Jakob turned three on Saturday, and once again, the fanatic greed that overwhelms small children when confronted with a gigantic pile of gifts is a joy to behold. I think sometimes that adults become too complacent about receiving gifts. Maybe we think showing too much pleasure would be unbecoming for such mature creatures as ourselves, and in our attempts to graciously assure each other that it wasn’t necessary, we forget that some of the best things in life are unnecessary. At least by appearances. In any case, Jakob, being still very little indeed, is not yet old enough to remember all the previous celebrations held in his honor at which the bestowing of a multitude of presents was a high priority, if not the main attraction. His eyes were so wide, and the grin on his face so huge, that I thought his head would explode in shock and awe. He tore through gifts, and then couldn’t decide which way to turn afterward, his face full of excitement, too caught up in the moment to even try to speak. Once he got through them all (it really wasn’t an incredibly big pile), he kept looking around him in a mixture of overjoyed disbelief, as if he expected more, but couldn’t take in the wonders he already possessed. I know I described this as greed in my opening sentence, but that word really isn’t appropriate, unless there is such a thing as innocent greed.
Being now three years of age, Jakob is also old enough at last to start going to kindergarten. Yesterday was his first day, and he is still marveling in the wonders of being a “kindi kind.” Over the past nine months (exactly to this day) since my arrival here in Germany, it has been exciting to see the kids grow older. Damaris has changed the most, in more ways than I can describe in a single entry (even as epic as mine usually are), but Jakob has brought his own surprises. His speech in particular is hilarious to listen to, as it has evolved from a stuttering of a few learned words (“baggar,” or “bulldozer,” being the most important) to more complicated sentences and phrases. The most amusing aspect of this, however, is how he imitates his older brother. The first time he used the phrase “Soll ich dir sagen wie das heist?” to me, I nearly fell out of my seat laughing. (translation: “Should I say for you want that is called?”) Lately, some of our more amusing conversations have run as follows. (Keep in mind that some of the effect is lost in translation, as cute things said in German are always more cute than you might think they would be, and Jakob still has not lost his stutter.)
Jakob: (talking about the upcoming family vacation to Sweden come July) I’m going, and Damaris is going, and Jonas, and Momma, and Pappa, and Laura, and…
Me: Jakob, do you know that when summer comes , I will be going home?
Jakob: Ja, ja, to America!
Me: Right! And you know I won’t be coming back for a long time, right?
Jakob: Yes, but when you do come back, I will fly to pick you up, and then we will have Spiderman jello.
Me: Spiderman jello?
Jakob: Ja, ja… with cream.
Jakob: Are you going to language school?
Me: No, I’m just running over to Lidl really quick to do some shopping.
Jakob: Ah, ja. Remember to bring your long battle axe.
Jakob: Why are you going home?
Me: Because that is where all my family and friends are.
Jakob: You don’t have any friends.
Me: Yes I do!
Jakob: No, because I struck them all dead.
Jonas is also one hilarious kid, but has more detailed concepts to explore and talk about. Yesterday we had an epic sort of disagreement regarding the wonders of America. Jonas was eager to claim many of them for Germany and Sweden, and I was putting up a vigorous defense of my homeland. The amusing thing about being around kids sometimes, is that you inevitably begin to behave like one. All of those “childish” things you thought you’d outgrown come rushing back to you, like the ability to argue over the petty issue of which country is bigger, grander, etc. For instance, I claimed that cowboys come from America, and Jonas said that he’d seen a real, live cowboy in kindergarten. I said he wasn’t a real cowboy because he didn’t have a horse. Jonas disagreed, and I pointed out that Cowboys also speak English. Jonas said they never spoke English, only German. I told him we’d ask his mom, and that she would prove me right.
One of our other conversations, along similar lines, went as follows.
Jonas: Sweden is further away than America is.
Me: No! America is very, very far away. Compared to America, Sweden is very close.
Jonas: No! There is a big sea between Germany and America! You can’t even drive to Sweden, you have to take a boat!
Me: Yeah? Well you have to take a plane to get to America.
Jonas: Do you know how far away Sweden is? Sweden is past the end of the world!
Me: America is further.
Me: Do you see where the sun is? America is even further away than that.
Jonas: Past where the sun goes down?
Jonas: *pauses to consider* Sweden is further away though.
One part of this conversation struck me in particular at the time. In my excitement, my German was failing me, and I was running out of ways to explain to Jonas how very wrong he was. The overwhelming desire to prove him wrong was another of the childish things he had drawn out of me. Jonas, in all earnestness, was convinced of his superior knowledge, and some sort of intellectual bully in me took offense. The point at which he told me that Sweden was past the end of the world was simultaneously delightful and frustrating. The former because it was exactly the sort of thing I love to hear from him, and the latter because it was a very hard superlative to top. (Sort of like saying something is “best-er,” and trying to counterattack with “best-er-est.” Or perhaps just “best-est.”) It was here that I very nearly threatened to pull out a map and show him beyond doubt that America was further away than Sweden. But that thought made me feel like that teacher who told Truman he couldn’t be an explorer, because the world was already all discovered. I could pull out a globe, show him the world was round, that Santa doesn’t exist, and that Faeries aren’t real, but that’s not my job. I’d rather leave it to the schools. In the meantime, I’d rather say that America was past the sunset.
In all honesty, I felt like Calvin’s dad. It was a good feeling, aided, perhaps, by the knowledge that I’d saved Tinkerbell’s life.