Here’s a gift to you from G today. It’s pronounced “sow-dah-day.” Portuguese is the only language that has a noun for this feeling.
In fifth grade, our P.E. teacher took us down to the football field one day and tried to talk us into playing soccer. The only rule we were told was “Don’t touch the ball with your hands.” For the next 40 minutes, we played some combination of kickball, flag football, and Lord of the Flies. And after Soccer Week was done, we filed that game away with the metric system and got on with our lives.
Well, things have changed in my life, to put it mildly. After eight years with a Brasilian, I have learned to holler at futebol the same way I holler at football. But watching soccer is EXHAUSTING. Here are a few reasons why:
1. I don’t know where to look. With football or basketball, my brain knows how to follow the ball. With soccer, that ball could go anywhere at any time–backwards, forwards, up or down. I can’t even blink or I’ll miss the Big Shot.
2. It never slows down. This isn’t the good old “first down, let’s show a Budweiser commercial while they move the chains” kind of football. These players run for 90 minutes straight. A midfielder can run 10 miles in the course of a game. Flat out, backwards, forwards, up and down.
3. The hotness never lets up. I mean, have you seen these fine men? No helmets hiding their beautiful faces, filled with intensity. They’re not wrapped up in pads and those shirts get sweaty with a quickness so there’s a surplus of curvaceous musculature on display. From the back, from the front, up and down.
4. Futbol is serious business in Brasil. Y’all know how it gets between Auburn and Alabama or Army and Navy? Yeah, that’s NOTHING compared to the way Brasilians live for futbol. G gets kind of crazy every four years. He made himself sick this weekend in that game against Chile. He wears his official canary-yellow jersey to work if there’s a game that day. He won’t wash it during the tournament. Seriously, the other day he had taken it off and left it lying on the sofa. Carlos picked it up and was using it to smack at stuff. G came in the den and yelled, “RESPECT THE STARS!!!”
4a. Stars, you ask? Each time a country wins the World Cup, the team adds a star to its official jersey. Brasil has won the World Cup five times (a feat only recently tied by Italy…who’s already been eliminated this year, so Brasil has a shot at pulling ahead again).
4a1.CORRECTION: I have been schooled by no less than 3 Brasilians on this mistake. To quote G: “Brasil is the ONLY country to win five. We are also the only country to have played in every World Cup. Italy has FOUR…four. We have FIVE. Five!” All of this said with his fingers used as illustration, as if he was teaching me that A is for apple and B is for buffoon.
4b. G is considering getting the CBF (the official governing body of soccer in Brasil) logo tattooed over his heart, but he wants to wait for the six-star design after they win this year. He has the children’s names on his arm…and would put Brasilian futebol over his heart. Priorities.
5. I can’t even learn the rules from listening to the commentary. He prefers to watch the World Cup on Univision or other Spanish-language channels because it’s…better. So I’m watching a game I don’t understand in a language I don’t speak well enough to follow. This is what a game sounds like to me after three years of high school Spanish and 1000 episodes of Dora the Explorer:
…..ball…..team…backpack?…ball…..no…Benecio del Toro…..can….yes…time…ball….head….shoe…ball…time…ball…. GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!
It’s wonderful to be part of something that brings the world together. Even if most of the world goes home in tears. Go Brasil!
P.S. He just came home from work with a surprise for Vivi. It’s a picture of Pele the Great. I shit you not. She dropped her Barbie and went to hang it in her room.
My first conversation upon returning home Monday afternoon:
“Hey, Vivi. How was your day?”
She looked up from the couch where she was engrossed in a Hardy Boys mystery. Her pink sneakers lay on the floor beside a pile of dirty socks.
“Um…it was pretty good…but I got a red.” That’s the system in her class–everyone starts the day on green then moves to orange or blue for good choices or yellow then red for bad choices.
I’ve given up on making a big deal about the color of the day, because most days she’s on green. Last Friday was an orange day. Today, red–tomorrow, who knows? We focus instead on the chain of events that led to the result and recognizing the moments when she has the chance to determine which way it will go.
“So how did that happen?” I asked her, while rubbing her back. G came in the room and listened in.
“Well………” she popped her finger out of her mouth–she still sucks on her finger when she’s tired or lost in a book. “I was on yellow then I went red.”
“I understand that, but usually red happens after several bad choices. Can you remember what happened before you went to red?”
“Um….I got too rambunctious doing the conga.”
G’s shoulders were shaking at this point. I tried to keep a straight face but I turned to him in all seriousness and said, “This is ALL on you. That’s your half of the genes, Senor. No one in my family has ever been chastised for excessively exuberant conga dancing.”
Now, if she ever gets sent home on red for unbridled square dancing…that will be my half of the genes.
There are some days when parenting makes me want to throw my hands in the air and shake my body like I just don’t care.
P.S.: I know that Carmen Miranda was more famous for her samba, the Brasilian dance. The conga originates from Cuba. But first graders don’t samba. It’s not on the CRCT until third grade.
My baby daddy, G, has lived in the U.S. for so long and his English is so perfect that I sometimes forget that Portuguese is his first language. This morning was NOT one of those moments.
We were standing on the deck, surveying our kingdom….otherwise known as talking about yard projects that need to be done this spring.
“I’m going to plant those two roses by the fence today.” He pointed in their direction with his coffee cup.
“Oh, good. I like climbers on the fence,” I answered.
He pointed to a large pot in the corner of the pool fence. “Looks like the chlamydia is coming back.”
“That’s ‘clematis,’ sweetie. It’s a perennial.”
He filed that word away in his language banks then said, “Well…so is chlamydia!”
This is why I love him.
I try to do at least one New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle per week. After Richard died, his mother left a half-complete collection of NYT puzzles at our house. I asked her if she wanted me to mail it to her and she said, “No. I did so many in the hospital these last few months that I don’t think I ever want to do one again.” So I picked up her book and finished it. Then I bought another one and another one. There are 200 in each collection–now that I have kids, one book can last me over three years! But anywho…one of the clues this week for a three-letter verb reminded me of a sweet story from when Vivi was little and G and I were still in the throes of parenting an infant.
I make fun of G’s Brasilian accent now and again, but the man has an exceptional command of the English language. Shoot, he even helps me with those crossword puzzles–usually for things like isotopes, names of stars, or atomic numbers. Still, every so often, he bumps into a word he’s just never needed to know until that moment.
Like the time we took Vivi to the pediatrician when she was about six months old. Vivi had a lot of ear infections, so we were talking to the doctor about whether they might impair her hearing and speech development. The doctor said, “Does she make normal baby sounds? Is she cooing?” I assured him that she was and the doctor told me it was nothing to worry about. He told us that we could get Vivi dressed again and left the room. G put his hand on my arm and leaned in close. “What is this word ‘coo?'”
It’s a delicate whisper of a word–coo. Not something he would have run across in a chemistry lab, or a research paper, or a citizenship exam, or a patent application. Not a word you hear at the grocery store, the gas station, the tax office, the cafeteria, the television. It’s such a precise word. You might know it if you have been close to birds or babies, but not otherwise.
I explained, “Oh, you know the sound doves make. No? It’s those little happy sounds she makes, like she’s trying to talk to us, like a cat purring.” He smiled and cupped her tiny head in his calloused hand. He leaned close to her and said, “Do you coo, gatinho do papai?” I watched him as he tucked that word into his mind, on the English side, across from “arrulho.” A sweet word that only came his way because he’s a Daddy.
Is there a special word you associate with a moment in your life? What’s a word you remember learning?
G cleaned our hummingbird feeder tonight and made fresh nectar for a tiny bird he has named “Buddy.” A few weeks ago, G was out on the deck in the still of the morning when a little hummingbird flitted in and out of petunias in the flower boxes. The two of them spent a peaceful few moments together. G delighted that the hummingbird showed no fear as it came closer and closer to him.
As bluebirds are special to me, hummingbirds are the bird that G shares with his Avo (the Portuguese word for grandfather). When Avo retired to his little house in Carmo de Minas, he made a project of feeding the hummingbirds. But one day, he forgot. That afternoon, he took his walk two blocks over to the town square to sit under the shade trees and rest. While he enjoyed the stillness, a little hummingbird flitted up to him. It hung there, flying circles in the air before Avo’s face. Avo laughed, hauled himself up off the bench and began his slow walk home to fill the feeder. The hummingbird buzzed beside him all the way.
G’s grandmother, Vovo, died a few weeks ago, right around when Buddy showed up on the deck. G and I are both rationalists, but when he told me about the hummingbird that wasn’t afraid of him, I said, “I think it was your grandfather, here to tell you that your grandmother isn’t suffering.” We, the rationalists, let that thought be, let it hold itself up against all logic, just like the hummingbird.
I cannot think of hummingbirds without remembering this tiny jewel of a poem by Raymond Carver:
Suppose I say summer,
write the word “hummingbird,”
put it in an envelope,
take it down the hill
to the box. When you open
my letter you will recall
those days and how much,
just how much, I love you.
When Raymond Carver wrote these lines to his beloved Tess Gallagher, he was dying slowly of an inoperable tumor. He knew there would be a day when she would need to be reminded of how much, just how much, he loved her. So he wrote the word “hummingbird.”
Peace to Avo and Vovo and all those who have flown before us.
I am hesitant to write ANOTHER post about panties–even though the one about walking out of your panties has been my most popular to date!–but here goes. Well, this is hard to talk about but I hear that it happens in a lot of mixed marriages–when NORMAL people marry Brasilians…
OK, no more stalling…
The cleaning lady keeps mixing up my panties with G’s underwear.
I frankly don’t know which of us should be more offended. We have to unstack the stacks and sort them again after she leaves. Maybe it’s a vision problem, you say? Could be. But I think there’s more to it.
About once a year, G’s mother sends him a package from Brasil and invariably, it contains a few pair of…sultry Latin undergarments for the modern man on the go. I guess over our years together, through attrition and acts of God, the ratio of sultry Latin undergarments to normal underwear has grown disproportionate. Then you have to throw in the fact that, along the same time line, I discovered maternity underwear and the forgiving nature of cotton. As his underwear got smaller, mine…didn’t.
Well. We could maybe make a graph that shows how the accumulation of sultry Latin undergarments versus the accumulation of voluminous panties has culminated in this laundry catastrophe. But I’m not sure how to set that up in Excel.
Truth is, I think it’s time. I plan to get back to the healthy weight that I was when I was running and eating cleaner. But until then, I think it’s time for me to go buy new panties and I’ve just got to get over the fact that they’re not going to be in the size they were before I had a baby at 42. But I deserve some big, girl panties. I don’t need to be bound, twisted, bunched, pinched, itched, and constricted on a daily basis. And maybe the cleaning lady will be able to tell the difference between mine and his. I wonder if they have Hello Kitty in my size?