Friday, November 5, 2021

Bruise or Dirt?

Dear readers, this is a vintage post from the fall of 2011. I just found it in my unpublished blog archives and it brought back lots of memories. I wanted to share it with you, just in case the fall fills you with nostalgia the way it does me. 

This story features my son Grant as a 7-year old. He's now a freshman in college at the University of Tennessee. 

What strikes me about this post is how much life has changed in ten years. When I wrote it in 2011 I was living in Beijing, struggling to manage life and fit in as an immigrant. I had small children and I was married.

Now in 2021 I live in Tennessee, I'm divorced and my children are young adults away at college. I'm back in my home country so I don't have the same immigrant struggles I did in Beijing.

But am I at home? I'm not sure. The older I get, the harder it feels to go home. 

The things that I remember from "home" aren't the way I remembered them, like Girl Scout Thin Mints and the catwalk in front of my elementary school. 

Then sometimes I'm in a completely new environment and I encounter things like fire cider or a public drinking fountain in Spain that feel so ...  known ... 

The older I get, the more "home" feels like something that I carry deep inside of me. 

It's a rainy day on the mountain today. The raindrops started pattering on the tin roof of my tiny house during the night and they've continued to trickle down all morning. On the wet trees outside my window, yellow and red and brown leaves wave to me. As if they're beckoning. 

I guess this is just a day that wants to pull me back into the past for a few moments.... 

In that spirit, please join me in a brief trip to the past. The year is 2011 and we are in Beijing.  

It's that time of the semester again - Parent-Parent-Parent-Teacher Meeting. Thanks to China's One Child Policy most parents only have to sit through this torturous meeting once, but since I gave birth to two kids, I have twice as many meetings to attend as anyone else. Once for Audrey in 5th grade and once for Grant in 2nd grade. 

For 40 minutes we heard from the principal, who gave us a report on the activities of the 小学部, which as far as I can tell is the Elementary School Department. 

They appear to be doing great, thank you for asking. 

Then for 20 minutes a man from the Vision Protection Program gave us a presentation about, you guessed it, how to protect our kids' vision. 

Then we went to our kids' classroom, where the teacher talked to us about our students' progress. She gave us our children's mid-term exam scores and a rough idea of their class ranking. 

As I was leaving the classroom this one mom came up to me and said, "Hi, I'm {something fast in Chinese}'s mom.    You know?     Last time...?     The accident...?" 

I shook my head sadly. I'm afraid this wasn't enough information for me. I did a quick mental inventory of all the playground accidents of recent months.
  1. Grant "accidentally" pushed a kid down on the playground and he scraped up his ear.
  2. A kid poked Grant with a pencil and left a sliver of graphite under the skin.
  3. Grant kind of "shot" a kid with a slingshot in the eye area.
And who knows what other "accidents" might have taken place in the last few months that I never even knew about. 

Seriously, we play this game at our house called "Bruise or Dirt?" 

It goes like this: you pick a spot of discoloration on Grant's legs and we make bets on whether it's a bruise or dirt. 

The funny thing is when I say "we" - I'm including Grant there. Even he doesn't know if the marks on his knees are injury or dirt.

Then you spit on your finger and try to rub the spot off. If it comes off, it was dirt. If not, it was an injury. 

Or stubborn dirt. 

This picture will show you that I'm not exaggerating. It's a darling picture of Grant and a friend's dog but it also happens to capture the bruise-or-dirt phenomenon quite well.

  Back to that mom - we were speaking Chinese and since mine is not that advanced, I had to be blunt with her. 

"Did my kid hurt your kid or did your kid hurt mine?" 

"My kid hurt your kid," she said. 

"Oh, the pencil thing? It's fine, really. Don't worry. You can hardly even see it anymore. And thank you for covering the medical fees, that really wasn't necessary." 

I didn't tell her that Grant wanted her family to compensate him for psychological damage. We told him he doesn't have a case.

Seriously, he can't even tell dirt from bruises on his own legs.