Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First thoughts on fatherhood - bilingualism

Last night was the first time that either my wife or I had ever actually seen part of our son.  He pushed his little hands up through her stomach so that his little palm could be seen ever so faintly.  His tiny fingers were there too, though even less visible.  We both took turns placing our fingertips in the center of his palm and pushing as lightly as we could to let him know we were there.  It was an unbelievably magical moment, and one of our first real interactions with our son.  I'm so incredibly excited for him to come out so we can start giving him serious love!

All the baby websites say that while in the womb, your baby is immediately a social being, longing for interaction with you.  About a month ago, before we were going to sleep, i was rubbing her tummy with my hand and noticed that he was following me around, pushing back at my hand whenever i would tap on her belly.

I was immediately in love with him.

I try as much as i can to chat with him - whatever is on my mind at the time.  i know he can't understand anything yet, but it makes me feel better that he's getting used to the sound of my voice.

But my wife is shy.  She knows that Russian will be the minority language not only in the house, but outside as well, and she doesn't like to talk to him in Russian in front of me.  Nevermind the fact that she will blabber for hours with her parents and sister without thinking twice about it.  I wish for her that she gains the confidence to speak only Russian with him, like we're planning, even if it means alienating me to a degree.

Our nephew - her sister's son - is six now.  He was born in America soon after they came to the states.  For the first four years, he didn't speak a word of English, and it was difficult for me to communicate with him, despite the fact that I've picked up a significant amount of Russian.  But now that he's six, he will almost exclusively speak to me in English, and tends to shy away from the rest of the family, because they will only speak in Russian.  They're also having a hard time getting him to speak Russian at home.  They say that within a year, he won't speak a word of Russian.  I've thought about speaking Russian to him, but I speak in broken - probably more accurately described as crippled - Russian, and I would worry about our ability to be together suffering.

This is the fear that my wife has about our son. I've been trying to study so that the majority language can be Russian at home, but i know that it's going to be more difficult that I can imagine to speak solely in a foreign language at home in a country dominated by my own majority tongue.  Maybe that's the solution?  If i was worried about my relationship with my nephew, I would certainly be worried about my relationship with my son.

Literature - War and Peace

One of the big stipulations my wife and I both want for our son is to be a voracious reader.  My wife, as a self-proclaimed literature geek, has read just about everything published before 1900 world wide.  Everything except the new testament.  When we first started dating, I felt this huge imbalance, because my experience with literature has been limited to Dragonlance novels, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and when i really wanted to be immersed in thought-provoking work, i'd pull out a Vonnegut, or Bradbury book.  That's not to say that the Dragons of a Summer Flame isn't a badass book, though.

I'll have to admit - when i was in my teenage years, i had a bit of a crush on Margaret Weis, and a man crush on Tracy Hickman.  However, I didn't know it was a man crush until maybe three years ago when i found out Tracy Hickman was a dude.  Their Death Gate Cycle was probably the most badass thing i'd ever read.


Talk about Badass.  This guy is pretty much the epitome of everything awesome.  And really, this is what started my thinking that actual literature wasn't as bad as i had always thought.  Except for Dickens.  He's terrible.  So, i know you're supposed to read Count of Monte Cristo and Three Musketeers when you're in your early teens, but i ended up reading it when i was closing in on 20.  But as maturity would have it, there wasn't much difference for me, and i thought they were both awesome.

So i started to read.  I changed my major to French Literature, and got into Hugo and Proust and Flaubert.  But that's not very interesting.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because i finally picked up the Book to End all Books.  The Everest of books.  The book most used in murders and robberies as a bludgeon.  War and Peace.

I've tried it twice before.  I thought Anna Karenina was brilliant, and figured War and Peace would be just as insightful and moving.  But I've never gotten past that first party inside Anna Pavlovna's house.  This is where i am right now, and I'm quickly losing interest.

However, as i said before, we both want literature to be an incredibly important part of our son's life, so i'm resolute in the fact that i'm going to be pressing on.  i feel like i'm carrying a huge log.

ha.  this guy was miniaturized and is playing with Lincoln Logs.  and moving on...

And so far - I think I've understood more about what the story is going for.  Whereas Anna Karenina was more about the intense detail of one woman's life, War and Peace should be read as a intense detail of every single person's life throughout Russia during the Napoleonic Period.  How I'm expected to remember all these details is a mystery.  I can barely remember my own birthday, let alone the extensive facets and motivations of all of these people.  I just tried to count, and somewhere around "N" I lost count at like 80.

I'll let you know how things turn out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Small and Limited Background - continuation of the Beginning

All great books usually start with some sort of character background - something that can give the reader a foundation to jump off of when the actual storyline comes into play.  And by great books, I don't mean Charles Dickens books.  Unfortunately for literature buffs, I've never liked his body of work.  Also, he was ugly.

Anyway, I live in Philadelphia with my wife, who, as said previously, is due in January.  We've got a modest house, and we're both in our mid 20s.  It's not a terribly outstanding and original background until you throw into the mix that she is originally from Minsk, Belarus, and is Jewish.  An interesting side-note, her Belorussian Passport says that her nationality is not actually Belorussian, she is instead of Jewish nationality, a practice they are now stopping, apparently.

We met in college, French class to be more specific.

You know how in the first couple days of class, you sort of do a scan of your fellow students to figure out which ones are the hottest, and which ones you think you'd like to meet?  I picked her out as definitely the most attractive.  But i never thought i'd have the guts to get up and go talk to her.  Luckily, we both smoked back then.  You can say a lot of stuff about smoking cigarettes, but one thing you can't say is that it never promoted friendly bullshitting.  You can't really help but blabber with someone while puffing away.  So I actually got enough nerve to chat with her.

The majority of the rest is uninteresting.  however, i do have to add that at the time, she was only in the country for maybe two years.  I think this was the most interesting time in our relationship, simply because she only had a general command of the English language.  Flirting with a girl who only understands 50% of what you say can be...well...really fun.  And as luck would have it, she was into me enough to look past a lot of the bad jokes I made.  or, she just didn't understand them.  Or, as a third possibility, she did understand them but only pretended not to, playing to the possibility that i had a thing for being misunderstood.  I doubt it was the last one.

Anyway, this is the reason for the title of the Blog - Smells like Borscht.  A ridiculous inside joke alluding to the mixing of cultures, and centered around silly foods and traditions brought to the table by both a Lutheran American Former Punk, and a Jewish Belorussian literature and history geek.

As an addendum, please excuse these first posts.  I understand they have a lack of coherent or consistent voice and style, but i figure it'll take me a while to really work out how I want to write this thing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Beginning

I guess you could consider this the beginning.  I've been sitting looking at a blank screen for about 45 minutes trying to figure out what this will turn out to be.  I think at the beginning of anything like this, a journal, or diary, you eventually begin to think about two or three years into the future, and what the full body of work, if you could call it that, will end up being. 

For a while, I wanted this to be a sort of grail diary, jotting down ideas and sort of serializing things i've found out.  it's not a very interesting read, is it?

Then, i thought about having one of those, "things i want to do with my unborn child" blogs.  my wife's due in about three weeks, so that doesn't exactly have that "lasting" possibility.

I guess at the end i sort of realized that it's probably better just to let it become whatever it will become simply through time, and don't over-think it.

So here's to not overthinking things...