21 October 2006

While We Were Out

One week ago today, I woke up with a surge of nesting adrenaline, but there was little nesting for me to do that day. Instead, my job was simply to get out of the way while my mom, my aunt, my sister, and their crew transformed our second bedroom into a nursery.

By 9 am, they had all arrived, so we exited for a leisurely breakfast, a trip to the "Faces of Katrina" exhibit at artspace (fantastic, if emotionally draining), and my prenatal massage (oh my! fabulous). Then I spent the afternoon grading English 101 exams and watching the Detroit Tigers win their berth to the World Series while Micah changed out switches or some geek thing like that at work. By 7 pm, they were done and ready for us to see the new room.

It's hard to say how much we love the space. The colors, the canvas painting, the book wall, the giraffes, the new chest of drawers, the books, the quilt! Mom sewed her fingers off, Emily was Martha as usual, Vicki researched books and painted beautifully, Dan brought bright rugs and updated the blinds etc, Randy did whatever they told him (I'm guessing), and even Craig showed up at some point to help everything finish. So the room makes me happy because it's lovely but also because it represents such loving work from the fam.

They took inspiration from Grandma Bachman's claim that books are our friends. Primarily meant to warn us against setting open books upside down in such a way as breaks their bindings, this phrase now seems largely and simply symbolic of her. A lover of words and books of all sorts, Grandma went to work for BDalton when Pa was finally stationed stateside in San Antonio, when her last daughter was leaving home and most women would probably consider themselves free to just hang out. She retired several years later as manager of the largest BDalton in San Diego.

She often sent us boxes of books, and we were surely not faithful to read them as we should. No doubt we did not always treat them as our friends. But Grandma taught us something of her own lifestyle in the sending and the saying. I have always regarded books as mystical repositories of great things, objects of art that decorate my space. And I often think of those thoughts and decorating notions as Grandma's doing.

So it seems right that this particular influence would continue to the bean. May our child love words and ideas more than we do and somehow know even from the earliest breathing moments that books are indeed your friends.

20 October 2006

Mutton Busting

If it weren't Tigger's daughter, I would call this child exploitation and not laugh so hard, but "ME Denison, Champion Mutton Buster" just seems too classic of a headline. Please read her own blessed mother's telling of the story and watch the video on their blog.

Because of the videotape and the involvement of sheep, not to mention those other poor kids who (let's face it) never had a chance, this story does beat in laughter the one Micah tells about the time he hooked that dog chain to ME's backpack. She, of course, ran as hard as she could away from him and was yanked to the ground (when unleashed, she proved only mildly shaken and immediately started playing with something else).

Of course, this story does not beat the one involving Tigger's laptop getting run over by my car, since I saw that with my own eyes.

07 October 2006

I'm Worried About This

I'm too much of a traditionalist for this. I can still remember my first symphony concert: my dad was sick, but my parents already had tickets and mom still wanted to go, so I got picked to accompany her. After all, I was the older one at maybe 7 or 8, though that still seemed rather young to attend the symphony.

She suggested I wear the white dress with red ribbons, the fanciest I had (it matched one in my sister's wardrobe, maybe they were Easter dresses). And she instructed me in appropriate concert behavior: how to sit still and silent, like church, and maybe when to clap. She asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to go, if I thought I could act the needful way.

It was too much an exercise in the imagination not to go: the floofiest dress, the adult event. I had played violin since before I could remember, and now the teachers would perform for me.

Since then, I have been a behavior nazi. Well, that's partly because my dad never abided fidgeting or other distracting or inappropriate actions in public places. But especially not during concerts: no talking, definitely no candy wrappers, no head-bobbing or toe-tapping, certainly no getting up before intermission, no clapping at the wrong time. I'm nervous about even moving my legs to change which one crosses which. I have unwittingly taught myself to place the program on the crossed knee so that I can consult it for the current movement name at only a glance, no drop of the chin. It's ridiculously staid, but at least no one gets distracted . . . least of all myself.

Now, maybe I have remembered the details of that first concert incorrectly; my mother will have to offer a correction if that's the case. But surely she will agree with me that there is something in my nature and my years of practice that really ought to bristle at the idea of bringing a cell phone to a symphony concert, and especially at the idea of using it there.

The idea is tremendously creative and apt, hopefully more of a subtle cultural critique than an actual celebration of the ubiquitous mobile phone, but I'd rather I and everyone else attending the symphony learn to leave their cells in their cars. Better still, at home. Go to listen, not to wish you were somewhere else with someone else who might have something unnecessary to tell you while you're stuck in a concert.

05 October 2006

Bring Out Yer Dead! Bring Out Yer Dead!

A story in The New York Times entitled "Dead Bachelors in Remote China Still Find Wives" points out several ironies that are the modern China.

The overall problem here: false worship drives you to do stupid things. After all, such stuff makes the Chinese poor believe they should pay good money for dead women. Their hearts have taken advantage of the obvious procreative problem men will have when their ancestors preferred baby boys over baby girls.

The people profiled in this story are poor, but they will pay big money for brides, even dead ones for dead relatives. The cost of a female corpse to simply bury your male corpse near so that he might not remain a virgin in the afterlife is phenomenally high. I wish it were because the woman's remaining relatives prized her that much, but it is too likely that she lived with much shame, if not terrible abuse, because she did not earn that dowry while she lived and then could bear progeny for the good of the village, the family name, and the future economic health of everyone involved. Of course, she would probably have endured much abuse regardless; the status of wives in rural China seems only slightly above that of abandoned female infants.

But if you believe that the afterlife is as materialistic and base as this life, and if you believe a corpse is better than nothing, and if your village has believed that female infants should be left in fields to die, you will pay a lot of money to get any woman in the age to come. Even if it all you get is a dead Leah, you will pay your own personal Laban for the dowry he failed to collect while his daughter yet lived. Seven years? A wad of cash? But at least you can bury yourself with a smile on your face. No telling how much more it costs your soul.