Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicken's Eye

I don’t know the word for what I want. So, I point at the picture of the door, at the uppermost corner that opens, trying to describe it to the store owner. He pulls out hinges, then a door stopper and I shake my head no.

“It’s small,” I say in my second language. “It keeps the door closed, like for a cupboard door, not a big house door.”

I’ve already been to three hardware stores—squeezing the car into a parking spot, undoing the car seat latch, carrying my daughter into the store, chastising myself for forgetting her shoes as she walks barefoot on the dusty floors, watching the blank looks from the store owner, leaving empty-handed.

Then back into the car seat, latch, start the car, next store, blackened baby feet pattering behind me, same blank looks.

But finally:

“Yes—yes, that’s it!”

“It’s called a chicken’s eye,” he explains, and I suddenly realize I don’t even know the English word for this little cupboard latch thing that he is holding.

And I certainly didn’t expect for the Indonesian word to be so, well, unexpected.

I make a joke—“I should have just gone to the market then!” And he doesn’t laugh.

But I don’t care because it feels good to have found the thing with the weird name that will somehow keep my cupboard door closed.

Later in the car, baby girl all buckled in, the black bottoms of her feet wiggling, I laugh. Not at my stupid joke—but at this me who does things that just aren’t me. I don’t do house projects. I don’t fix things. I don’t understand how things work. And I usually don’t care.

But I got really tired of my cupboard door flying open all the time and some wonderful volunteers from the States came to help us with some house projects.

This life, this place, does this to me all the same. It puts me in places where I don’t belong and asks things of me that I just don’t do and pushes me to be someone that I’m not.

Like what girl who got straight A’s in Spanish class, but was too afraid to ever actually speak the language, and always messed things up in shop class, ends up in Indonesia, describing that cupboard thing in her second language—a thing she’s never before bought in the States—and somehow ends up with it in a black paper sack to take home?

And what about this parenting thing—what was God thinking when He gave people who had never had kids a person—a human being—to care for when the stakes are so high, and the diapers so messy?

Earlier I nearly ruined my batch of yogurt when I turned on the oven (where I was keeping my yogurt warm until it set) to bake some bread. I scolded myself for forgetting, then grabbed the hot jars without oven mitts, then dropped the scalding jars into the oven.

Once I’d gotten everything all sorted out and my hands cooled down, I couldn’t help but feel a bit proud. This—this me who makes yogurt—even ruined yogurt—and bakes bread and lots of other things is the girl who used to buy the frozen lasagna from Wal-Mart—and that was when I needed something fancy for guests.

When I live life here with shrews in my house and the steering wheel on the “wrong” side and conversations I don’t get and kids that don’t always follow formulas, I find myself finding myself. And sometimes I am not who I thought I was.

I drive home with my chicken’s eye in my purse, dodging motorbikes and singing to my daughter since the radio doesn’t work. I don’t remember the words to the song about the doggy in the window and I know I could look it up on the Internet later at home. But that’s not really me—all those details and stuff. I make up what I don’t know and my 1-year-old girl coos along with me. Apparently she doesn’t know the words either.

So, I figure out more a new way of saying things, and learn a fresh way of looking at life.

photo credit, Webgol

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