Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Monkey Bench Switch

This post is for you, Mom.

The other night, as I lay restless in bed, I had this vision of moving the 'the monk's bench' into Kaya's room from our living room. The monk's bench, for those of you who didn't grow up with my me and my sister, is a cherished antique piece of furniture that, as my mom always explained to us, the monks used to use as one of their few pieces of furniture. In one form, it is a table, with a storage bench underneath the top. In its other form, it is a bench, with arms. We grew up with this beautiful piece of dark walnut next to our front door, where we would sit and put our shoes on before leaving the house. We'd have all sorts of odds and ends stored in the bench, though I mostly remember it being full of yellow plastic bags and metal lunch boxes.

When my mom passed away, my sister was supposed to get the monk's bench...but I told her how excited I was about the idea of having it at our house, and she was generous enough to trade us for the 'treasure chest' (another story for another day). When we brought the monk's bench home, however, we realized that it didn't fit next to our front door nearly as well as I'd hoped...although we've had it there for the past many months, not knowing exactly where else to put it. Hence, my random thought process as I was lying sleepless in bed.

So, the following morning, I awoke early, eager to start the moving process. Forcing myself to wait until I had enough time to do it right (mom would be SO proud!), I was finally able to dive in once Kaya was at her grandparents' in the afternoon. I moved a bookshelf out, and another one over, and the monk's bench into her room next to her crib. Eager about my inspiration, I was disappointed when it didn't look, or rather feel, quite right. It felt too heavy and foreboding in her sweet little room full of bunnies and bears and babies. But then I saw it...the monkey quilt that I made her, draped over the end of her crib. I grabbed it and draped it over the bench, quickly realizing the irony:

The monk's bench.
The monkey bench.
The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Mom would LOVE it. She would stay up sleepless just beaming about the whole situation, so proud of me for having the thought, for acting on my inspiration, and for wanting to have her furniture in the first place. She would go on and on about how wonderful the whole thing is, and about how she can't wait to see it. She might even tell me that she could come over this weekend, if we were going to be around, knowing full well that she'd be too sick to get out of bed to even be able to call. But she'd still be beaming with pride from that bed, happy to know that her monk's bench was being used by her granddaughter and beloved son-in-law to read and connect and learn all sorts of fun things in life...

At this point, I could probably end this blog post, and you might not even notice that I didn't mention anything about Kaya's language--nothing like a few smiles or tears to distract an audience. However, my point in starting this post was to share a little anecdote about what happened tonight leading up to Geoff and Kaya's story time on the bench.

I was lying on our bed after having just played with Kaya and Geoff. Geoff left to get Kaya some milk since she'd just made her official request of the evening. Daddy is the milk-getter in our family...Mama, if she's home, is the Milch-giver. Geoff had been gone for about a minute, when Kaya took my hand to slide off the bed, stomach down, feet-first. She quickly started walking towards the door, clearly demanding her German cocktail, over and over and over. As she got about half-way through the hallway, within earshot of Geoff and clearly away from me, she switched her request to English, with no pause whatsoever. Though we've seen similar language switches with her in the past, I still feel shocked when I think about her saying, "Milch, Milch, Milch, Milch, Milch, milk, milk, milk, milk, milk...".

These days, she continues to be very selective with us, very rarely mixing her languages unless she only knows the terms in one particular language. She still prefers to use the term "A-a" and "lu-lu" over "poop" and "pee", but wouldn't you? She struggles to make the quick switch with "an" and "aus" (on/off), but she will make it if we're both there. Tonight, with easy access to the light switches on her new monkey bench, she was having fun playing with the words, as well as "dark" and her newest word, "dunkel". Couldn't get her to say it's opposite, "hell"...though maybe that's for the best, as far as the public is concerned. She's already got a few obscenities under her belt: her 'frog' sounds like a very clear "Fok", and her 'sit' is marked by a very strong "sh" at its front. Tonight, as she was playing with Tante Jules (her English speaking aunt her liked the term "Tante"), Kaya told me "Hilfe" as soon as I walked in the door. Apparently, she had just asked Julie for help buckling the "Henna's" life jacket.

If I were to let myself, I could come up with all sorts of fun examples of how Kaya impresses us with her bilingualism...but it's nearing midnight, and I meant to be in bed an hour ago...but now, maybe I'll be able to sleep instead of dreaming up fancy furniture configurations with our futon.

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