Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy birthday.... my blog. Today it is born, christened "Farmer John Cheese and Other Joy." Size is yet unmeasured, we'll leave those stats open. But happiness, hope and trepidation accompanies this birth, as with the 2 others I've given. No hormone revolutions, at least.

First, an explanation. About 2, 3 years ago, I was in my daughters' bedroom tolerating the 30th change of Polly Pocket clothes in exchange for credit from my 5 year old daughter - play credit. All parents work for them. If we get down and make this Barbie "talk" this morning, we get a free pass (read: guilt free plunk in front of a video) after lunch. So as I'm squinting to remove the tiny hootchie dress and select new impractical accessories for Polly, Cate asks me what is for dinner. Those of you that know me realize that there is no way I would have first hand knowledge of "what's for dinner" unless it was on a plate before me. My husband Michael, lovingly does all the cooking. I grudgingly do all the defrosting and preparing of boxed frozen foods when our family chef is off duty.

So she asks what is for dinner and I holler through the baby monitor to my husband, what is for dinner? The monitor was on a lot in those days as Cate shares a room with her then 1 year old sister whose sleep patterns are still very irregular. I hear a muffled "pasta, " yelled up the stairs, my husband being the only one willing to acknowledge that the monitor only works in one direction.

I tell Cate - pasta. She's thrilled. We are a very noodley family. Particularly if it can be combined with cheese. And it usually can, as Cate knew by that stage in her life. She lit up and asked as hopefully as she was loud, "With Farmer John cheese?"

Farmer John cheese. What is that? This kid is 5. She's lived a little, or so I liked to think. But how would she know the name of some mysterious gourmet cheese without us having exposed her to it? Kindergarten? We do live in Wisconsin, but cheese is not part of the curriculum. Farmer John cheese.


"Farmer John cheese."

"What is Farmer John cheese?"

"Mo-om!" That exasperated 'entertaining with feigned ignorance is SO 4 years old' stretching out of my title - a threat to roll eyes if I continue.

"Seriously, love. I have never had Farmer John cheese. Where did you try it? If we all like it we can get some, but we don't have any tonight."

"Mo-OM!" They eyes go ahead with the roll. Kind of like a roll, anyway. She was still perfecting it at that age. Trust me, she's got it down now. She's 8.

"Mom, we eat it EVERY DAY! You and dad always put it on stuff."


She has had it with me. She just wants to know if she's gonna get the dang cheese or not. But she's desperate, so she just keeps repeating Farmer John cheese. farmerjohncheesefarmerjohncheesefarmerjohncheese!!!

The words blur and melt in repetition. And then they congeal again, changed. I got it. First I gasp with revelation, then I begin to laugh. Not just laugh, roar, guffaw, cry tears of amusement. At first Cate joins me with a giggle, partly glad to see mom in such a state of mirth, but then she figures if she's going to go with it, she should probably know what we were laughing at. She stops and frowns. Meanwhile, I gather what I can to call my husband through the monitor. He must have thought something was wrong, because he's up in a blink.

I tell him that Cate wants Farmer John cheese on her pasta. The words send me into fits again while Michael and Cate stare at me blankly, afraid to look at each other for fear confirmation that mom is whacked could be found in the other's eyes.

Farmer John cheese, I say. We have it every day, Cate said. A slight exaggeration. I tell them I know what it is. It's white and some people buy it in cans, but Dad always grates our fresh.

Parmesan cheese.

Though they both thought it was a bit funny and certainly cute, no one shared my level of delight. I can't explain it myself. Maybe I spent some time thinking what a logical name it is, what pictures my daughter might have in her mind of John, the farmer, whipping up this cheese for us as his life's work. It's a perfectly good name for a cheese, after all. Very concrete, sort of quaint. Maybe I was so riled up because part of me knew that this was going to start to change everything.

And it did. Farmer John cheese is a word we use so unthinkingly that I believe I've asked a waiter for it in a posh and serious Italian restaurant before.

It also changed my perspective. Or woke up a way to look at things that was dormant then. Yes, playing Polly Pockets felt like a cross to bear, but you never know when unabashed joy and delight are going to crash your gloom. I certainly hadn't invited either at the time. But I was graced grandly anyway.

And so my sweet innocent daughter switched on a light for me with her new cheese name, a light that saw me through the next few tricky years of familial unrest, miscarriages and our younger daughter's diagnosis (and accompanying chaos) of a rare genetic condition called Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.

PBS kids has a little piece they do between shows where they take a snippet of imagination, pull you along with it for a moment (IE, kid using pots and pans as drums) and then have one matter-of-fact spoken line at the end. "It's all how you look at it." Me and my girls stop what we are doing to watch it.

Yep. It's all how you look at it. Happy Birthday, Farmer John!! Have some pasta.


kat-teach said...

love it Terri. The first step towards releasing the many stories that are waiting patienly for your readiness.........You have a talent for word craftery! We also have been calling it Farmer John Cheese! I also wear PINK on every first day of school because of a Cate story!

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