This Little Girl

October 12, 2009
She wakes up crying. Always. Naps, morning, the five-hundred times a night she awakens in the night. She cries. Big, huge wails. If I don’t get to her quickly enough, she breaks into “ay yi yi yi yi yi yi” for emphasis. She didn’t do this in the guest house or at the orphanage, so I assume it’s a grief thing or an attachment thing or both. I am so, so, so, so dog tired.

But once she’s up, once the crying’s over, she bursts to life. She’s sort of half-way between a toddler waddle and a pre-school swagger. She runs, runs, runs everywhere, until she’s tired and then it’s arms up–the universal sign for “please carry me.”

Food delights her. She’ll try anything, and new flavors that she likes create this exquisite face on her, a “how did I get so lucky to eat something so utterly yummy?” face. Today it was strawberries. She’d had them a few days ago, but apparently forgot that she liked them because it was a big old joy party in her mouth. Grilled cheese, peanut butter, chocolate milk, whipped cream, ice cream, french fries, pasta, rice—all big parties.

She is stubbornn, as is her toddler prerogative. She wants her chocolate milk and she wants it now. She wants her bubbles and it doesn’t matter if it’s night time. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles, bubbles, bubbles……she just says it over and over again as if perhaps I didn’t understand the first time.

She is a fan of Elmo, who she calls “momo” or, sometimes, “lalalalala” She LOVES the bath tub, she likes puzzles, Goodnight Moon, Guess How Much I Love You, and playing coffee ceremony with a plastic tea set and a scarf. She likes to boogie down with her Ethiopian music, and just putting on the CD will soothe some grumpies away. She thinks Theo is hilarious, and seems to not think much about Riddle at all.

She loves the phone. She wants to talk to everyone I’m talking to, including the doctor’s office and the mechanic.

She thinks I understand her Amharic. I think the English words are just new Amharic words to her. Speaking of which, she’s learning a lot of them: jacket, pant, T-shirt, shoe, sock, kitty, banana, tomorrow, come here, bye-bye, spoon, balloon, cake, happy birthday, car, house, sit down, phone, clean up, I like it, I love you, french fry, wow, chicken, ready, brush…. She can count to 10 or so in English and I think she’s counting up to 50 in Amharic. She finds it very annoying that the ABC song is sung “wrong” here. Every time she hears it—people hear her singing it and try to sing along, but we just do it wrong and she feels sorry for us.

She loves to go places. She calls the car, “car” and calls the stroller “machina.” Today I took her 2 blocks in the stroller to buy bananas at a little health food store. We didn’t need them that badly but she needed to get out of the house.

Every time you hand her something–a strawberry, a sock, a book from the library, she puts her hand to her chest and asks, “Selam?” Every time. Every. single. strawberry.

The people at the orphanage told her she was going to America. I doubt 3 year olds have any sense of geography or citizenship, but she intuited that “America” was a good thing. Consequently, when she’s very happy, she says, with this little contented sigh, “Selam in America.”

I’m not a very patriotic person, but I must say there is a certain hopeful sweetness to that phrase. If something is good, it’s not your luck or your right, it’s just because you are in America–just beyond your control free goodness. Wow.

So yesterday after church, we spent 2 hours at Friendly’s (have I mentioned she’s a really slow eater?), which culminated in the ice-cream sundae. When we finally pushed away her bowl, and wrapped up the extra nuggets (because seriously, who would eat a chicken nugget before all the french fries are gone?), she dropped her head in my lap and said, “Yesus, french fry, chocolate, mama. Selam in America.”

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