Saturday, December 02, 2006

Say Please and Watch the Magic Happen

Today was the Families with Children from China annual Holiday Party. This year, it was celebrating their 10th anniversary in San Diego. But we were celebrating our first. December 9 is our anniversary of Match Day. On that day last year, David and I were waiting by the phone at 6 a.m. after a sleepless night for "the call," followed hard upon by "the photo." It sounds so hyperbolic to say this, but it was the day that changed our lives. By 9 a.m., we had become parents in our pajamas, and learned we'd soon be on our way to Chongqing to pick up a very round-headed baby with gigantic eyes.

We attended the FCC party last year just an hour after the Fed-Ex truck had brought us the full report on little Mei Ruo (e.g., "she gets annoyed when nanny feeds another baby, and moves closer to nanny after that," which, if you're wondering, is still the status quo), and two more pictures in which she wore a yellow dress and we could see her perfect bare feet. I remember we stuffed our photos into a plastic sheet protector, and that it was good we did because by the end of the afternoon they were covered in lo mein from the fingers of congratulatory folk who had passed them around.

This year's party had a different theme, but it was held at the same location, a place called "The Barn" in San Marcos. It was a long drive, but Jarrah was in a good mood. No sooner had we turned off the main road and glimpsed the group of red wooden buildings that include "The Barn," she began to speak urgently about "zhe doot-doot." (Lately, most of her exclamations are preceded by a vaguely French-sounding definite article, e.g. "zhe ball" and "zhe beach.") For the next few minutes, Jarrah narrated our arrival in a sort of Muppets-esque nonsense French, punctuated by occasional clear repetitions of "zhe doot-doot." After a while, I figured out that she was confusing this place with the similar-looking train yard in Poway we visited a few months ago. She couldn't wait to get out of the car seat, and couldn't even be distracted by a brief detour across the street to see "zhe naaaaay" (gorgeous race horses saying hello over the fence) so excited was she for a reprisal of "zhe doot-doot." David and I were pretty nervous that the whole day would just not deliver without said "doot-doot." I also remarked that already this was a thousand miles from last year's experience, when we simply pulled up and parked and, after showing our pics around, ate our plate of lo mein in the quiet courtyard, unperturbed by thoughts of doot-doots, real or imagined.

Because there was fruity cream cheese, Jarrah abandoned her pursuit of the doot-doot, and we caught up with friends who have returned even more recently than we have and had baby-babies to hold and show off. We would have liked to show off Jarrah, if we had been able to find her. She had a lot to see about, including covering herself in permanent marker that was intended for older kids decorating snow globes, and shoveling whole marshmallows into her mouth from the end of the buffet table.

The event culminated with Michael the Magician, and I really could not stop laughing when I saw that Jarrah had taken her place with the other children, all older, and that she was madly applauding on cue. Was it because she enjoyed the show so much? Quite the contrary, I could sense from her expression that she had no idea a) why that man was doing so much leaping around with scarves and, even more puzzling, b) why the kids were laughing and shrieking when he did. As her wonderment at this spectacle grew, her expression became more and more concentrated and brow-knit, but she didn't move. You know why? By gum, if the other kids thought this fellow was the bee's knees, she was going to dedicate herself to thinking so, too. Peer pressure is so tragic, at any age. ;)

I found myself noticing how serene the event seemed this year. Despite attendance by nearly 200 people, the time rolled along, with noshing and shmoozing and admiring rabbits in hats. Then I remembered that last year, The Barn was teeming with children, who, I had occasion to notice, are extremely unruly and prone to speaking louder than strictly necessary. They are grabby with food, and run when they could easily walk. They get overly excited by magicians and puppet shows, and laugh with too much enthusiasm. Last year, I remember that the reason David and I ate outside was that I couldn't hear myself think over the shrieking and laughing of 50 children--most of whom were once again present at this year's event.

Funny how these children seemed so restrained this year, with the most impeccable manners.


Jenn said...

What a difference a year makes huh? Funny how your perspective on everything changes when you become a parent. : ) The best is the photo of Jarrah with all the big kids figuring it all out.

Anonymous said...

Last year you were on the outside looking in - this year, you're in! ;)

I agree with Jenn on that photo, it's terrific.

Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

We really missed this day with you! Darn flu!! Thanks for blogging about it and putting up some photos. Next Year...!



Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

I love the photo with Jarrah and the big kids! Great, great, post.