Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bus Delight

My son, like many little boys, absolutely LOVES vehicles.  He spends a lot of time talking about vehicles, reading about vehicles, playing with vehicles, and pretending to drive vehicles.  The difference from other little guys his age in America is that his real-life vehicles, and therefore, the things he talks about and pretends with them, are quite different living overseas.

Without a vehicle of our own, if we need to go somewhere that is farther than walking distance, we end up taking a taxi or a bus.  He really wants to take the local tuk tuks more, but they don't go up the hill to our area, so it is a rare "treat."  One day when we were going across town, just to humor him, we took a bus and then a tuk tuk and finally ended up in a taxi for the last stretch.

It is fun to watch him, as a third culture kid, as his "normal" unfolds in front of us.  He was too small to really remember life before Nepal, so this is how life is for him.  He hit a stretch a few weeks ago where I would hear him in the other room, chattering, "Kaha chha?  Yaha chha?  Bhaisepati kaha chha?  Yaha chha..."  (Basically, where is it?  Is it here?  Where is Bhaisepati--our area?  It's here...and so on.)

And, he has a special love for the bus here.  We often opt for a taxi, if I have both boys with me, as the bus stresses my older one out when it is crowded, which it usually is.  So when the little and I go out together, he thinks always requests to go by bus.

Now, when little kids in the States play bus, they might line up a bunch of chairs or pillows or something to sit on.  They all sit, and maybe one sits at the front and pretends to drive, yeah?  Well, this is what playing bus looks like to my little guy:

And, when friends here saw him climbing the bars, and I said, he's playing bus, they all went. "Oohhh" because it totally makes sense here.  The effect you don't get in the picture is him calling out the names of places and banging on the "side of the bus" (window)--once to stop and two bangs to go.

I just love his enthusiasm about it all!  Today, as we were riding on the bus and approached a fork in the road, where the buses usually go to the right but at which he asks every single time which way they are going to go, the bus went right (as expected), and he looked at me and said, "This is my FAVORITE way!!!"  And, a couple minutes later, he pointed out another bus crossing our path.  It was rather old and dirty, as most of the public buses here are, and it was simply painted blue and white with a few random words and designs on the windows.  Ezekiel asked if I liked that bus, and when I responded that it was a nice bus, he said, "It is a BEAUTIFUL bus!"  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Proud of Me

It has been over 19 years since my Grandma passed away, and it was the year before that in which both of my great-grandparents passed away.  That is a long time.  I'm realizing that I have now lived longer without them than I did with them, and yet they were such a big part of life and forming who I am.  I feel like I am a rarely blessed person who grew up really sharing life with grandparents and even great-grandparents.  I am from a Midwestern farm family, so we had canning days and corn days and baking days and big meals together for holidays of all kinds and birthdays and lambing seasons and harvests and planting and farm equipment sales and just lots of life together.

I often think of my Grandma still, and those times sometimes feel a bit random, but I always think of her a lot on and around my kids' birthdays.  While I do really wish that they would have had the chance to know her and celebrate even with her, there is sort of a funny trigger beyond that for me.  Grandma always made us cakes for our birthdays.  Now, she was a good cook and good at baking, as is expected of you as a good Midwestern/Mennonite farm wife, but she also liked to decorate cakes, and she was good at it.  So, every year, she would make us a special cake of something we liked, such as a Sesame Street character or something like that.  It was really special to me, and it is one of the things I decided I wanted to carry on for my boys.  Ironically, I married someone and have two kids who do not actually enjoy cake.  I have usually still made a cake, but for this most recent birthday of my son's, I finally let go of my own need to make a cake and decorated some cookies for him instead (instead of BOTH for many recent birthdays!).  I have often put a lot of time into making their special birthday treats, and I have often thought and gotten comments from other family members that Grandma would be proud of me.

It's an interesting phrase to begin with, as "proud" is just not a word that would have been used by a good Mennonite in any context.  But, my Grandma used it.  She didn't grow up Mennonite, and there were certain things she held onto, and I guess that may have been one of them, as she certainly let us know often how proud she was of us grandkids.

Well, this year for my son's birthday, it was different.  I love to do special things for my boys.  I love making a big deal of birthdays.  It isn't just some external pressure I feel; I really do enjoy it.  But, like with many things, I have not exactly walked in the realm of realism and ended up totally exhausting myself trying to carry out my ideas.  I have gotten better at setting some limits on the crazy, but the culture I grew up in isn't one to set limits on efforts.  For good and for bad, it is a culture of crazy hard work ethic and often perfectionism, and what starts out as a joy can often feel like a burden.

As I approached my son's birthday this year, I decided I was really going to take a big step in simplifying.  My mom and dad are so sweet to send fun birthday party goods for each of the boy's birthdays, and the boys LOVE it!  Leaning heavily on those, I decided I was going to make some special cookies, order some food, and basically leave it at that and just try to enjoy the day with all of its mess and imperfections!  

Now, I know these may not look like a victory in any sense of the word.  They are neither a feat of decorating glory nor are they the total freedom of just having something made by the local bakery.  But, for me, this was a huge victory!  I was in bed by 10:00 the night before the party.  That doesn't happen!  I had a full night of rest and enjoyed the actual party time.  

As I sat decorating the cookies that night, with no rushing around and knowing I would be finished at a reasonable hour, I thought about my Grandma.

Grandma worked hard--crazy hard--preparing for any sort of family gathering.  But, there is one thing that I remember about her that isn't entirely typical of our culture, and that is her chair.  It often took some prodding from family members, but at every gathering I can remember, my Grandma would come and sit in her special chair in the living room and enjoy us.  Enjoy just being with us.  And, while I'm sure she wrestled with some guilt over not having all the dishes finished or thinking of the things that still needed to get done, but when she was with us, she was present; she genuinely enjoyed just *being* with us!

So, while this was definitely my least impressive showing yet on the birthday treat and party front, I can't help believing that this might be the proudest my Grandma would have ever been of me.