The Play Date

A couple of weeks ago, P had her very first play date. Before you pass horrid judgement at the fact that she was almost three before this milestone took place, please let me explain myself.

P was born in the lovely (and expensive) city of San Francisco, and since we knew we wouldn’t be living there permanently, I didn’t bother joining any mommy groups. So I completely missed out on the whole mommy-group camaraderie, as well as the possibility of having women around with kids P’s age.

We ended up moving twice in P’s first three years, so there wasn’t really any time to settle down and find friends with similarly-aged kids. And it turns out that none of my friends who live within a thirty-minute driving radius have kids around P’s age. So that wasn’t an option either.

I was excited when P started preschool, thinking that I’d soon meet other kids’ parents and we would start the whole mysterious cycle of play dates. But meeting said parents turns out to be rather difficult when you all have different drop-off and pick-up times.

So I just figured I’d wait it out until P started going to slumber parties sometime in high school.

One day at school, though, I had a fabulous surprise waiting for me: the mom of P’s BFF had left a note with her email and phone number, asking if we were around during winter break, and if we’d be interested in setting up a play date between P and S.

Interested? I was practically doing a happy dance. I think I was way more excited than P was, because honestly I don’t know that she knew what a play date even was.

After a few backs and forths on email, we decided on a Bat time and a Bat place, and I was to bring drinks (which, in my excitement turned out to be way too many for a two-hour play date). The girls played happily with one another until around lunch time, at which point P got completely cranky and needed some space. Apparently, that’s normal at toddler play dates. So much to learn.

S’s mama and I chatted happily, complained a bit about our preschool, drank yummy tea, and had a lovely snack. And I finally figured out that the play date was as much for our sake as it was for the girls’. So, so much to learn.

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I’ll Put it on My Eyes

My family had been living in the U.S. for just over a year when we moved into an incredibly cute duplex in a working class town 20 miles south of San Francisco. The house had a front yard filled with wood chips, a sunny eat-in kitchen, and hardwood floors throughout.

We had moved to Northern California from Irving, Texas, not too long before. In Texas, we first lived at my aunt’s house (for…two months? Three? The details are fuzzy) and then a hopelessly depressing apartment.

So the duplex in San Leandro was definitely a step up. And we had an awesome view: the house across the street. It was one of those beautifully refined Craftsman-style houses–incredibly well-kept and sporting a fantastic yard.

The man who lived there was, in every sense, quite neighborly. He was always out in his yard with a huge sun-hat, perfecting the garden, waving hello as we walked or drove by.

We hadn’t been there very long when he knocked on the door one day, presenting my dad with a huge basket of vegetable-garden bounty. I remember there were zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

My father, already an emotional man, was over the moon. He started praising the vegetables, our neighbor, America in general, and ended with “Thank you so much. I’ll put them on my eyes.”

Our neighbor wasn’t really sure what to make of this, and said something to the effect of, well, I guess you can do that, but it’s probably better if you eat them.

You see, my dad was literally translating a common saying in Farsi. The phrase, which is said when one person gives another something of value, literally means “I’ll put the [insert gift here] on my eyes.” But the real meaning is that the gift is so precious that I’ll put them on my most precious possession, my eyes (well, something to that effect anyway). It’s just a very flowery way of saying thank you.

That little sentence has fueled my love for all things involving literal translations. They are a fantastic, albeit nerdy, source of amusement.

Fast-forward 20 years, as I try valiantly (and often fail) to sing P lullabies that are actually lullabies, and not Tori Amos or Simon & Garfunkel songs. This is how bad I am–until recently, I would finish “Hush Little Baby” in this way:

If that looking glass don’t shine
Mama’s gonna buy you a concubine.

Every night I would think, what if she asks me what a concubine is tonight? So when I remembered, I would use “porcupine” instead. I pretty much learned how to correctly end that song while watching Skylar singing it to her newborn baby on Breaking Bad. (Ohhhhhhhhh Daddy loves you and so do I!)

So when an Italian friend and his American wife, back from a trip to the Ye Olde Country, gave us a book of traditional Italian nursery rhymes and lullabies, I was super excited. If I can’t teach P all the right American songs, at least A can teach her Italian ones.

And then I saw the songs and rhymes.

And they are ripe for a literal translation.

Here’s the first (please excuse my shoddy translations and lack of rhyming. It’s been a while):

Under the Baracca Bridge,

Little Gigin is pooping.

His poop is really, really hard,

So a doctor came to measure it.

He measured thirty-three,

Now it’s your time to count!

It needs to be said: wha? A nursery rhyme about pooping? Really hard, worrisome poop that needs doctor intervention? This may be the best nursery rhyme ever!

Well, that’s what I thought until I read this next one:

Bam-bada-dam-badam-badam

Three little owls on the dresser

Were making love to the doctor’s daughter

The doctor got really really mad

Bam-bada-dam-badam-badam.

OK. WHAT? This is a nursery rhyme? About three owls having sex with the doc’s daughter? Who, rightfully so, gets mad? I mean, wouldn’t you if three owls were having sex with your daughter? All I can say is, leave it to the Italians to come up with a nursery rhyme that involves sex.

A laughed hysterically when he saw these rhymes in the book. I guess it’s one thing to hear them said over and over again, and it’s completely different to see them written on paper.

Well, K and M, friends who brought back the book from Italy: I love it. I’ll put it on my eyes.

The Good Karma House

It’s ours! It’s ours! The letter to the Franks totally worked! And we finally got through the quagmire known as the the home loan process…and closed a day before the stock market lost a gazillion points. But who’s counting?

When A and I were on our honeymoon (Gozo, Malta), we noticed an interesting local tradition. Every house had a name, indicated by a name plate right next to the house number. There was even a house named “Juventus” (an Italian soccer team that obviously has uber-fans internationally).

I totally want to call our new home the Good Karma House. Too much pressure? Will I jinx it by calling it that? But really, when you take over a home from a couple who lived there for a good 64 years, what else can you call it?

Well, maybe I won’t have a name plate done, and just think of it as the Good Karma House in my head.  In any case, I wanted to share some pictures! Here they are, in no particular order.

OLIM

One of the best parts of living in the Bay Area is a thing called Casual Carpool. Here’s how it works: in various parts of the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, etc.), there are designated Casual Carpool pick-up spots. You wait in line at the spot, and pretty soon a car will show up. You get in, wait for a third passenger, and head to San Francisco, where you’ll be dropped off at a designated spot in SOMA (South of Market, for non-Bay Area folk).

Before you start imagining serial killers picking up innocent victims, let me assure you that this is an entrenched culture here. People have been doing it for years. There’s even a strict etiquette.

The first few times I was a little giddy, stifling my giggles as I got into a complete stranger’s car, said “Good morning,” and looked out the window. It was pretty much everything I had been taught NOT to do. After the first few times, I was a pro.

The reason why people use Casual Carpool is, of course, convenience: it’s convenient for the driver, who gets to use the carpool lane on the Bay Bridge, avoiding upwards of an hour of traffic, and it’s convenient for the rider, who gets a fast, cheap ride across the Bay.

Before July 1, 2010, it was convenient for the driver for another way, too: people who used the carpool lane on the bridge didn’t have to pay the toll. Starting July 1, 2010, however, carpool drivers were charged $2.50 for the ride (compared to the normal $6).

The change definitely posed a quandary. Before drivers were charged for the toll, riders didn’t feel the need to pay the driver anything. Hey, he was driving across the Bridge anyway, right? I’m saving him the toll money and time!

After the change, it was a free for all. Some riders offered drivers $1 for the toll (my preferred method), and some didn’t. Some drivers refuse to even think about taking the toll, pretty much thinking that the saved time is worth more than the $1 payment (my favorite drivers).

Some people attach a passive-aggressive note on the seat with a cup, pretty much asking for a contribution, but not enforcing.

Then there’s the Old Lady in the Mercedes (I’ll call her OLIM for short). The first time I got in her car, she asked for a $1.25 contribution before my butt-cheeks hit the seat. Thankfully, I had exact change.

She ended up being a regular at my stop, and I ended up riding in her car three or four times. She changed the enforced payment to a $1, probably because people were fishing around for pennies at the bottom of their bags to get the needed 25 cents.

The last time I rode with OLIM was the most memorable. I got into the backseat (the first passenger can choose the front or back, and I generally ride in the back because I carry my computer and a gym bag), and we waited for the third passenger.

A pleasant young man got into the front seat after a few minutes, and said hello.

OLIM: “That will be a dollar.”

PYM (Pleasant Young Man): “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I only have a $100 bill.”

Me in the back (MITB), thinking to myself, “OH SNAP!” as my jaw dropped.

OLIM: “That’s no problem. I have change. When we stop I’ll give it to you.”

PYM: “Um…OK.”

MITB: Jaw practically dragging on the beautiful Mercedes leather seats.

The drive across the Bay Bridge was long, silent, and awkward.

We got to the designated stop, and OLIM hopped out of the driver’s seat, went back to the trunk, and brought back $99 in change.

I guess there’s a reason she’s driving a Mercedes and I’m in a Honda.