Channie Greenberg, Smiling and Nodding with Alacrity
Smiling and Nodding with Alacrity
Publisher: Seashell Books
Date: August 30, 2020
Length: 210 pages
Smiling and Nodding with Alacrity is an omnibus containing the best essays from KJ Hannah Greenberg’s humorous, transnational collections; The Nexus of the Sun, the Moon, and Mother, Whistling for Salvation, On Golden Limestone, Rhetorical Candy, and Dreams are for Coloring Books: Midlife Marvels.
This assemblage, in general, offers glimpses of Israeli people, Israeli communication, and everyday Israeli goings-on. More specifically, this book provides accounts of how Hannah, her husband, and their growing sons and daughters awkwardly, joyously, and hilariously crossed a cultural divide.
During the years when my children were small, and we still lived in the States, any time we ventured out, water fountains were the objects of their desire. Foremost in their young minds, as we loaded up our minivan with diapers, sippy cups, stuffed animals, and picture books, was the span of time that it would take me to drive the distance from our home to any playground featuring architecture capable of jetting, spraying, or dribbling.
Spewing fonts were more irresistible to my sons and daughters than were any manner of hanging seats, play pits, or inclines, regardless of whether the items in question were classic or contemporary in nature. My offspring were necessarily thrilled by pressing water-bearing devices’ buttons over and over. They loved that deed even more than they loved sliding headfirst down steep boards, jumping from moving swings onto dirt, or playing with any animal feces that were left behind in public sandboxes.
Specifically, my children cherished water fountains because, by dint of my children’s interactions with those wet apparati, they could control an interesting substance’s speed and flow. That is, the kids adored making liquid undulate. Only bubblers, within their youthful universes of possibilities, made it possible for the kids to play, “Stick in Your Limbs,” “Stick in Your Siblings’ Limbs,” and, “Stick in Your Siblings’ Heads.” Less frequently, those contraptions also helped my children to engage in, “Wet the Vicious Stray Dog,” “Drench the Vacationing Nursery School Teacher,” and, later, “Soak Mom While She’s Trying to Nurse the Baby.”
It did not matter to my children whether the water was filtered or not, or whether it was directed toward a basin or it emptied directly onto the ground. They could not have cared less if that streaming wetness was ergonomically friendly to height-challenged persons or whether it necessitated them inventing dangerous ways to reach its controls. As well, with discarded gum or were pristine. All that those little ones focused on was whether or not they were the first, second, third of my kin to stick their body parts, toys, other children, or small critters into those appliances.
Whereas the plumes my boys and girls shot were never as tall as those issuing from the Jet D’eau in Geneva, the Captain Cook Memorial in Canberra, or the World Cup Fountain in Seoul, and whereas my kids’ spurts were not as aesthetically defined as are the gushes pouring forth from the Mannekin Pis in Brussels, the Trafalgar Square Fountains in London, or Atlanta’s Fountain of the Rings, my kids’ waterworks were, nonetheless, especially to members of the under ten crowd, this side of wonderful. The fountains in my children’s lives merely had to be able to function to be regarded as magnificent.
In addition, such diversions rated higher in my children’s esteem than did the costly and often frightening recreations found at amusement parks and festivals. It made no difference to my offspring that they could have, in the company of an adult, ridden helter skelter, that is, in a manner that would have filled their entire seats with water, or that they could have barrelled, in the safety of their mom or dad’s arms, through intermittently dark and light-filled spaces, in entire inches of the wet stuff. They wanted no part, either, of substituting their treasured, wet-but-free, leisure for dry, expensive pastimes. More precisely, my pocket money remained safe as long as my wee ones could splash in outdoor, bird-infested, drunkard drooled-in, rarely cleaned drinking ports. Costly bells and whistles remained the province of other kids.
Consequently, when it was, at last, time to leave behind the seesaws, jungle gyms, overhead ladders, and especially those contrivances that spurted water, there was payment due. Sane bather load or not, my children contended that my parental debt would be remunerated only if I extended the time in which they could interact with gear that enabled them to spatter water outside of sanctioned, lifeguard-protected pools. I could not acquiesce to their modest demands, though; inevitably, another source of water was making me need to pack us up and drive away.
In particular, most play areas in our vicinity featured no bathrooms. Whereas my oldest could merely strip, find a secluded place behind ornamental pines or to the rear of some park’s decorative boulders, and void, and while her younger siblings were or ought to have been in diapers, Mom, during that period, was often flummoxed by the hormonal tides indigenous to pregnancy, and as such could neither tolerate the fumes of Port-a-Johns or discreetly “return to nature.”
As soon as I became sensate with my own need to pump, filter, and otherwise release gushes, I began the tediously protracted process of “flocking the children.” That procedure involved much more than picking the acquired bits of mulch, waylaid cigarette butts, and some other family’s leftover lunch from my toddler’s mouth. That course of action included more than wrestling free, from the play stuff, the pre-schooler who had run behind a swing in order to reach the curly slide, the top of which was certain to have been occupied by a child weighing twice as much as my loved one, the very minute that I announced my plans for our departure. That progression necessitated a lot other than my shifting and reshifting the youngest so that she would stop pulling up my blouse for “nummies” and settle peacefully into her sling. In short, that exercise meant coordinating the whereabouts of my circus-like kin while keeping my legs pressed together hard enough not to leak.
Almost always, I would have preferred to linger at the playgrounds. I enjoyed other park patrons’ “performances” as much as I enjoyed the shows provided by my own children. Being reminded that other mothers’ charges: screamed to climb slides too dangerous for their height, fretted when stymied from digging up municipal posies, and shrieked when deterred from ingesting more sand than could be managed by their diapers’ capacities did wonders for my parenting esteem.
What’s more, had I been able to hang around, I could have put off dealing with my juveniles’ traumas. One of my little ones, for instance, usually cried when forced to hold my hand upon arriving at the periphery of any playground’s parking lot; play areas’ grass meant immeasurably more emancipation from Mom’s sweaty paw than did cement. Plus, the stern looks that I addended to my instructions to that child, especially as my pregnant bladder urged forward my countdown, did little to assuage that child that I truly loved him. Worse, upon reaching our car, he was usually guaranteed to duel with his older sister for the best car seat. Return trips were never fun.
Once home, after draining my personal Niagara Falls, it was often the case that I gathered my children ‘round my propped up, swollen feet while they contemplated aloud just how many minutes they had to wait before they could again coerce (I mean convince) me to take them to visit an outdoor bubbler. They smiled and nodded with alacrity, but I was wise to the nature of their deliberations.
Accordingly, a tradition emerged in our family. After toileting upon returning from an outing featuring a water fest, I’d regard my collected masses of little ones, blow kisses at them, urge them into our backyard, and then squirt them with my favorite water pistol, hence evoking from them, for at least five minutes at a time, an interest in an alternative, but equally clean, free, and gratifying recreation. Mayhem ordinarily followed, but such turmoil usually bought me at least a day’s reprieve before we had to ship out once more to play in public water fountains.
Originally published as “Got Children? Add Water,” The Mother Magazine, Nov. 2010, pp. 20-21. Rpt. as “Making Waters,” The Nexus of the Sun, the Moon, and Mother. Seashell Books. Bowling Green, KY. 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Channie Greenberg