resistant to her mother’s gasps and shrieks as well as to heavy dosing in acetone, detergent and full-blown maternal hysteria, unleashing a noxious cloud of fear, shame, sobbing and mutual post-traumatic regret.

I’m OK with it. Honest. The alternative is too savage for anyone to bear.

“If you really understand the condition of emptiness that underlies all phenomenal existence, you will be content no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. This contentment itself is to be Buddha. The real meaning of attaining enlightenment is to attain this state of mind.” – Yasutani Roshi

***

This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.

Fee fie foe fum

February 4th, 2008    -    9 Comments


Some things said are not to be forgotten:

Mommy, do you know how hard it is to live with two giants?

Instantly I recall recurring childhood nightmares of being chased by a colossus. Dark, haunted, heart-pounding doom and with no escape.

I will lighten my step! I will lighten it right now. I will shrink back in size! I’ve shrunk already.

No tender bones will be ground to make this bread.

***

This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.

All of the above

January 25th, 2008    -    12 Comments

I did a little something different here this week because:

A. I was busy elsewhere.
B. I hadn’t read this old writing in about 10 years.
C. When I see it now I see it with new eyes: the pictures, the words, the recollections, the purity, the pain, the truth, the teaching, the wisdom that was waiting on the page all along.
D. I don’t want you to worry about yourself or your children. I don’t want you to worry that they won’t know a grandparent or have picture perfect happiness or a certain kind of memory. I don’t want you to worry that your skills are lacking, or that your children will end up hollow or ruined because of something said or done, or because of something that wasn’t said or done.
E. Tell me, please tell me that you see what hangs so clearly from this tree, what hangs from every tree, the only living thing that lasts, what refreshes and nourishes us forever, what we carry from day to day and season to season in an undiminished supply, that we need only reach up with our own hand to take and taste as our own.
F. Love.

A happy girl

January 24th, 2008    -    10 Comments

First, a shout out to the wonderful parents at Serra Preschool in San Clemente, Calif., for welcoming me so graciously on a wet and wild Wednesday night. Your attention made me feel at home. And on that note, I’ll conclude this week’s story.

Home became a distant thing. She would write “Santa Monica” in the blank besides Birthplace, all those vowels imparting a faraway status. But they hardly ever returned there until they never went back at all. Her grandparents became faint and frail, even by phone. Grandma died first, a long and lonely departure. Then grandpa came to Texas for his turn. He was stooped and stale and forgetful, forgetting even to buckle his belt, since he couldn’t unbuckle it again. She had learned more about him by then. She had learned who he wasn’t. He wasn’t big and never had been, being a half-foot short of six feet tall. By then a young woman, she had already begun to choose big boys and men to stand beside, only later realizing the misperception. To a four-year-old, five-foot-six was big enough.

She held fast to what she later learned, the family secrets and perpetual failings, and forgot the rest. She forgot about California. Only recently, in the long sad summer which had just ended, and at the suggestion of a counselor running thin on weekly advice, had she looked through grandma’s photo albums, now in her closet, with open eyes. She saw herself again, and she was stunned. I was a happy girl.

A smithereen heap

January 23rd, 2008    -    8 Comments


Later, when she wasn’t near as small or cute anymore, but grandpa still glowed at the sight of her, her mom and dad moved to Texas. It was the week after Bobby Kennedy was shot right there in LA and on TV. Her dad had moved out first and alone, starting a new job and finding them a brand new Texas house with each their own bedroom and furniture. Her big sister graduated from eighth grade and they loaded up the new Ford Torino station wagon, her mom and the girls. They drove off and left California, the oranges and grandpa and grandma. Somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico, they heard a thudding crash and pulled over on the highway to see her mom’s master’s degree typewriter, a sacred thing, a centerpiece of their lives and a fixture on the dining room table for as long as they could remember, smashed in a smithereen heap in the middle of the road. It had flown off the wagon roof. Things weren’t tied down so good after all.

Her mom stood helplessly on the roadside in the desert wind. Watching from the backseat, she stifled tears for her mother, the tears she would cry in her princess canopy bed to the late night shouts in the living room in the years to come.

Milk and sugar cubes

January 23rd, 2008    -    2 Comments


Those might be any of the days but every night ended in the same way, doused in the ritual scent of Old Spice. Grandpa shaved in the evenings because he got up before dawn. Oranges were a life but they weren’t a living. He worked for Union Oil Company on Torrey Mountain, wearing blue work pants and carrying a painted black lunch box and when he got up in the dark to do it, she got up with him. He would fix a cup for him and her too in a tiny Tupperware tumbler, mostly milk and two sugar cubes, and they would face the coming day together in a fearless way, sipping coffee and sitting side-by-side in silence on the davenport.

And if it could ever be so, this was a place where leaving, even the leaving, was the best part of all. Grandpa would load them in his car for the two-minute drive up to the two-bit migrant town, park along the stubby curb and open the screen door to Lechler’s Grocery. These are my girls, Harry, he’d announce, as the three little ones shyly advanced on the cool cement floor. Harry would then fix up three identical bags of penny candy, precious cargo for the long trip home with mom and dad. When the dentist decreed and mom imposed, grandpa replaced the forbidden candy with two dollars each cash spending money and still took the girls to Lechler’s just for the showing off.

Yes I can taste it

January 22nd, 2008    -    7 Comments


And then there were the rose bushes, giant, taller than her with blooms that dwarfed her head when her grandma propped her there in her white gloves and patent leathers for an Easter snapshot. There was the honeysuckle vine that crept up over the shade arbor, eventually collapsing it, with the tiniest little filament right there, that one, that she pulled so carefully and touched to her tongue yes yes I can taste it. There were the tree swings and the black barrel barbecue for roasting marshmallows, the orange push-up popsicles kept in the freezer drawer. No evening without ice cream, no sir, gallons and gallons of Knudsen’s vanilla for grandpa and her, which might have been the death of him, but which she could take on the back porch in an ice-cold bowl carefully carefully and if it was still light, mash and stir to a frothy soup in the game called Making a Cake for President Kennedy.

There were long, sunny days with water sprinkler chases and front-room dance recitals, LP singalongs to Marty Robbins or Patsy Cline and black pitted olives in a glass dish on the supper table. She popped the olives like palace guard hats on her fingertips and ate them off one by one. Most everyone frowned at that but not him. He laughed out loud and so she did it every time, his Irisher.

Letter from home

January 20th, 2008    -    9 Comments


Because these are the days when we watch for the oranges to ripen, and I can once again see them about to burst.

Home was once a funny word, since it was rarely the place that she lived.

She had been born in California, the granddaughter of a big-shouldered Illinois Irishman who’d come to the golden brink and ended up in all ways empty-handed. She was one of three little granddaughters, all loved so true that none doubted she was grandpa’s favorite, or that his house was where they belonged.

At home with mom and dad was a prickly kind of place, where the air sometimes froze and the ground swayed and the safest place to be was tucked out of sight. You could find her there, or you might forget to look.

At grandpa’s was different. It was a little patch of parched ground at the end of the road called the Road to Grandpa’s, an hour or so up the way from their starter house in LA and long after the littlest one in the backseat asked, “Are we still in California?” Grandpa’s was a tidy four-room box of a white and yellow handmade house in an orange grove ocean with a mountain in the distance, a mountain with a name they all knew, because grandpa always called it by name, Torrey Mountain, like he called everything by name, the names he gave if there were none, to pet pigeons and doves and chickens and the rooster and duck and dogs, sometimes cats, her grandmother, her sisters and her, the one he called My Little Irisher.

They would tumble out of the wagon on these, which must have been weekly trips when she was young, and her parents were achingly young and the cord that connected them all was noose tight but not yet torn. Tumble into the dusty earth and the endless rows of oranges which she knew stretched on forever at least until the highway way far away which was where grandpa’s two-acre spread played out.

First, yes there were the oranges, very special oranges which would be the very Sunkist oranges that you saw advertised on TV, which must be irrigated on rare and significant days known as Irrigation Days which were serious from beginning to end and produced the most luscious grade of mud which they were allowed to slog and squish through calf-high in the game known as Grand Central Station, these little raggedy girls having no earthly idea what a grand or a central or a station might otherwise be.

First there were the oranges. And then, and then.

One of these things is not like the other

January 8th, 2008    -    9 Comments

For my daughter’s second-grade homework:

The Big Ten
Pretend you are going to be taken by helicopter to a deserted island where you must live alone for seven days. You may take only 10 different things with you. Think before you begin writing. If you forget something important, you may not survive!

1. Nintendo DS
2. DS games
3. Food
4. Water
5. Clothes
6. Toothbrush
7. Toothpaste
8. Floss
9. Bathing suit
10. Sunscreen

As a matter of survival, may I point out that the floss is big number 8.

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