Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Confusion" Temple

I swindled my girls good today. Thought we were going to the water park with the log rides and swan boats and the kiddy pool with the slip & slide that leads to the big people area with the depth lines on the side that show just how far daddy can walk with both girls on his back until his feet are still on the bottom, but everybody’s head is under water. They had their swimsuits, goggles, even those little inflatable dragon tubes they ride in and that will never go down, even if harpooned. So when we pull up to the big marble ceremonial gates they looked confused.
“Daddy, what is this place?”
“This is the Martyr’s Shrine of the Confucian Memorial Temple.”
Silence. Death Stares. Why does our dad have to be the biggest dork of all time? Not EVERYTHING has to be ‘Educational,’ you know?
“Come on, live a little.”
Now serious death stares. When these girls finally become teenagers I’m in such serious trouble. I’d switched destinations at the last minute. Little Lauren Kinu has been sniffling and screaming and a quick fifteen minute jaunt across town rather than an hour ride to Yamay Water Park just seemed a better executive decision. That’s basically all parenting is anyway, making the right call and sticking with it.
“Oh…” I groan back. “Is it really so terrible you might learn something?”
Xi’an crossed her arms and scowled. Then Rebekah, who always watches Xi’an did the same, except she was laughing.
“Two angry ladies on my hands, I see. Would some ice cream help?”
A dad’s got to have a full arsenal up his sleeve.
“Yay”! My girls are total pushovers.
We tour the grounds. There is a temple with Confucian shrine, some cool old furniture, a big open hall, a fountain and lonely little old pagoda a chugging along in this little garden whispering, “I think I can, I think I can.” All wonderfully symetrical and Asian. Earlier that day Xi’an and SungJoo were going to coffee and my daughter said that she was falling in love.
“What?” SungJoo asked.
“Falling in love, with people, with the world.”
“You sound like your daddy.”
“Oh, I’m falling in love with him too.”
Then Rebekah said, “I love mommy.”
That afternoon I took pictures of the girls, Xi’an jumping from window ledges beneath giant wooden drums and Rebekah sitting in doorways. Then we posed in the sunlight with the front page of the Oregonian my mom had sent along with a copy of Mary Poppins for Rebekah’s birthday. “Come on, we’re going to send this picture to the travel section and see if they put us in the paper.”
“I want to be in the travel section,” Xi’an bounces up. Rebekah comes waddling after. “I want travel too.”
We walk into the main hall with the portraits of Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher. When I explain to my girls who Confucius was, that his real name was Kung Fu Tzu and he was a great teacher, they smile. I tell them he was like Aristotle and wrote nothing down. Instead, his ideas were just passed through to others by his students. His legacy just lived.
“Okay daddy, we get it.”
“Thanks, Xi’an.”
“Yeah,” Rebekah wipes her sweaty brow and jams a thumb in her mouth. It’s her trademark move. “Whew!”
That’s when we split.
The long walk back to the car was rough. The girls began to fight, arguing over trifle stuff, mostly just annoyed by the heat. I promise to take them swimming and to make pancakes that night. Then something amazing happens. Xi’an starts babbling in Chinese. Just, “Garble… Garble… Garble.” And Rebekah garbles back. I’m standing there like a complete ignoramus. The other day I had to send Xi’an to the restaurant counter to bring me a glass of cold water. Daddy, remember it’s easy. Cold water is “Bing Shui”, and warm tea is “Hu Cha”, but water is just “Shui.” Okay?”
So this time I just look at my two daughters who are smiling and turn to SungJoo, “What did they just say?”
SungJoo explains Xi’an said, “Rebekah, I’m stealing your chair,” and Rebekah replied, “Go ahead, steal my chair. I don’t care. I’m going to take yours.”
Now I’m stunned, right. “They said that?”
“In Chinese?”
“Yep. Oh girls, daddy’s so dumb, isn’t he? He can only speak English.”
The whole minivan erupts in laughter at my total lack of discernment, but it feels so good. I may not be the smartest guy, and I’ve blown it on so many occasions, too many to count really, but this one thing I know for certain. When it comes to my girls, I’m doing it right. They are the only thing in my life that makes perfect sense to everyone. These girls, they are so simple. I just pass along all that I know and pray when they find out eventually that I’ve been a fraud all along, they’ll just laugh and throw me into the deep end of the pool with a snorkel.

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