Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm a Glutton

Grace a bit older than one

Pavel has long insisted his name--our name--means 'Eats too much'. Zivny is Czech, and zivot means life. But in old Czech (and other Slavic languages) it means stomach. Or so he says. When pressed, it turns out this is pop-etymology. Or should I call it Pavel-etymology? Because no one else seems to think this is what our name means.

Though it's not a stretch. In our family, we have all been known to eat too much. Today, however, I'm a glutton for punishment. Yesterday I sent Grace, my 22 year old, off again--for a year this time. And today I'm reading 'One' on Gluten-Free Girl, about their beloved turning one. I should be used to this sadness, as Grace has gone to college in the Netherlands for the past three years. Before that, she also spent six months in the Dominican Republic and six months in France. Now she's heading off to Leiden, for a one year masters program in Book and Digital Media Studies.

It's mainly our fault. Pavel and I did everything we could to encourage this--I was an exchange student myself, as was my sister. Pavel speaks in an accent so thick some people probably think he's kidding (he's not). We've felt that learning a second language, and, maybe even more importantly, learning another culture, was a basic part of an education. Or should be. And so Simon spent a year in Ecuador (and is now bumming around Europe) and our youngest is leaving in September for a yearlong exchange outside Napoli. I'm still in denial about her departure.

But back to Gluten-Free Girl's piece. It was so nice to be taken back to our own delicious first year of parenting. Spending hours listening to Grace laugh, watching her make funny faces, and emptying--one-by-one--our bookshelves (apparently she found her calling early!). And especially this: "I love seeing the world again, anew, present and alive, through her eyes." I know just how she feels. The wonderful thing is that this lasts--hearing our kids talk about their lives and travels, or reading what they write on blogs and facebook, is the greatest joy I know.

Last week the Oregonian ran an interview with the people who wrote The New Global Student. I haven't seen the book yet, but I hope many people take a look. I was especially struck by Maya Frost's final comment about dealing with sending kids off: "You're so excited by this person they've become that it overpowers the wistfulness and sadness".

She's right, but that payoff seems long away when you're waving good-bye at the airport.

The glutton in me is wondering what comfort food this week demands. A favorite food of Grace's (that would be hard to pinpoint--she's as good an eater as they come), or perhaps something from my own exchange year in Denmark? Unfortunately, the weather in Portland this week is promising to be unforgivingly hot. I think it calls for ice cream. From the grocery store. Lots of it.


Thérèse said...

It's always the strangest mix of sadness, pride, vicarious excitement, and memories of our own youth when they head off. I hope they all keep it up for decades to come!

Giovanna said...

Therese, you nailed it--that is the exact mix. And what a bittersweet one it is!

kimc said...

I love the title of Maile Meloy's new book of short stories: "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It." That's an apt sentiment so often, but maybe especially with our children?

Dilya said...

i love the way your family is so multicultured.
soo diverse.. no words, how great it is!

and yes >> zivny is kinda 'lively', and zhivot is stomach. and zhizn' is life. we even say zhivot or zhizn!! (life or stomach)


Grace said...

When Simon and I met with Simon from Prague and his friend in Ghent, we had this conversation. The friend (Can't remember the name) said our name meant life, and Simon said, "Really? Not 'eats too much'?" And the friend, who was rather quiet and stony faced, lit up and laughed, "Yes, that's true, it can!"

Giovanna said...

I love how often this seems to be the reaction from Slavic speakers. Of course if we had those language skills, this branch of Zivnys would always think of 'eats too much' first. No afterthoughts here!

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