The Butt-Scoot, the Shamanic Etch-A-Sketch, and the Rights of PiÃ±atas
I don't talk about Noah enough in here, I think. Because it's not, like, you know, he's doing less interesting things than Aviva. But they don't exist so much in the realm of words.
Noah has mastered the butt-scoot across the floor of the house, his alternative to crawling which uses two arms and one leg for propulsion and the other leg for stability; he also stands up and pushes chairs and tables about. He despises snowsuits, hats, and other such vile mobility-restricting accoutrements. He is, generally speaking, of a gentle, boisterous, sunny disposition -- perhaps less dramatic and insistent than his sister was at his age, more willing to go along, grinning, watching to see what's up. At least some moments.
But he's got a strong will of his own; he knows just which adult he wants (sometimes me, sometimes Esther, sometimes my Dad, etc) and will fling himself bodily out of the wrong set of arms toward the right one, or pursue the person who should be carrying him with crawl, cruise, and scoot across three rooms. If he is denied -- if the object of his pursuit is carrying shopping bags and must brush past to set them on the table -- he lays his face on the ground, throws his hands out to his sides and sobs as if every songbird in Eden had just died. Picked up, he brightens at once, and with a proud, glowing, gleeful smile, says, "Mama!"
Or sometimes "Dada!" (which also means here/thank you, when he hands you something and then takes it away before you can close your hand around it) or "Vava!"
His relationship with sister "Vava" is volatile, fractious, and devoted. Typical interaction: Aviva bustles in from the outside, where she has been swinging. Noah brightens and trucks towards her. "Noah!" Aviva says lovingly. She sits down beside him. She gives him a kiss. She gives him a hug, toppling him over. She puts her ice-cold hands down his shirt to warm them up against his back and stomach. Noah screams. Parental intervention; Aviva is removed to her room, or back outside, or the breakfast table. Noah looks plaintively after her, and says "Vava?", like, "you're leaving already?"
The obstacle course. The piÃ±ata. The balloon animals. The balloon animal construction seminar. The cake (which Aviva decorated and thus said "Elisa and Aviva", though Elisa was in Switzerland and it was not her birthday). The drawing of giant pictures for the walls, to hang next to the ones many of the same kids had drawn at Aviva's third birthday. The pizza. The other cake. The presents. The guests having to be carried out sobbing "No! I want to stay!" I always consider that the sign of a good party, in any age group.
Among Aviva's many amazing presents, two in particular have occupied a great deal of her attention in the past few days.
First, Jamey and I built a rope swing and a traditional swing from a huge partly-horizontal tree in our yard, and these were revealed Friday. Since then Aviva has devoted most of each day to finding new angles, trajectories, and launching surfaces with which to fling herself about. The favorite at the party was jumping off a wooden sled placed in one corner, tarzanning with the rope swing across the slope, and falling into the trampoline-cushion at the other end.
Second, Aviva got an Etch-A-Sketch which, after some experimentation, was discovered to induce shamanic trance states. "You see, I work really hard, like this " -- drawing boxes -- " and then when it's ready, I do this " -- shaking away the design -- " and that sends it to dr liebi Gott (the dear God), about the presents that I want when I get five" (i.e. turn five years old, a year from now). "And then, see -- " drawing again --" when He cuts it off, like this " -- a horizontal line emerges, slicing through the vertical lines Aviva had drawn -- " and that says how many presents I'm gonna get when I'm five."
The Etch-A-Sketch Divination Kit, available now at Target.
The night before the party, I was filling the piÃ±ata. "What's that?" Esther said.
"It's a piÃ±ata. You know, you fill it with candy and toys."
"How does the candy get out?"
"Well, the kids beat it with a stick, until it explodes. What?"
"This little cow. The kids beat the little cow to death, and then they get candy."
"Well... yeah. No, it's a bull. See, no, it's really fun -- it's like, boom! -- and then they all run in and grab as much candy as they can -- what?"
"The children beat the animal to death, and then they fight each other for candy."
A calm and reasoned analysis of violence and representation in the rhetorical field of children, expression and repression, conditioning, the American homicide rate and the Swiss suicide rate ensued. Finally, me:
"Okay, okay, okay. So there's this little village of candies and toys. And one day they see this cow, and they fall in love, en masse, with the cow. So after much thought, they build a Trojan Bull to live inside. But when they find the cow, they realize, they have forgotten to build a door! So they call me on their cell phones -- 'Ben, do you know of any children who could break open this poorly designed house and let us out....?"
"Much better," said my beloved.
Art by Aviva:
Aviva and Noah (I believe Aviva is the frolicsome yet menacing pink figure with long blue arms at the extreme left, and Noah the enigmatic orange figure with the very tall hat at the right)