Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Russian Fairy Tales

Last week Danny and I went to the library and got a book of Russian fairy tales. Being of the literary persuasion, I wanted to share with my son this part of his heritage. When we first started the adoption process it wasn’t Fodors or Lonely Planet I turned to learn about Russia, but Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoyevsky.

So I curled up with this book, imagining a time when I might curl up with a little boy and read him fantasies from a foreign land. I quickly discovered that Russian fairy tales contain the basic plotline for many modern horror movies. The makers of Saw definitely read these.

Most stories begin or end with someone getting beaten. People get shoved down holes, chopped up and stuffed into baskets, animals defecate on people’s faces, farmers get killed by overgrown root vegetables.

The first story I turned to, naturally, was called The Wife Who Loved Stories Too Much. As you could have guessed, it’s about a woman who loved to hear people tell stories. This greatly annoyed her husband who to get her to stop loving stories so much, basically beat the living blini out of her. The end.

I suppose if someone from another culture read the fairy tales of my childhood they’d be equally disturbed. There's the witch who likes to bake little children in her oven, a cross dressing wolf who gobbles up little girls, princesses in comas, and old women living in footwear.

The thing I loved about Russian fairy tales is that while evil is very straightforward, goodness is hidden in unexpected places. What seems to be an evil witch is really a kind old lady who will buy you dresses if you show kindness to the mice in her house. A simple ring can build entire palaces overnight. The very forest you’re traipsing through will give you directions if you only ask.

Friday, just when we were starting to feel like we’d never go to Russia, Danny and I got a call that we’ll leave on Saturday. And now every minute seems to drag so slow. After nearly four years of waiting to be a mom, it’s very difficult not to rush through these moments, skip to the happily ever after. But I’ve decided to let the minutes drag, savor them. This is a time to be soaked up. It’s a getting ready time and imagining time. A time for day dreaming and arranging my very own fairy tales.

A popular phrase in Russian fairy tales is, Some time passed, a long time or a short time. Years from now I probably won’t even remember how long the days and weeks felt until our son came home, I’ll just remember that we waited, wished and hoped and then there he was, like magic.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things that only seem to happen to me.

It was one of those bad experiences I was laughing at before it was even over, like the slo-mo sidewalk dive I took in France in front of a bus full of French people.

To begin with I want to make one thing clear, I NEVER drive with the windows down. Never. I do not enjoy the wind whipping my hair in my eyes as I drive, or smelling other people emission problems, or hearing what crap they’re listening to on their car stereo (or conversely have them hear what I’m listening to on mine, my mp3 rotation may include such artists as the BeeGees, Air Supply, and whoever sings LaBamba and I don’t want to be judged.)

I must have been in some sort of earth goddess, let me feel the breeze on my skin mood driving back from Target on Friday when I turned to Danny and said, “Do you mind if I roll the windows down? The air outside seems nice.” I did roll them down and felt one gust of cool air on my neck. I also felt two fat raindrops so I went to roll the window back up again, except it was stuck. It started raining harder, and all the window would do is make angry little clicking sounds.

I kept pressing the window button. It started raining even harder, so hard I could barely see the front of the car. The world went from grey to typhoon in fifteen seconds flat. And right at the very moment I chose to roll my window down to enjoy the breeze. Water was pounding my face and soaking my entire left side while I tried to navigate down 34th street.

Danny dumped out the contents of the plastic Target bag (anti-aging eye cream and Count Chocula). “Here,” he said, “will this help?”

I held the bag up to the opening in the window with my left hand and steered with my right. The bag did act as a shield to keep water from pouring into my eyeballs so I could better concentrate on driving. The only downside was that it kept filling with water and dumping it onto my leg like a garden waterfall. My leather bucket seat was also collecting water like a rain barrel until I was sitting in a small pool.

Danny laughed from the dry passenger side. "Only me," I said as I readjusted the Target bag, dumping a fresh load of rainwater onto my lap. "The minute I try to enjoy the air. I hope whoever controls the universe is having a nice big laugh right now."

The worst part of the whole ordeal was that we were going to go hang gliding the next day, but didn’t on the off chance we’d have to drive down the turnpike for two hours in the storm of the century. I blame the breeze. If it weren’t for that, I never would have wanted the windows down, it wouldn’t have broken and I could have soared like a bird 3,000 feet above the earth, forgetting about orphanages, malnutrition, and the fact that we haven't been to Russia yet.
Instead of flying like a bird, I organized a closet on Saturday. At home. With the windows closed. The air was pretty nice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Way You Make Me Feel

Nearly everyday I sit in Starbucks and write. When I’m not writing I’m staring out the large windows, and when I’m not doing that I’m observing people. I’ve watched budding romances, flirtations, birthday celebrations, pregnant women who get bigger and bigger until they start coming in toting an infant, and all manner of homeless people who ask for water every five seconds and occasionally sing ABBA songs. There's the old man in the polyester blue suit who reads the Wall Street Journal. The guy who wears Hawaiian shirts and sits in the cushy chairs with his laptop and portable mouse, and of course the slightly creepy guy with really hairy arms.

The bathroom at Starbucks is a single-user setup tucked back into a little alcove. You have to go up and get a key (otherwise I guess the homeless people use it as a spa.) Yesterday I was mid-tinkle when a deep voice said into the door, “Girl, I love you so much. It’s strong. Strong, girl. It’s just the way you make me feel. Don’t you feel it?. . .Hello?. . . Are you there?”

I froze. I held my tinkle stream while I tried to figure out which person had followed me back into the little alcove to make this bathroom door confession. Was it the little old man in the polyesther blue suit? Bermuda sandals man? The slightly creepy guy with really hairy arms? If it was I’d have to camp out and wait there until one of the baristas came to rescue me.

Answer me.” The man said.

He sounded urgent, so I did answer. I said, “Um.” (What else do you say when you’re sitting on the toilet in Starbucks listening to a stranger profess their love through the door?)

I didn’t have time to think of what to do next because the man started calling me “Carla”
and I realized he was not pouring his heart out to me but to the girl he was talking to on the phone.

The voice went away. I finished my business and came back out into the general coffee drinking population. I looked around but didn’t see anyone in the throes of a passionate phone call anywhere.

I realized I felt a tiny bit let down. That three second episode in the bathroom had made my heart race. Sure, maybe it was because for a fleeting moment I thought there was a creepy weirdo on the other side of the door that might chop me up and stuff me into the Starbucks bathroom trash can. But also for a second I thought someone had a crush on me, and it felt sort of exciting.

In the end I’m glad it’s Carla and not me. Coffee house romances never work out and I value the writing mojo at Starbucks way too much to give it up for a fling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apocalypse for Kids

As soon to be parents, Danny and I spend a considerable amount of time daydreaming about all the fun things we'll do with our kid. Birthday parties are an area we particularly look forward to. We already have lots of ideas for party themes. Feel free to use any of these.

Madmen Party
Instead of cake and ice cream, kids can eat steak dinners while they negotiate big deals like who controls the swing sets at recess. Children can also play at the subtleties of stabbing classmates in the back and how to successfully hide despair.
Favors: Cigarettes and Sterling Cooper whiskey decanters

Survive the Apocalypse Party
Split kids up into bands of survivors. Then shut off your electricity, remove all the food and lock them in. Give each “band” an area of the house as their territory. The game is more fun if you and the other parents play “rebels” and bang loudly on the doors and windows from time to time. Come back the next day to see which band of survivors has the most members and territory. That band gets cake.
Favors: Crowbars and canned goods

Zombie Apocalypse
A variation on the regular apocalypse theme except at this party one of your “bands” should be undead and try to eat the other kids.
Favors: Automatic weapons.

Clean House party
This seems like a win-win situation all around. Kids eat cake first, then clean up their mess along with the rest of your house. And voila, house is clean, kids are worn out from scrubbing the soap scum out of your shower. Everybody’s happy.
Favors: Rags and mini bottles of cleaner so they can go home and clean their own house.

Tattoo party
Acquire the services of a local tattoo artist (if you’re short on cash you can get a newer one who’s trying to get their name out there). Sprinkle the tables with tattoo design ideas, Dora, Backyardigans, Teletubbies if you’re old school. Individual kids may be in the chair awhile, so you’ll probably want to have something for the other kids to do. Hookah pipes might be a festive choice.
Favors: Hep B home testing kits

Ultimate Fighter Party
Set up a make shift ring in your living room using canvas and chicken wire (easily found at your local home improvement store). Then just sit back and let the kids have at it. Let one of the older kids referee while you and the other parents enjoy margaritas in the backyard!
Favors: Icepacks and rags to wipe the blood off their little faces.