PATERNAL BRIEFINGA Moment of Appreciation
May 23 - The weather's been very nice in Copenhagen for the past week or so. It's been sunny and very warm. At times it's almost been hot. I actually sought shade one afternoon last week. It was probably the first time I'd done so since last August.
Copenhagen blossoms in good weather. So do her people. In a city where you have less than two dozen truly beautiful days a year—and sometimes less than half that—you don't waste those days sitting in front of a computer. If I were more regular about my almanacs these days you could use them as a meteorological instrument. Excessive writing? Rain, clouds, chills. Extended absence? Glorious summer.
Today is cooler and gray, with intermittent drizzle.
I haven't written enough about Molli lately. It seems unfair to spend six months trumpeting her imminent arrival and half a year scrupulously chronicling her every development, only to gradually taper off to the point where she only comes up here and there and now and then like some kind of afterthought. Molli is not an afterthought, and this is the almanac to prove it.
* * *
She's still not walking, so my prediction that she'd take her first steps "by the end of the month" appear to have been premature. But she crawls like a maniac, does unsupported squats at will, and frequently pulls herself up with the help of a table or shelf. Sometimes she just stands there, arms at her side, enjoying the liberty of standing upright on her own but baffled as to what to do next. Then she either lowers herself down by means of a squat or just plops back onto her butt.
Her front two lower teeth came in about a month ago, and those little white nubs now actually resemble teeth. Meanwhile, two new teeth are coming in on the upper deck. Not the front two we'd been expecting, but the ones that flank them. The canines, I think. She's been a little cranky through this, but only a very little considering the stories you hear about teething babies ("she cried for three days and ran a fever of 110," "he got rashes so bad we had to call the fire department," "she chewed her way through a cinderblock wall").
She's showing more and more signs of intelligence. She waves hello and goodbye to people now, and has made a few good efforts at clapping. When she hears music, she starts to dance. When she's hungry, she says, "meuh meuh meuh meuh," and when she's tired or sad she says, "byoh byoh byoh." She says "mama-mama-mama" and "dada-dada-dada" at what seem like appropriate times, once in a while, but still doesn't fully recognize the magical power she's exerting with those phrases.
She laughs at ducks, other children, and pictures of herself. She likes to be held upside-down. She enjoys banging on things.
She likes to pull people's hair and squeeze their noses. She likes pulling people's glasses off—especially her own sunglasses. She does not like hats.
She loves the swimming pool, the sandbox, and the vacuum cleaner. She is terrified of the hand blender. She is no longer especially interested in the cats, and this morning I watched her and Clara, the uglier and stupider of our two ugly and stupid cats, crawl right past one another with indifference—her paternal gene pool at work.
Her only interest in literature is gustatory, but her tastes in cuisine have been evolving. She likes leverpostej (think liverwurst paté), mackerel in tomato sauce, ground beef, and chicken. She enjoys strong blue cheese and is unafraid of garlic. She eats apples just as you or I would, if you or I took a full day to eat half an apple and didn't mind dropping it and picking it up again from time to time.
She loves bananas—as a food and a shampoo. She loves the homemade mush her mother blends from potatoes, carrots, leeks, and any other vegetables softening from neglect in the fridge. She loves beer.
She likes opening and closing doors. She gets the idea of drawers, but (happily) lacks the strength to open most of ours. She has an unerring eye for the fragile, and has become a kind of 18-pound wrecking ball. She likes to gather lint and chew it.
She may or may not recognize her own name. It's hard to tell. When you call her name—especially in its full "Molli Malou" form—she certainly reacts, but there's no way of knowing if it's her name or the tone of voice she's responding to. (I know we could devise controls and perform an actual study, but children of her age don't give you the luxury of time required to mount such studies.)
She sleeps consistently from 8pm until 5am and naps two or three times during the day. She doesn't wake up often in the middle of the night, but when she does she's easily reassured back to sleep. She pulls her little blankie up over her eyes when she's about to nod off. She doesn't care about her blankie when she's awake.
She likes the lines and wrinkles of older people's faces and reaches out to run her fingers along the grooves.
She's become attached to her sut (pacifier) and the little chain of wooden beads it's attached to. She doesn't like to let go of it—ever. Until she goes to bed. Then she just wants her blankie and a sut with no chain.
Her hair is getting longer and fuller every day, and she seems to be growing into her ears. She likes to push buttons. She likes to chew sand. There's a little green in her eyes. She wrinkles her nose to express uncertainty. She likes to look out the window and wave at the people in the street below. If there aren't any people, she'll wave at inanimate objects. She likes to wave.
She whistles. That's weird. Maybe she'll make a fortune as the world's first viruoso infant whistler.
She blows raspberries to entertain herself and to announce that she's done with a meal. She hates getting dressed. She squirms uncontrollably when she's being changed. She likes gnawing her toes.
She understands the words no and nej and gets a mischievous pleasure in disobeying them. She will crawl over to someone and slap their legs to get their attention. She likes chewing on shoes. She likes string.
She has no concept of height and will crawl right off a bed, couch, or table if you don't stop her. We always stop her. But she has a well-developed sense of climbing, and will always try to hoist herself upwards despite the fact that she knows damn well she'll never be able to let herself down gently. She falls down a lot. We can't always catch her. Is there no word in the English language for the space of time between the sickening thud of an infant's head striking the floor and the inevitable subsequent wail of pain and outrage?
She likes cat food.
When she's bathed and clean and in her bedtime onesies and curled into my chest rubbing her little eyes in exhaustion while I tote her off to her crib, she's the most precious thing I've ever held.
When she's covered in three layers of filth, banana mush, and lint, with leftovers from two meals ground into her clothing, and her diaper reeks from one end of the apartment to the other, and she's wailing maniacally because her teeth hurt, or because she just bumped her head, or she's just tired, or she's just finished tearing one of my favorite books to shreds and is just plain bored, she's still the most precious thing I've ever beheld—but I'm willing to entertain offers.
She probably won't walk tomorrow and she may not even take those first little steps this week. But everyone keeps telling me to take the time to appreciate her as she is, and that's what I decided to do today—
And that's what I've done.
* * *
On Tuesday I took the written component of the standardized test in Danish for foreigners. I prepped for it intermittently over the weekend and intensively on Monday. And after fourteen months of studying this language, and 38 months of living in this country, I think I can say with confidence that I definitely might have passed.
Now there are three weeks of school left before the big oral exam. We have to deliver a prepared presentation on a topic of our choosing, and we have to choose that topic and inform them what it's going to be three weeks ahead of time. My topic is going to be "Aserne kommer tilbage," which sort of translates as "The Return of the Gods." (It literally means "The Gods Come Back," but they translated "Return of the King" as "Kongen kommer tilbage," so I'm assuming I'm all right.)
I'm going to talk about the increasing popularity of the old nordic gods in Denmark, whose government recently granted Asatru ("Faith in the old nordic gods") recognition as an official religion. Meaning you can't deny someone employment or education or social benefits just because they believe in Thor. I think that's interesting. I wonder if there are people worshipping Zeus and Apollo down in Italy. I'm almost certain there are.
An Uplifting History
Breasts are an important mammalian characteristic. They allow mothers to nurture their young through protracted infancies, and no infancy is longer than that of the human species—especially that of the American male, which often lasts until death. (See above.)
Breasts are more than just feedbags for the young, however. On humans at least, they also have valuable recreational value. Nothing else has the combined nutrition, entertainment, and sheer jiggle value of the human breast (although Jello comes close).
Naturally, men couldn't leave anything with the power, appeal, and nutritive value of breasts in the hands of women, literally or metaphorically. From the very dawn of human history, therefore, breasts have been in men's hands.
In 2500 BC, the Minoan women of Crete are believed to have worn a special garment that lifted their breasts entirely out of their clothing. (Like another popular story of ancient Minos, this is believed to be half bull.) By the rise of the Hellenic (Greek) and Roman (Roman) civilizations, however, women were wearing tightly bound breast bands to reduce their busts. This style persisted until 476 AD, rightly referred to by historians as the Fall of Rome.
As history progressed, the popularity of breasts rose and fell, heaved and plunged, lifted and separated. Each new culture found a new way of exalting or obscuring the breast, according to their inclinations. By the nineteenth century in Europe, breasts were being pressed together and thrust upward by means of whalebone-fortified corsets.
The strain was unbearable. Something had to give.
At last, on May 30, 1889, the world's first bra was invented. (I've lost track of where I found that date, but that's not important. What matters is that I keep talking about breasts until the search engines pay more attention to me.)
Corset maker Herminie Cadolle invented the "Bien-être" in 1889. This "health aid" was the first garment to support breasts from the shoulder down instead of squeezing them up from below.
Marie Tucek patented the first "breast supporter" in 1893. Her innovations included separate pockets for the breasts and over-the-shoulder straps fastened by hook-and-eye closures.
New York socialite Mary Jacob Phelps invented a modern bra in 1913 (with two handkerchiefs, some ribbon, and a bit of cord) to accommodate a sheer evening gown. In 1914, Ms Phelps sold her invention, which she called the brassiere, to the Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1500.
The US War Industries Board encouraged the assimilation of the bra in 1917 by encouraging women to stop buying corsets, thereby freeing up for military use the nearly sixty million pounds of metal used in them (collectively, one presumes, although to hear accounts from the period one has to wonder).
During the 1920s, a Russian immigrant by the name of Ida Rosenthal founded Maidenform with her husband William. The Rosenthals classified breasts into cup sizes and developed bras for women of every age.
I've now used the word "breast" enough to titillate the search engines, so we can move on.
Today is the birthday of Wynonna Judd (1964), Benny Goodman (1909), Mel Blanc (1908), and Peter the Great (1672). It's Anguilla Day in Anguilla and Memorial Day in the United States.
© 2005, The Moron's Almanac