Monday, August 29, 2011

Henry the Dead Rat

There is a dead rat at the end of the driveway of our new house. It is so badly decomposed that I thought it was a big brown leaf but Audrey looked at it one day and saw what it really was.

Much screaming ensued, I can assure you. From her dramatic performance you would have thought she had uncovered a mass grave in our front yard.

Anyway no one has moved the carcass so it just sits there. One day when we made a family trip to the mailbox (I don't know why the kids have to go with me to check the mail but they do, every time) Audrey took a moment to visit with the dead rat.

"Let's name him," she suggested. "Mr. Henry. His name should be Mr. Henry."

I was engrossed in a packet of coupons and Grant just shrugged. Audrey continued.

"Mr. Henry, we want to say something to you. We want to say that we're so sorry."

Grant was jolted from ambivalence - his reaction was lightning-fast and assured. He kicked the gravel at Mr. Henry and Audrey. "Sorry?! What am I sorry for? I didn't do anything to him? I'm not sorry for anything!"

You have to understand that Grant is busy enough taking responsibility for the crimes that he really did commit. He has no time to accept blame for things he didn't do.

Audrey kept her eyes on Mr. Henry, unfazed by the rocky disturbance her brother was causing. "Mr. Henry, we are sorry. We're sorry that..." Her eyes were cast downward but I could see that she was searching the ground for some way to complete the sentence she had just started. It's a poor dead rat. Surely there is something we should be sorry about here...

"We're sorry that, that you died."

Grant scoffed. I put a coupon for Disney on Ice (4 for $44) under my arm and threw the rest of them in the recycling bin. Audrey took one last look at Mr. Henry and started a solemn retreat back to the house.

And sadly, no one made any attempt to dispose of Mr. Henry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No, that ring is not "hoochie"

Yesterday Grant asked me to come to his school to have lunch with him. Fortunately his school not only allows this but encourages it so I gladly said yes.

This morning I asked him if he had any ideas of what I should wear to his school. "Anything is okay, just not anything too hoochie, okay?"

Pardon me? When did he even learn the word "hoochie"? And have I been known to wear "hoochie" clothes?

I tried to go for a demure yet casual look for our lunch date but I couldn't resist wearing my green flower ring. Does this count as hoochie?

I think not.

I had forgotten how wonderful the bulletin boards are at elementary school. As I waited for Grant outside the cafeteria I taught myself the sign language words for "P.E." and "read" and "backpack".

Then Grant came around the corner and saw me, and he looked so excited. It was the sweetest thing in the world. He held my hand but didn't talk to me since talking isn't allowed in the hallway.

Maybe that explains the sign language bulletin boards.

Then he showed me how to get food in the cafeteria and I was reminded of the day 15 years ago when his father did the same thing, in a different cafeteria, one that was halfway around the world at Chiba University in Japan. That was our first encounter, and the rest is history.

Sunrise, sunset.

I had a ball talking with Grant's classmates during lunch. This one little girl was so cute. Here's a recap of our conversation:

"Did you know they sell cookies for a quarter up there? You can get four for a dollar!"
"That's very impressive math, Madeline. And you're right. Four quarters is a dollar."

Moments later.
"You know, you could go up there and buy four cookies right now."
"I guess I could, Madeline, but I could never eat that many cookies."
"You could give them to us!"
"That's a great idea Madeline!"

And me, being the pushover that I am, I bought four cookies and gave them to Grant's classmates.

After lunch Grant's teacher let me hang around for recess, which Grant calls "Reese's". He's confused as to why they don't hand out peanut butter cups at Reese's break.

Then after Reese's the class lined up and Grant asked me for a hug and a kiss goodbye. This is huge, folks. When I picked him up at his school in China he completely ignored me. He said, "If people see me hugging an English woman they'll think I'm English."

News flash #1: I'm not English.
News flash #2: Even if you don't hug me, people can tell you're half white.

But after a few weeks in the U.S. he is not only not ashamed of me, he's proud of me. I guess he sees that in a different context, I'm not a bumbling, lost fool. Instead I'm smart and capable. And I have some cool rings.

Of course we all know I've always been smart and capable rather than bumbling and lost, but you have to see it from the perspective of an 8-year-old.

All I can say is thank God for different contexts. And for 25¢ cookies. And for schools that encourage parents to come to school for lunch.

And most of all, thank God for 8-year-old boys.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This girl walks into a shoe store and

We have wi-fi at the house now and it is so dang fast and I can access ANY site I want! I feel so free after years of trying to get around the internet censors in China. And the censorship was getting heavier and heavier as time went by, which always left me with this ominous feeling that one day I might wake up and be able to access and nothing else...

Anyhoo, have you all been looking at the green stuff? I hope so.

Since segues don't appear to be my strong suit this morning ("anyhoo" is not a segue, I admit that) I will make no attempt to give you one now. I'll just go straight to a great Nashville story for you.

My BFF Pat came to Nashville to help us get settled in and we wanted to celebrate with a glass of wine. The kitchen was completely bare so I went out in search of a liquor store where I could get a bottle of wine, some wine glasses and a cork screw.

The name of the one I found was so perfect for the Deep South. "Mr. Whiskers Liquor Store".

I quickly picked a Yellowtail Chardonnay from a collection of wines so impressive you'd hardly believe it belonged to a man named after his mustache. But I could not find the wine glasses and cork screws. I walked through the whole shop twice and finally gave up.

As I was checking out I asked the guy at the register where the corkscrews were.

"We can't sell cork screws here. Tennessee law," he said.

"You can't sell cork screws?"

"Tennessee law," he echoed.

I must have looked really pitiful at that point. I was after all wondering if I would be able to swing the bottle of wine at the side of the house and open it without shattering the whole thing.

He whispered to me, "You can buy a corkscrew at the shoe store next door."

"Seriously?" I asked. "You can't sell me a corkscrew but the SHOE STORE can?"

"Tennessee law."

By then I was actually enjoying the thought of opening the bottle of wine with some unconventional method but I wondered if he was kidding about the shoe store so I decided to find out.

The shoe store next door wasn't one of those crappy shoe stores that sell last year's shoes at next year's prices. It was a serious operation. One of those orthotic places that make molds of your feet and do heat-sensitive impressions and stuff.

"Can I help you?" asked a friendly, white-haired lady.

"The guy at Mr. Whiskers told me I could buy a corkscrew here?"

"Yes, let me finish with this customer and I'll get one for you," she said.

"Oh, I don't really want one. I just wanted to know if you really sell them," I answered and then walked out.

So let's re-cap here. In Tennessee wine is sold in liquor stores and corkscrews are sold in shoe stores.

Shoes, it seems, can be sold in shoe stores.

Everyone got that?

Tennessee law.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Take Time to Look at the Green Stuff

We arrived in Nashville on July 18 and we're slowly settling in to our new house. Every day is chaotic and fun right now - I'm drinking wine out of paper cups and mixing chicken salad in a soup pot and we're sleeping on a mattress on the floor but we have everything we need.

There are so many stories I want to tell you but for now I'll share the one on the top of my mind -

On the drive from Birmingham to Nashville Grant stared out the window for several minutes and then told me, "I've looked at green stuff so long now, my eyes can see further. When you look at trees and grass for a long time I know it makes your eyes gooder."

More later, once we get wi-fi established in our house. For now, don't forget to look at the green stuff.