Marta Maria

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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brown-Haired Girl

From most of the photos you have probably seen of Marta, you\d think her to be a dirty blonde kind of kid with big blue eyes. You know, your archetypal Northern European. And I have to say it makes me feel kind of weird knowing that all of my children will probably have blue eyes. My mom has blue eyes, my father's mom has them, and I think nearly every person Epp is related to has them. It's not that all of you blue-eyed people aren't very beautiful, but I just feel like you are in a different club. The blue/eyed club. The "I need my sunglasses whenever I am outside" club. To me, blue/eyed people are just different. They are the type of people who think Peter Gabriel is a good dancer. Catch my drift?

So I was a little worried that I would be the odd man out in a family of kids that look like the children from The Sound of Music. But I am having my genetic revenge. I noticed this morning that Marta's hair that is growing in is darker brown, and perhaps this is a symbol that in future family portraits I won't be the outstanding gorilla with the five o'clock shadow and dark brown hair.

By the way you can do your own genetic calculations at this nifty website.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

An Hour at Symposia

Today I woke up thoroughly exhausted from the day before. I must have slept 18 hours out of the past 24, because little miss Marta brought home a pukey virus which was then distributed to Epp and I. But I felt much better after a day of throwing up every last morsel of food in my digestive track, and it was agreed upon that I would take Marta to her "class" at Symposia Books on Washington Street.

And so we went. When I went in there were a ton of little kids coming out of the bookshop, so I figured that class was ending and we were the first ones in for the new class. I was right. I went in and a woman with a foreign accent (Spanish?) asked me my child's name. "Marta" I said. I saw Marta's name was on the list and I proceded to get Marta's jacket off and get her ready for whatever would happen at the show.

One by one our playgroup arrived. Some arrived with their biological mothers, others with babysitters. You can usually tell the real moms from the babysitters because teh real moms a) look more tired and b) connect with their children.

At the front of the room, seated was our host "Kipley." He just sort of sat there and he seemed deeply contemplative, staring at the floor until he brought out a box filled with toys and let the kids play with them. Marta brought me a big red truck, a bus, and more stuff. I was intimidated about playing because I realized that when I stood up and came into the "play area" I was huge. 6 feet 3 inches. Much taller than anyone else there, let alone the 2 year olds running around my knees. So I felt awkward about playing there. Kipley was very quiet and calm - and I think this was good because it rubbed off on the children. Even Marta was semi-well-behaved.

I was the only father there and it felt kind of good. But Marta wasn't that interested in me. She ran from lap to lap. In fact there was another woman there with a daughter and Marta went and sat in her lap and her daughter started freaking out because this strange girl was sitting in her mama's lap and I went over to straighten things out, but the woman just told me that it was ok and Marta could sit in her lap - it was a strange situation. So Marta played this game of musical laps throughout the show.

Marta sort of made friends with one other little blonde girl and even gave her a big kiss during the show, which was composed of puppets and singing. Marta kept saying "hi" to her and she answered "hi" back, albeit more sheepishly. The highlight of the show was the underwater segment which featured this bubble machine blowing soap bubbles all over the place with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz playing. The kids just went crazy when this happened - they stood around waving their arms in the air mesmerized by the spectacle of bubbles floating everywhere. Marta too.

We finished up the show with some drawing - and later I was told by the guys running the puppet show that Marta was a great kid etc. You know, things I already know. But it still feels good to hear them again ;) I was asked "Are you Marta's father?" - I thought it would be kind of obvious. I wonder who else I could be? But I answered "Yes."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My Daughter is an Estonian

This is sort of my response to the post Epp has up at I saw that one and was inspired. When we were sitting in a cafe when Marta was less than one, Epp's friend said that Marta "didn't look like an Estonian" (Epp was in the WC at the time). But if there's one thing I remember from that trip, it's feeling that if there was one person that stuck out like a sore thumb in Tallinn, it was me.

I remember we had to meet Epp at her hairdresser in Tallinn and I had to drag baby Marta with me in a cab from where Reeli & Tiit live near Pirita, to the center of town. It was gray and I was lost when we got there. And cold. And I remember Marta looking at me with these little slanty blue eyes with a bemused look of "What, you don't know where you are going? Nobody can understand what you are saying? Ha!" I knew then and there that when we were among Estonians, Marta was one of them, and I wasn't.

And then there was last summer when I brought back some sült (jellied meat) and gave it to Epp who shared it with Marta. And Marta liked it. They ate the whole dish together. I couldn't believe a child with half my genetic heritage was eating sült. But they ate it all. Again, my daughter was different; she was one of them.

Then there's little photos like the one up above, because when the Estonians congregate in the woods they like to pick berries. And Marta loves "mammu mammu"s, her favorite. A nifty trick to get Marta to stop complaining about something is to buy some berries and keep shoving them in her mouth. And she'll keep asking for more. "Veel mammud. Veel."

And there it is. The language. Thanks to Marta I have learned the word "kõndima" (to walk), mullid (bubbles), and some songs like our theme song to Mõmmi Aabits "mina olen väike, olen alas väike..." Any way, she has taught me a lot.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Performance Gene

According to family lore, my great uncle John Petrone was an actor. Somehow his "performance gene" was passed on to my father, who at one time had seriously considered becoming an actor before he decided he preferred selling computer hardware. He still uses his "skill" to chat people up and *maybe* buy a lot of stuff they don't really need. It also rooted in me, the singer, who the other night sang a song about "Central Park Reservoir" to a room full of New Jersey hipsters (if you can be hip and live in New Jersey) at the Goldhawk Lounge.

Now apparently Great Uncle John's performance gene has manifested itself in, of all people, my daughter. Marta is the type of person who must *must* have all eyes on her in public. It happened today as we rode the A Train back from Rockaway Park. She worked the crowd, moving from person to person, waving, blowing kisses, saying "hi" and, when all else failed, screaming at the top of her lungs. And at that point, when she starts screaming, you just can't control her anymore. I tried putting my hand over her mouth, but it just egged her on more. What is the father of a little clown to do? Luckily, nobody got mad. Her fans were pleased.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Raspy Marta

So Marta is a little sick (haige haige). I think we over did it on New Years'. We were all feeling lethargic and old and clan-like and were seriously doubting our plan to go down to the Hoboken waterfront and watch foreworks with all the other schnooks and crooks in this Mozzerell' loving town, Marta included.

We were going to give in and be lazy and dull but we dragged out butts down there. It was kind of cold, and there were Germans taking photos of each other in a big crowd on the peer. Germans are ok people. I really think that the music of Kraftwerk has redeemed the nation for that whole WWII thing.

Anyway I have a feeling it was then and there in the codl watching 2005 fade away that Marta git the sniffles. We then walked back through Hoboken where totally crazy individuals were launching fireworks into the air. Epp was kind of transfixed by these scene. She wanted to walk near the artillery unit, but I was a little skittish about the scenario. I, never having seen something like this, immediately wondered if it was a "Jersey" thing.

Washington Street was totally empty and smoky, and then we walked onto Bloomfield shere the street was filled with what can be best described as the "butts" of all the firecrackers they had launched. The streets were filled with good looking and happy people toasting the air, most a bit sloshed. And there were babies there too, like Marta. It was one of those moments that made me happy to have experienced a New Years in Hoboken.

The next day marta was snotty and then she was warm. I recall coming in the house and feeling her head and it was warm. She also looked a bit delerious. "Are you okay?" I asked. "Yes..." she responded. God, I can't remember the last time I said "yes." As Epp can attest, I'm more of a "yeah" kind of guy. In fact, I pronounce all 'O's with a a bit of an 'ä' - Blahg (blog), Arnge (orange), etc. And here's my daughter speaking to me in perfect English. It was a weird feeling. Where did she learn that word?

Now Marta has a raspy voice from being sick. It's funny to hear her say all of her common phrases (she starts and ends sentences with verbs in Estonian - like "tahad vanni - vanni tahad" or literally "you want a bath, a bath you want" - she hasn't gotten her tenses right just yet) in this raspy older sounding voice. I wonder, is this really my child?


Today I related my story of the trip to the Children's Museum last week to my colleague Ed at work. Ed is 36 and unmarried with no descendents. He looked at me with a superior raised eyebrow as I told of the screaming children running everywhere in the museum and how I regretted fatherhood (or possibly being alive?) for a few moments in there. Ed looks at me and says dryly "What did you think parenthood was going to be like? There's a reason why I am 36-years-old and don't have children." Thanks Ed.


Sometimes I feel like we are depriving Marta by not having a similarly aged related playmate around her to keep her company. At the same time I like that it's just us altogether. I feel bad for kids from huge families that are wedged in between siblings all the time fighting for the attention they need. One thing I have learned is that attention is really important. Marta does bad stuff sometimes (like trying to eat chalk) but all you have to do is refocus her energies and she responds. I wonder how many bad kids there are out there that are just bad because they didn't have their "energies refocused."


Name, name, know your name. Oh yeah, while I was reporting my tale to Ed we started doing imitations of annoying mothers scolding their children and used the ridiculous names that some kids have these days. I will try REALLY hard not to offend anybody who reads this, but when did two of America's lousiest presidents wind up carrying away with so many names? According to the White House, John Tyler, the 10th president, was called "his accidency" because he was the first VP to assume office after the death of a president. He tried to broker a compromise when the Civil War took off, but died 1862, a member of the Confederate House of Representatives. The parents of children named after Zachary Taylor have it better off. "Old Rough and Ready" died a war hero determined to hold the union together. But still? Zachary Taylor? Why not name your kid after a real president, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or Roosevelt? Well I guess that's why there are so many Madisons. :)

Eh whatever. If we have another daughter we'll probably call her Anna, after the grandmother of Jesus. Or after the Roman goddess of the year, Anna Perenna. Or after Leo Tolstoy's main character (see how easy this is?).

If it's a boy maybe it will be Sam, after Sam Spade, the "I'm in it for me" detective in the Maltese Falcon. Or maybe after my great grandfather. If I had to name him after a president, he'd have to be Van Buren Petrone. I think Epp could agree to that. ;)