At the grocery store today, I picked up a bag of carrots. I was about to turn away when I heard a voice say, “很美, hor?” (Aren’t they beautiful?)
I looked up. It was one of the aunties who worked at the grocery store. Short and silver-haired, she looked back at me with a gentle smile.
Frankly I hadn’t noticed. Monday is Grocery Run Day. After dropping Aramis off at school, I have 3 hours to get the goods, zip home, cram as much work in as I can, before I have to make lunch for the hungry hordes. So I pick up carrots like I pick up scattered laundry – as quickly as I can.
I looked back down at the carrots. They looked like every other carrot I had ever seen. Long, orange, firm. What else was there to appreciate?
I looked back at her and forced a smile. Yes, they are, I said.
She told me that they had just come in that morning, so fresh-looking, so firm, and they were on sale too. She had just been bagging them, and was clearly full of admiration for the harvest before her.
I looked back at the carrots and somehow they looked brighter than a few seconds ago. I thanked her, and as I continued down the vegetable aisle, I walked a little more slowly, and let my gaze linger over the greens.
And then there was this little gem
Aramis: How do you say ‘with’ in Chinese?
Me: Nice try! But in Chinese, you have to say “I like with Mummy to walk”
Aramis: Why is Chinese so ungrammatical?!
I’ve been trying to speak Mandarin to the Pilgrim boys to help them get more practice. A feeble attempt in the spirit of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s lofty vision, and not particularly successful if this episode is anything to go by:
Aramis: Yes, I am 吃ing my 面包。
Last weekend, we ran out of milk and flour, and Porthos, who just turned 9, volunteered to go to the store by himself to buy it.
Pilgrim Mom: Do you want Kor Kor to go with you?
Porthos: No, I can go by myself.
PM: Are you sure?
And so, off he went, carrying a grocery bag and $10. It’s a trip we’ve made dozens of times, and he knows the way, and the store layout, and the whole routine at the check-out. Yet I have to admit I had my heart in my mouth the whole time, and had to resist the temptation to trail along.
He returned soon enough, and really didn’t see what the fuss was about. Me, I had to swallow hard and push away the thought that my little guy was growing up faster than I thought.
A few weeks ago, we discovered “The Sing-Off”. Or, more accurately, I just discovered “The Sing-Off”, and the rest of the Pilgrim family has been dragged along, hapless and helpless.
Which led to this little conversation last night:
Athos: I like acapella
Porthos: I like alapecca too.
Move aside, iPad. This stuff is the Real Deal. As a mother of three, I can vouch that these five are hands-down among the best of the best. Maybe you can fill a stocking or two with these?
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
- The Velveteen Rabbit