Posted Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 7:40am by Darren Baker
Czech the Children- Chapter 12 - The body language says it all
My mother flew out to celebrate Terka’s first birthday and the little girl didn’t quite know what to make of this strange lady in her midst. That first morning she stood in her pajamas staring at her for about five minutes before her morning routine snapped into gear and she went about going here and there with this and that. The day being sunny and warm, we spent it up in the mountains with Terka behind me in a babypack. She loved it and kept slapping me on the back of my neck so much that it was nice and tender for the sunburn that came later. Lunch at a restaurant was a trying affair, because these were still the days when your typical dining establishment had no baby seats or highchairs, but plenty of slot machines making all kinds of racket.
Coffee at the in-laws went much smoother, although I could tell there was a bit of unease between my mother and Vet’s parents. That’s probably because I didn’t understand everything they were talking about and so had a clearer perception of their body language.
It all had to do with this country still coming to terms with its past. This area was the industrial heartland, and under socialism those who did the backbreaking work like coal miners and steelworkers earned higher salaries than doctors and professors. With that trend now reversed, there was a pining for the golden age of communism in these parts and émigrés got their share of the blame for its downfall.
However true that might have been, my mother certainly wasn’t in that class. Our home in the US was rickety and small, the furniture drab, and we didn’t go to national parks for vacations because we couldn’t afford them. The same as seeing cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco, or the beaches of Miami. I never saw any of them as a kid, nor did my classmates. We were as working class as our socialist brethren.
The day arrived to celebrate Terka’s first birthday and she showed just what a big girl she was by taking her first spoonful of lunch all by herself. We decided to hold her party after her nap, which usually ended before two o’clock. Well, here it is two-ten, two-twenty, two-thirty and she won’t wake up. So we do it ourselves and the little girl in the sailor outfit is looking understandably shell shocked as she walks into a room full of people with big smiles and full of cheer. But with mom guiding her through the motions and dad wielding the video camera, she soon got into the swing of things and made the party her own.
Her birthday cake was double chocolate with banana slices on top, where we innocently assumed she would pluck individual slices off by herself and eat them. Of course, nothing ever works out the way you plan it with toddlers, and she preferred to run her tiny fingers through the soft, creamy chocolate icing instead, then smear her new dress and dad’s beige pants with it. The toys she got included a plastic motorbike, color-coded house with four doors and keys, a toy trumpet, doll, big clock and a small blue telephone. It was no contest. She grabbed the phone and was on it for much of the party.
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