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.

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thirtysomething

I have a serious love/hate relationship when it comes to P and TV. On the one hand, I realize how easy–oh how easy–it is to turn it on when she’s eating and let her be distracted enough that she actually eats. On the other, I realize that it’s a much too easy route to take, and not constructive in the long run.

Long story short, we try not to let her watch TV very much, and hope that my parents (who look after her during the day) do the same.

At the same time, my own relationship with TV is not very conflicted. I love television. Love love love it. When my family moved to the U.S. from Iran, I was nine and my sister was thirteen. We pretty much learned to speak English (and well, I might add), by watching The Facts of Life and CHIPs.

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV…I really don’t understand the need for some people to air every skeleton in their closet on TV, I don’t really think people can fall in love in the three months The Bachelor is shot, and feel no need to see super rich women be catty to one another.

I do, however, love a good quality drama. Last night, NBC aired the last ever episode of Friday Night Lights, a show that made this California girl want to utter the words “Texas forever!” I’m still getting over the idea of not having those characters visit on a weekly basis. Sigh.

Recently, I went through the five seasons of The Wire in about four months. I waited with bated breath for the mail to arrive, and was very diligent in getting those Netflix DVDs back in less than 24 hours.

There is another series, though, that I have a soft spot for: thirtysomething.

It first aired on ABC in 1987, and ran for four seasons. I was only 10 when it premiered, and 14 when it went off the air. I vaguely remember the buzz surrounding it, and I may have even watched a few episodes. But I was definitely the wrong demographic.

I think anyone in their late twenties to their early forties can watch thirtysomething and feel an instant bond with one or more of the characters.

By the time you actually hit your thirties, you’ve probably known people who have cheated on their significant others, divorced, been diagnosed with a horrible disease, had to choose between a career and a family, made it big in the world, didn’t really make it, are still looking for that special someone, etc.

Thirtysomething portrays all those scenarios with grace, portraying well-rounded characters that could be your friends. They all go through life experiences that could very well happen to you.

I was talking to a friend a while back, and out of the blue she said, “You know what show I’ve been really getting into? Thirtysomething.”

“OMG me too! The show is FANTASTIC!”

“I know,” said my friend, “it just…I don’t know, it just feels really honest.”

Our conversation about the show pretty much petered out after that, like there was not much more to say. And there wasn’t. It’s a beautifully honest show that makes you, well, maybe be a little bit honest with yourself. And that’s a pretty big claim for a show to make.