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Thursday, October 28, 2010

To Teach Others Gently

My father, now 74 and again living in Japan since his return in 1994, gave Zenas his middle name: Satoshi.

In order to fully explain the significance of the name, a much simplified and likely inadequate language lesson is necessary. One of the difficulties of the Japanese language is the complexity of learning kanji. One character may have several meanings. Each character has several formal pronunciations, depending on context and use. Every stroke has a correct order and placement that must be followed. The pronunciation and or meaning can shift depending on its placement within a compound word. And Japanese names, though phonetically the same, may be constructed by completely different kanji; and in these cases, the pronunciation and exact meaning of the kanji does not always follow the grammatical rules, but rather fall under poetic license.

The kanji for our Satoshi is a single character that translates directly as "instruction." It is a compound derivative of two discrete but simple kanji which fall into the category of pictograms, which were the earliest written words drawn as illustrations to impart the meaning of the words themselves. The several lines above a square on the left side 言 illustrates sounds exiting a mouth, to mean "words" or "to say." The right side image 川 suggests three flowing lines in a steam to mean "river." Together, they suggest the flow of words. My father's unusual choice in the usage of this kanji for the name Satoshi is his poetic touch. He wanted Zenas to have a middle name that meant "to teach others gently."

I asked my father send us an image of the kanji, so I could learn the "spelling" of the name as such is the case in Japanese. Instead of a piece of calligraphy as I'd expected, he sent us a letter handwritten on floral stationary. Though his diction was somewhat rusty, his penmanship remained elegant. He wrote the following (pretty much) regarding the name:

Your baby is named after my youngest brother who died at the age of 28, unmarried and working as an engineer. Quiet, he was the smartest among our five brothers.

After the news of his death, I used to keep a small picture of him in my wallet. I couldn't stop my tears while driving because the car was where I could cry. I hated to show tears in my eyes to anyone.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Punk Baby

I swear it's natural and unavoidable, though I do admit it's eye-catching.
What I'm talking about, of course, is the hair.
When Zenas was born, our immediate reaction: "Oh, he has his Poppa's hairline!"
But so quickly he rebelled (and I wonder if it's indication of what the future will hold?)
As if to assert that he's his own man, his babyfine hairs down the middle of his head started to stand up.
"How cute, a baby mohawk," said the admirers.
Proud (someone else thinks he's cute!), but a little afraid of suffering vanity by proxy, I carefully brush his hair down, back and in all directions after every bath.
But Zenas still wakes up everyday with that hairdo on his own.
And now that it's getting longer, there's a wild wave to it on some days... the other day, Christian said he looked like Zippy!

Then last night in the bath, I pushed his wet hair down to see what he would look like with a comb-over. Hilarious.
Like his complexion, I can't claim that hair comes from me. In the light it's the color of sweet caramel, the kind that I remember as a Japanese paper-box package of tightly wrapped squares.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Baby Vortex

After the epic visit with Hanne, I set out to catch up on some sleep and (almost) alone time -- but I swung so far in the other direction that I fell and got caught in The Baby Vortex.

The Baby Vortex is not so much about the baby, as the name might imply, but more about myself. An isolating force that quickly sucked me in to suddenly feel that I lacked an existence outside of the baby world. It started with sleeping almost an entire day, a marvelous idea that should have yielded positive results, but instead it invited a potential migraine that I fought off all day. I chalked it up to exhaustion and slept in again, always intending to "catch up" when I did finally start my next day. But there's the elusive balance of energy-time-focus-completion I am finally beginning to appreciate, and surrender to, after losing many a battle. It's ridiculous but true that hours fly by, and yet nothing gets done. For an impatient multi-tasker like me, this is a bitter pill to swallow. My idea of relaxation is to make a list of things to do, and my sense of control is to execute the tasks from these lists. It's an ongoing process that brings if not happiness, a deep sense of calm. So I can't really explain how a whole day goes by, or a whole week, and I still didn't make that call to the doctor's office. Or the piles of intended organizational joy, instead of being merrily put away, grow like ugly ulcers in the house. The reality is if the house, occasional laundry, baby and I are clean, presentable and there's dinner ready before 8pm, that's all I've managed.

I should mention that the vortex is fiercely grounded at home. I did not leave the house for 72 hours. I did not step outside the house for three whole days. Now that would have sounded dreamy back in my 50+hour workweeks, but instead of the lounging, reading and carefree state of playing hooky I'd imagined, I am a slave to a repetitive tyrant. Zenas is a good baby. But even a good baby wakes up every 3 hours to feed, has no control over what should be private acts over a toilet, and prefers to be held, especially when tired, at the end of every waking cycle. Then repeat. It's not very hard work, nor is it unpleasant work. But it must be delivered without fail, and by me, mostly alone. The responsibility is an insidiously growing weight, at first perceived as the privilege of parenthood, but shifting around week six to an inescapable contract.

What's crazy is that there is constant change in this lack of activity. Zenas is growing fast (okay well big) before our very eyes, and we're gaining the confidence and expertise we didn't know we lacked. But all the change is subtle, while also constant, so the reality doesn't quite hit you at first but suddenly like an overplayed song.

So many questions suddenly are about my identity, my desires, my meaning, my friends, my personality, my needs, my wardrobe, my days left, my work, my hobbies, my intentions, my family (original), my family (new), my money, my future, my abilities, my needs, my time, all my my my that is not my baby. The vortex is a spinny thing.

A telling sign: I did not take a single photo of Zenas in three days. I can't let this happen, so I began to claw my way back to the world of the living. I finally answered a few emails, made some calls, and tended to my social calendar. Made a vow to take a walk once a day, and also to try to meet some other moms who are around. The days are flying by, and I refuse to be left behind.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Social Babyfly

Zeke's 10 days with Farmor:
- first museum visit to SF Cameraworks (Torsten's video installation)
- visit to SF Moma
- a visit from Auntie Heather
- shopping at the Alameda Antique Faire
- first visit to Pixar
- attended baby group (new parents at Day One)
- a couple of trips to Japantown
- dinner with Auntie Aly
- visit from Uncle Matt to make new art cards
- ferry ride to Sausalito
- meeting a French tv crew at Caroline's studio during the Art Explosion show
- first overnight trip to Calistoga with the Mason/Charman family
- floating in a heated Olympic size pool
- a stroll in Yountville peeking in at Thomas Keller's restaurants
- a dinner party with Uncle Torsten (Chris's brother)

Zenas rolled with the entire program. Chris says he's a ladykiller (particularly with the over 70 set) wherever he goes. Z remains pretty easygoing: can handle meeting a lot of people, doesn't mind tagging along to crowded/noisy places, doesn't fuss as long as his needs are met, eats heartily, sleeps pretty much anywhere. A perfect angel according to his grandmother though we think she might be a bit biased.

He's fattening up nicely - we looked up growth charts, and he's in the 95th percentile for weight, but not height, meaning he's a bit portly. :) The "rubber bands" on his limbs are multiplying, and he's starting to sport clothes for 3month-olds. Hanne did ask me several times during her trip how exactly sumo wrestlers got so big, and looking back, maybe she was having a Freudian moment...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lost Item #1

Max and Gus Blanket, aqua/cream color
A treasured gift
Last seen: in car en route to Pixar for lunch on 10/5/10
We called Pixar, BabiesRUs, Berkeley Bowl and retraced our steps but nothing turned up!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Some Firsts of the Many to Come

The whirlwind continues...

Farmor (grandmother in Danish: specifically, far (father)-mor (mother) to signify father's mother) is halfway through her 10-day visit. She seems to love her first grandchild; if he's not asleep or at my breast then likely he's in her arms. Together with Chris we've taken Zenas on his first trips to Japantown, art galleries (SFMOMA and SFCamerawork: the latter featured a screening of Uncle Torsten's work) and flea market (Alameda Antique Fair).

Zenas gave his first social smile to me on the 28th, just at his 4 week mark.
Here he is flirting with Farmor: