Marta Maria

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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The parental instinct

I could be wrong, but I have the suspicion that a lot of people don't like children. They are often sick and jump on you when you want to sleep, and just rob you of energy.

I have to say that when I was in Vancouver last week, though I still had to get up pretty early, it was sort of nice to go to sleep when I felt like it and watch TV when I felt like it and basically live my pre-relationship, pre-fatherhood life.

But it got old rather quick. By my third day I was passing playgrounds thinking, "If my daughter was here, she'd have a really good time," and eating good Asian food thinking, "If my wife was here, she'd really like this restaurant."

Walking over the Lion's Gate Bridge (see above) I threw off a quarter to make a wish on keeping my family safe. I always am afraid when I am on the West Coast that something bad may separate us like an earthquake or epidemic.

On the other side of the bridge I met an indian (native) family - mother and two sons. One of the boys seemed sick and frail and I felt this sort of gravitational pull to help them figure out when the next bus was coming. I felt like this family was missing a father and that I had to substitute for one for at least the next 15 minutes. Maybe they did have a father. I don't know.

But it underscored that something big has changed in me. I like these trips though. I like being spit out on the otherside of the continent and being isolated. But I also liked it a lot when I came home and I got to see my little gnome nestled in her bed fast asleep. Having a family is a good thing. I don't see why anybody should be afraid of it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Irish in Marta

Yesterday I was approached by a reporter on the street. "Will you drink any green beer tomorrow for St. Patrick's Day?" It took me a second to realize she meant beer that was dyed green. I answered no, that I would probably drink regular beer, as I am too lazy to actually dye my beer a particular color. And it got me thinking, what does green beer have to do with Saint Patrick or the Irish? Lot's of European countries are home to rolling green hills - it's not a unique color. And the Irish flag is green, white, and orange. That's two other colors you have to drink with your green beer. And how did beer and whiskey come to symbolize the Irish people (along with boiled food)? Is that all the great Republic of Ireland can be epitomized by? Getting wasted and wearing green (so your vomit doesn't stain your shirt)?

I am one-quarter Irish, whatever way you slice it, and my daughter is a measly one-eighth. I am reminded of my Irish heritage anytime I fill out a form because my middle name - Carroll - come from that segment of my family. But my Irish forebears didn't come over the Atlantic Ocean blasting Pogues songs, getting wasted, eating Lucky Charms, and wearing green shamrocks on their cheeks.

Most of them showed up in North America between 1850 and 1860, during and after the great potato famine that turned the Irish foodstock into a black, inedible, toxic goo. In about 1850, Marta's great-great-great grandmother, Hannah Byrnes arrived in New York. She married Roger Carroll, from a an older Irish-American family. In 1860, her great-great-great grandfather Michael Murray arrived, from County Galway, and around that time her great-great-great-great grandparents, Patrick Collier and Margaret Delaney Collier, along with their daughter Catherine Elizabeth Collier, founded a new family in New York.

Meanwhile, Marta's great-great-great-great grandfather, John Menagh, of County Down, Ireland arrived in Ontario with his parents, John Menagh and Jane Gilmour Menagh.
These people were most likely not green-wearing alcoholics. They built something from nothing. The Murrays and Colliers founded a cotton brokerage in Manhattan. Hannah Byrnes' son Michael became a physician. And John Menagh's son Frank operated his own foundry in Canada. They epitomized the work ethic of the immigrant class. You can see immigrants today doing the same thing - working for less to get ahead.

They are all dead now. And their children too. The connection to Ireland has been diluted significantly, suffice to say nobody has every assumed that I was Irish based on my looks. They deserve to be remembered, and I am not sure how. St. Patrick's Day is as good as any.

Tonight we will eat boiled food and drink beer. It won't be green, and I am not wearing green today. But I will try to do my own small part to remember the ruddy, round people of the Emerald Isle that are still here, in some ways, even in me and Marta.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Weekend with Marta

On Friday night, at about 11 pm, two Estonian ladies arrived at our door. Let's call them Pirja and Sirja. Pirja and Sirja were supposed to arrive at about 5 pm from JFK airport via subway, but somehow they wound up at the Estonian House, and so they got here pretty late. Anyway - as soon as they got in the house theer was something of a whirlwind of energy. I was exhausted and went to sleep, but I could hear them and Epp chattering into the night, making tea, drinking beer, drinking tea, drinking champagne, talking some more.

On Saturday we went out in our neighborhood to walk around. I let Epp go ahead and talk with Sirja and Pirja, and Marta and I hung back on the beach. The beach was really nice, as the sand isn't frozen anymore, and Marta had to be picked up several times because she wanted to lie face down in the sand, picking up handfuls of sand to hand to me. We also walked around and saw the first buds of spring on the trees and some branches that Marta mistook for flowers.

Eventually Pirja, Sirja, and Epp went out to New York City, maybe around 3 pm. And then it was just me and Martakene. This was good for me because I don't get to spend that much day time with my child. I am usually at work during the day and tired at night. So Marta and I went to the beach. And she plopped down in the sand, and I decided to put her up on my shoulders. We met a white dog and continued down the beach. There were so many kids out that day. There were also the usual seagulls hanging around. I don't know why but I don't trust them. I am afraid they will try and carry off my daughter!

So we walked around, but it was getting a bit chilly and so we went inside. I first put on the Jungle Book for her, but she didn't watch it, then some other movies, and, no success. She kept standing on Pirja's suitcase trying to pull more movies down, saying "wanna watch." I, meanwhile worked on my music website for about two hours. There was a short lived attempt to give her a bath, but she got bored and so I took her out. Then I decided that I would have to take Marta outside again. Maybe she would even go to sleep!

We went out and I took her to see the flowers outside the deli on 129th Street. I decided that I would buy two chicken cutlets from the gourmet deli and make pasta with green beans and alfredo sauce for us for dinner. But Marta passed out by the time we got in the gourmet deli. A woman commented that she wished she was Marta, and I told her that it was my plan all along to get her to go to sleep. She slept all the way home and I carried her upstairs to our bed and tucked her in, but then she woke up and started crying. I plopped her down in front of the TV and made us dinner.

Usually when we eat, Marta sits in her high chair. However, when I served dinner, I just fed Marta off my plate. Every time she wanted more she would come and beg at my leg like a dog and I would feed her. I wondered if I was raising Marta as a single parent, if it would always be this way - that I would feed her from my plate like a hungry pet.

At night we settled down to some SpongeBob SquarePants and snuggled. Marta started to get sleepy and eventually, in the dark, fell asleep. By this time it was getting pretty late and I was worried about the whereabouts of Pirja, Sirja, and Epp. Epp called once but I was on the phone with my mom and I couldn't reach Epp again. I called at 11 pm - no answer. Then at 12 am - still no answer. I was really worried about them. But I knew that my wife deserved a night out without worry. Eventually I went to sleep. At about 1 am Marta woke up and came to me crying asking for Epp. She crawled into bed with me and we slept there, me with the phone waiting to hear from the girls. I woke up at 2 am REALLY worried. Where were they? I called Epp and finally I got through. It turns out they were standing at the door at that very moment looking for the key and trying to figure out if they should ring the bell.

I stumbled downstairs and let them in. And that was the real end of my day of babysitting.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Those are the Japanese rock stars that are featured in the TV show Puffy Amiyumi. Last week, when we were all gathered together sick at home, I started taking advantage of our TV set and watching shows with Marta. And there's some cool programming on. In fact, most of the shows seemed to appeal more to the little kid in me, rather than Marta.

Take Spongebob Squarepants - the little yellow sponge who lives under the sea in a pineapple. In the episode I saw there was some ort of situation going on where the sea creatures were teasing a squirrel that lived underwater (with a glass helmet) that the squirrel couldn't breath water without an aid. And the squirrel fired back that Spongebob couldn't survive five minutes on dry land. And I was really enjoying it. But I am not sure Marta understood a single word.

With Puffy Ami Yumi, the rockstar girls were at some event where they were to meet their "biggest fan" and the biggest fan turned out to be a psycho stalker that wouldn't leave them alone. And they spent the rest of their episode trying to escape from their "niggest fan." I loved it. In fact, I checked to see when the next episode was on so I could watch more. But did Marta, the intended recipient, really care?

I don't recall either of my parents being into any shows I liked. I think my Dad was entertained by He-Man. But not to the point they'd actually check to see when the next one was on. And it got me wondering, who is the intended audience. Are marketers really aware that parents are so self centered today, that they should market shows to the parents rather than kids, because the parents are the ones who decide who's on? Could be. Anyway, Puffy is on this Friday night. And if I am in our living room, with the TV in it, at that time, I just might sequester myself and Marta to the couch.