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Archive for July, 2014

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“Do you like India?”

The speaker was a fresh-faced young woman I had just met. She had taken a shine to my toddler son, and he to her, perhaps because she was one of the few people we met who understood how to play with little kids.

All of that made answering her even more of a sticky wicket. Even though I know it’s an attempt at connecting with me, that question is so reductive that it’s hard for me to refrain from rolling my eyes. Meanwhile, I feel I can’t answer it honestly without offending the asker — while there’s plenty I like about India, there’s more I don’t like. Put another way, the negatives outweigh the positives for me.

I love how children are cherished there. I hate how many children suffer there. I love that opportunities are opening for women. I hate that so many women are still treated as property, or worse. I love the mish-mash of architectural styles on my mother-in-law’s street. I’m not crazy about the trash and smells on those streets. I love to see the street vendors pass with their enormous handcarts, yelling about their bananas, or onions, or noodles. I hate to hear the street dogs yelping in the middle of the night.

But none of that is anyone’s fault — and certainly not the fault of the person asking my least favorite question. So usually I lie and say yes, I like India. This time I laughed and said that I had only seen the insides of a few houses, and I liked them fine. Not a lie, but also not the whole truth.

It seemed like the kindest way to preserve the connection the woman was trying to establish.

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We recently took the Boo to India to meet and stay with the hubs’ mother (“Avva”). Yes, we might be slightly crazy, though honestly, it all went a lot better than we thought it would where the Boo was concerned. Herewith, a list of the highlights.

You asked, “Where’s Avva?” immediately after arriving at the airport for the first of four flights that would take us to India over the next 36 hours. Your next question was about going home.

You were happy to receive a lollipop for takeoff, then displeased when it became sharp after you bit into it.

You were so enthralled with your personal in-flight entertainment screen that you would watch a cartoon you’d never seen, without sound.

You hugged a total stranger at the playground in the Frankfurt airport. He happened to be a brown-skinned man. We all laughed and called him your new daddy.

You slept on the long-haul flights and never went into the kind of frenzy we had feared you would. You did get a little wiggy during the last layover on the way there, but that was an eight-hour ordeal after more than 24 hours of travel that had all three of us strung out.

You cried when you met Avva, whom you had only experienced over Skype from the time you were six months old. We concluded that you thought she lived in the iPad.

You gave your Avva a hug within 24 hours of meeting her.

You delighted in discovering all the switches and fans in Avva’s house, and particularly loved the switch for the pump that delivers water to the tanks on the roof. Fortunately, all of these switches are about five feet off the ground.

You loved watering the plants in Avva’s front and back yards despite your distress over getting mired in thick mud.

You did not get sick (not counting the rash you developed).

You became enamored of a stick that is often used to drive away street dogs.

You did not care for the noise of steam escaping from the pressure cooker and would clamp your hands to your ears when it was hissing, even with the kitchen door closed.

You experienced several firsts during our stay: your first Slinky (instant love); your first time blowing a whistle (instant joy); and your first encounter with a gaggle of adoring, but loud, Indian Aunties (instant tears and vehemently closed eyes).

You climbed onto the lap of a visitor, a total stranger. Even after you realized he wasn’t your daddy, you stayed in his lap.

You met two of your cousins, and enjoyed playing with their carrom board, tricycle, and scooter.

You woke up the first six nights we were in India, sometimes tossing and turning for four hours before you were able to sleep again and often crying from the frustration of trying and failing to sleep. Sometimes Mama singing to you would help, sometimes it wouldn’t.

You shared a bed with Mama during our stay — a first for you and a big change from your crib. At first you would sit up and call for her if you woke up, but then you realized you could just roll over and cuddle with her. In the mornings, you would lean against her and announce that you were awake.

You asked to sleep with Mama when you woke up in the middle of the night back at home. She explained that the crib was too small but said she could take a nap with you in the big bed.

You thought Daddy’s nightly ritual of killing mosquitoes before you went to bed was hilarious. You also loved the mosquito net that cocooned our bed, though you would be in such a hurry to get in or out that you would often slam into it before Mama had a chance to raise it for you.

You tried a tiny bite of mango. You seemed to like it, but refused additional bites.

You refused to try any of the three delicious varieties of Indian bananas your Avva had gotten for you.

You devoured the sev (fried chickpea flour sticks) Avva made for you, but otherwise stuck to eating the food we brought for you.

You announced, “This is not home. This is India. This is our India home.” This happened about a week into our stay.

You went to India with Mama and Daddy, and we were nothing but impressed with how well you handled the trip.

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A few weeks ago, on a whim, I began to sing the Alphabet Song and stopped to see if the Boo would pick up where I left off. I sang “A B C D” and he chimed in, though not singing, “E F G.” I sang a few more letters, he spoke the ones that came next. We went through the song a few more times, and no matter where I left off, he picked right up and never got the sequence wrong.

Yesterday I started the same way, singing “A B C” and then stopping. He said, “NOT D.” And giggled. I giggled, and we continued this way through the whole song, singing, speaking and giggling, right down to “now I know my” “NOT ABCs.”

Such a mystery, the mind of the toddler. So much information packed in there, and such creativity in how it comes back out.

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20140701-170106-61266583.jpgOver the past week, the Boo has been issuing declarations, usually after a period of what I can only describe as intense quiet. Herewith, a list.

During an episode of Thomas and Friends:
– When the steam stops, the train stops.

After we made a couple of mini books, bound with safety pins:
– If we take out the pins, no more book.

At the kitchen sink:
– Some water is good, some water is yucky.

Also at the kitchen sink:
– Fast is good. Slow is bad.

Always thinking, this one.

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