Saturday, May 20, 2006


The other day I bought a copy of The Girlfriend's Guide to Toddlers, which had been recommended to me by Lisa (Hi, Lisa!) This is how Chapter One begins:

Mother Nature is so damned smart to give you your child in infant form first: There might not have been quite so many takers if she were handing out toddlers. Not that toddlers aren't adorable and captivating; it's just that it's hard to imagine devoting your life to a person who breaks your things, eats with her hands and hurls herself onto the floor if she doesn't get her way if you aren't already hopelessly devoted to the little tyrant.

Readers, I can't possibly express how validating this was, coming from a mother of four (!) who is also an unofficial authority on all things baby! It goes a long way towards explaining my sneaking suspicion, following our return from China, that I had amnesia from some sort of blunt head trauma, which had somehow coincided with someone delivering a tiny Tasmanian Devil to my house and now taking their sweet time coming to pick her up. Who WAS this loud, needy midget with the lovely eyes and the imperious pointer finger? Why wouldn't she let me get over my jet lag, or eat a bagel in peace? How did she know which magazines were the newest and most likely to be as yet unread? And why was she prone to the lustiest howls at the very moments I was certain all her myriad needs had been met and exceeded? Readers, now I know. She was, and is, a toddler. One who, for purposes of my perspective, might well have sprung fully-formed from a head of cabbage, so little did I know of her pliable, larvae-like baby form, when she must have done things like sleep and cuddle and remain in one spot for luxurious minutes at a time.

Yesterday Mary forwarded me an "essay" on the beauty of Chongqing girls that some travel agency has posted on the web. Reading it, I learned that "there is a popular saying on line that only when you arrive Chongqing, you understand you marry too early." Also, "they have their own weltanschaung [huh? Lix, can you help here?] and plenty of characters. They are rough but soft. They are unique." Here's my favorite part:

May be because of hotpot [a delicacy of Sichuan cuisine], the character of Chongqing girls also is famous for testiness. When they meet trouble, they may quarrel or make a racket. Sometimes they even fight. So Chongqing girls have another nickname 'Spicy Girl.' Of course their gentle also charm many men.

When we were in Guangzhou and the many purveyors of squeaky shoes on Shamian Island wanted to keep us talking long enough to make a sale, they would ask where Jarrah was from. When we said "Chongqing," their response was automatic: "Ah, spicy girl!" At the time, I paid their pronouncement little mind. But already I have more respect for this cultural cliche. Around 5:00 every day, our own spicy girl becomes famous for her testiness, and all those charmed men have to wait another day to be gentled.

Saturday is David's and my fifth anniversary. I can't believe we've been married five years! About a week ago, I told him that we should find out what this anniversary represents and give each other gifts in the theme. Then, as I do everything else these days, I forgot all about it. Last night I was reading in bed when he climbed in beside me and said, "So, the theme is wood."

"The theme?"

"Of our anniversary." A short silence ensued.

"Wood! Huh."

"Yep, wood." More silence. "I guess we could give each other a new dining table. That's wood."

"That's true. Wow. So...wood!"

"Mmm-hmmm." We sat there for a bit, and then started reading our matching library books by Bill Bryson (isn't that sweet?) And then I said:

"Hey! That's really appropriate!"

"What is?"

"Our anniversary is wood. And we met Jarrah right before our anniversary."

"Awwww, that's true."

For those of you who haven't been keeping score at home, Jarrah is a kind of tree. So there you go. Those themes aren't for nothing. And for those of you wondering if David and I regularly have this kind of deep, analytical conversation now that we are parents, the answer is yes. We've tried bringing weightier topics to the table, and they just lay there like yesterday's flounder. We figure we'll get back to our normal conversations in about five years, give or take.

The photos for this post do not commemorate any particular event. They're just damn cute. Jarrah loves to wear what I call David's pith helmet. It makes a very fetching chapeau, wouldn't you agree?


Anonymous said...

Weltanschauung = world view

Love, Cheri

Anonymous said...

also: "one's philosophy or conception of the universe and of life"

Spicy girl looks great in her Dad's hat! In fact, she just looks great in hats.

Could the 5pm thing be low blood sugar & hunger?

Best, Gail

Kim said...

Cuter and cuter and cuter. How does she do it?

Anonymous said...

I am the mother of 3 boys and 1 girl. While I am STILL not an expert - there is one thing I DO know about girls and that is, a SPICY girl is the best kind. When she grows up, the last thing you want is a girl who will allow herself to be taken advantage know what I mean? YOU as a MUM pay the price for having a SPICY girl now - but believe me you reap the benefits...later.

I have an amazing, amazing honest, strong, sweet, loving daughter who is a teacher, loves children, went through invitro, finally had her own babies (her daughter is spicy too!) and has turned out to be all of that and nobody's doormat too! YOU'RE lucky!!! Hang in there!

One of Mary's religious lurkers,

Mary and Paul said...

Hi Sam!

I can still hear Marie saying "well....spicy...or...whatever" on the bus!

I must say, I don't like spicy food, but I love spicy little girls!

Joy is a little hot pot herself and as you know, screams because I am changing her diaper, opening the fridge, tying my shoes, looking at myself in the mirror or just plain breathing! Usually because she wants me to pay attention to her and play!

Are we not the luckiest ones?!!



Anonymous said...

I'm too late to the party to be able to share my translation! But I'm honored you would think of me when you see a difficult German word. :) Miss you, Lix

Type (little) a said...

Spicy girl! I love that expression!

PS- If found you from your NPR appearance. I caught up on all your posts in one (long night) Belated congratulations on your spicy girl.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought becoming an instant mom to a toddler was going to be a real challenge. I wasn't wrong. I mourned the loss of infancy before we adopted Ava and was emotionally but not mentally and physically prepared for the onslaught.

I am now parenting a child who worships a purple dinosour and runs to give me a hug when the Barney theme song starts "I love you, you love me....".

I wouldn't have it any other way.

(oooh, my aching back!)