Monday, 9 February 2009

On being re-American: Bagels, They Might Be Giants and Wolveling

I know the accent won't last, but let me just bask for another couple days in my untainted mid-Atlantic, slightly New Jersey way of speaking which may be too fast, too slurred, and a bit too heavy on the -ing endings of words.

It was a good trip for many reasons, not only the food and the excessive amount of snow that we only expected to get by going to the Catskills or Adirondacks. We did face some of the coldest weather all year, hauling ourselves into New York City the first day since we didn't have a car in the suburbs (and why stay in the suburbs when you can just hop onto a New York bound NJ Transit train across the street from your parents' house?).

Suzanne had her first real snow. I found my 1975 radio flyer sled in the rafters of the garage, a bit dirty and a bit rusty. After being pulled around the back yard for a couple minutes, Suzanne had enough so we nixed the idea of going to the actualy sledding hill.

We had good New Jersey food like diner hamburgers, my favorite NJ Italian food (pasta, brocolli rabe and italian sausage) and even some good Szechuan, NY pizza and tons of bagels.

Suzanne's initial reaction to being surrounded by English was funny, like our first morning as we ate our bagels at the bagel place, she looked at the TV spouted out news of snow storms and impending doom and said to her father, "C'est en anglais Papa." She also discovered that some of her French favorites (which we discovered she must watch too much of at the nanny's) like Sponge Bob, Dora and Elmo also exist in English (make me cringe). But that there are even better shows like Max and Ruby, Blue's Clues and John's Big Music Show. Oh, gimme Sprout or Noggin...(I also discovered my severe dislike of all things Elmo and Dora but that's another story).

And Suzanne did a lot of speaking, or should I say conversing. I knew a 3 week English stint would do her good, but I wasn't sure in what way. Of course, seeing her family was wonderful. But beyond that, she has taken a huge bilingual leap to actual conversation. Being an OPOL family, most of what she gets at home in English is one sided conversation from me with French responses from my husband. But for 3 weeks, she got to hear both sides of the conversation (often simultaneously) and the difference is phenomenal. Last night alone, I noted that she was asking questions, punctuating the ends of sentences with interrogatives, and trying to engage me in conversation rather that waiting for my next question. She also invented a new word - wolveling. "I don't like wolves. I don't like wolvelings," she kept repeating. Then it finally clicked - she meant howling. I can also hear my mom coming through when she says things like, "I think that's enough." I can picture my mother telling her that when they had stuck all the stickers on the page or after reading 25 books at the library.

In terms of grammatical structure, Suzanne has also shown that she understands how it works. Yesterday, as I prodded her to get out of her play house so we could go see her grandparents, she replied, "but I'm ranging." Ranger is the French word for cleaning up. And she's also pointed out that I say actually a little too much with her own excessive use of the word like, "Actually, it's a moon squirter". As opposed to a moonsquirter (obviously!).

We watched the inauguration at a huge outdoor screen in Harlem where they distributed little American flags to all. Suzanne reported back to my parents that night, "Obama was speaking to the people." Yes, he was and the people were going nuts despite the sub-freezing temps. We followed this with a celebratory meal consisting of soul food from Amy Ruth's. I highly recommend their honey dipped fried chicken with collard greens.

We were also partially human (ie a non-parent) means doing adult stuff (besides eating). We got away to Philadelphia for an entire weekend where all we did was walk in the freezing cold, eat and watch hours on end of good TV like "What Not to Wear" and "Top Chef" on cable. We got to see They Might be Giants twice in a single day - there was a kids' concert we went to with my mother and Suzanne and then the adults concert that same night just the two of us. (Congrats to TMBG for their grammy for Here Come the 123's). We also saw Ladysmith Black Mombazo in NY with my parents which was beautiful and awe inspiring. And we did make it to a single museum - the Museum of Natural History (what else do you go to with a toddler?) with a good friend. NY with a child in tow isn't easy...

I did notice my franco half coming out when waiters took the plates before everyone finished or when in line, the next person was already breathing down my neck before I'd even had a chance to put my change away. I admit liking some aspects of my French life (not to mention the fact that we were all sick and didn't dare go to the doctor because of the fear of paying out of pocket!).

And since we've been back? I'll get back to that one...


Elisabeth said...

Glad to have you back!

Seems like the trip was really good. Heck, you got to have all of the good old American foods you love, and that's great! Also, it's good to read about Susan's English. Man, her language acquisition is amazing!

I didn't know that you were a TMBG fan! I was never a huge fan, but got to see them in concert in San Diego, back in 2005, actually with an online friend.

English Rider said...

I do remember my daughter at about that age creating the verb "smell-ez" when holding out a rose and upon being asked the French word for rabbit she changed her accent and said "Le RRRRabeet"
Kids are creative.

Beth said...

I'm so glad you're back safe and sound- "sound" being the key word there. Congrats on your daughter's verbal leaps!

Sounds like a wonderful trip. What great memories for you!

Leah said...

Sounds like it was a great time all in all. Just one question: what is a moonsquirter? Or rather, a moon squirter?

Papadesdeux said...

I am so jealous of Suzanne's language skills.

wcs said...

Welcome back!

And why is it that American waiters can't wait to take your plate away, not just even before the others have finished, but before you yourself have finished?

On more than one occasion I've had to say "NO" with my mouth full to answer that pesky, and totally inappropriate question, "Are you still working on that?"

(if it still needed work, it should not have come out of the kitchen)


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