Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Em's Greatest Hits, Volume I

We're off to a bar mitzvah tomorrow, which brought to my mind one of my favorite Em stories, one which I've probably told a million times, though I don't think I've done it here. And that brought to mind a couple of other of my all-time-favorite Em stories. So I decided that it's time to tell three of them here, just because. Many of you have heard them before, but I don't care. They tickle me.

#1: Em is not-quite 3-and-a-half. I'm pregnant with N. Em and I are in a bathroom stall in the mall, and she points to the little garbage can for feminine products and asks what it is.

Now, you have to understand that Em is and was extraordinary in terms of her verbal abilities--both expressive and receptive. So my simple response led to more and more questions, and ultimately to a full-out explanation of the concept of menstruation, including the idea that blood comes out of a woman's v*gina once a month if she's not pregnant. It was a very long conversation, and I really wished we weren't having it at the mall, but there it was.

A few months later, I'm driving Em home from daycare, and she mentions her cousin, M, who lives in New York, and wonders whether he's driving home from his school. I start telling her about how New York is three hours ahead of us, and she starts asking more questions about the whole time-zone phenomenon. Since I'm in heavy traffic, I'm having a hard time concentrating, and eventually I say, "Em, I'm sorry I can't explain it to you right now, but it's complicated."

"What's complicated mean?"

"It means difficult to understand."

She's quiet for a minute. "That's not difficult to understand," she says. "Blood coming out of your v*gina every month...now THAT's difficult to understand!"

#2: It's a few months later. N is a newborn. The three of us have gone to a local botanical gardens where we have a membership, and we're enjoying a nice, warm March day.

After we've wandered for a while, we head to a little cluster of weeping-willow trees where Em likes to pretend she's in a jungle and that she's Nala, the girl lion from The Lion King. I nurse N, and he falls asleep. Em's been running around for a while when she comes to me and asks for some water, and I realize that the sippy cup of water I had for her is empty.

But, never fear. There's a bathroom just 50 feet or so away, within sight of the tree where we are, and it has a water fountain. I realize that I won't be able to juggle N and open the cup and get water into it, so I lay him down on the blanket I've already spread out, and I tell Em that I'm just going to walk over to the bathrooms and fill up her cup, and she needs to stay near N and watch him until I get back. I figure it's OK because although I can't really hear her, it will only take about a minute, and I can watch them the entire time.

So I head over to the water fountain. As I'm filling up the cup, I take my eyes off the kids for a split second. When I look back up, I see about four of five people--a family with three kids--approaching the spot where my kids are. They're Japanese, and they have a camera. I see one of them start to talk to Em, and then I see them stop dead in their tracks. I quickly screw the cap back on the cup, and hurry back over to where my kids are.

And there is Em, on all fours, crouched over N. She has on the most serious face I've ever seen. And she's roaring at these people--literally. "Raaaaaahhhhhrrrrr," she's shouting over and over, trying to keep them away from her new baby brother who she's been asked to protect. "Raaaaaahhhhhrrrrrrrrrr!" And the family is just dumbfounded. They just don't know what to do. So they back up, and scurry away, before I can get close enough to say anything.

I couldn't decide what I more proud of...the fact that she was so protective of her baby brother, or the fact that she didn't even break character.

#3: Em is now four-and-a-half years old. We've moved into our new house, and she's become very good friends with the younger two boys from next door, whose parents I like alot, but who are very, very different from me. They homeschool for religious reasons--not enough God in the schools, apparently.

Passover comes, and I'm in the house on the night of the first seder, setting the elaborate seder table. I'm putting matzoh under a matzoh cover when Tommy and Em come into the house looking for a snack. "Hey," Tommy says, pointing at the matzoh. "I know what that is. That's the body of Christ!"

"Um, no," I say, trying not to laugh. "But I can see where you'd make that mistake. It does look like a communion wafer, I guess."

Later, when my brother-in-law arrives, and is chewing on a piece of matzoh, Tommy makes the same comment to him. Em, apparently, is simply taking it all in.

A couple of months later, we're at a bar mitzvah. It's the first time Em's been in a temple. (Yes, I know. Bad Jew.) At one point, the rabbi asks us to observe a moment of silent prayer. Em, who's sitting between me and the aforementioned brother-in-law, asks what we're doing.

"We're talking to God, quietly, in our heads," her uncle explains, whispering.

"Oh, yeah, I know about that. That's what Tommy and Nick do when they go to church! Except they don't talk to God. They talk to..." and here she pauses, searching for an elusive name. "They talk to...oh, what's the name of that guy whose body they like to eat?"

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