Friday, March 25, 2011

Auntie Liar

My niece and her college roommate are coming out to the Bay Area this week for a visit, and we are all excited to show her around. I can only hope that Shannon will be a little less skeptical of her aunt this time than she was the first time she came to stay with me.

That was in 1995 or so, when she was four and Andrew and I were still childless and fancy-free, living in Washington, DC. My brother drove his family down for a visit, during which we ran them from the National Mall to the National Zoo and stopped at every museum in between, proud to play tour guide in our adopted city.

Shannon's older brother Zach, age 9 at the time, was totally on board with whatever Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andrew suggested. That's probably because the time he visited before, sans parents, Andrew let him drive our car. Only around the circular driveway of our apartment building, true, but still he was actually operating our Acura before he was legally allowed to sit in its front seat. Zach was ready to follow us anywhere. (The family had yet to be joined by its baseball-announcer-in-residence, my nephew Tristan.)

Huh. Mom, why is Uncle Andrew holding my braids?
Shannon, on the other hand, was at that stage of childhood where there is one authority and one authority only: Mom. Throughout the visit, as she sashayed and skipped alongside us with her Pippi Longstocking braids and purple dresses, she'd see something unfamiliar and ask, "What's that?" or "Why is that?" For instance, "Why are there so many pigeons here?"

I'd take her soft little hand in mine and motion to the sparkling white federal buildings and the food carts along the street, and say, "Well, Shanny, pigeons like to live in cities where they can find lots of food and places to build nests. They're city birds."

To which she would smile politely and say "Huh!" while fixing me with the same wary look you'd give someone wearing scrubs imprinted with the name of a psychiatric hospital: maybe staff, maybe not.

Then she would turn to my sister-in-law and say, "Mom, why are there so many pigeons here?"

My sister-in-law is indeed awesome, but the fact remains that she never lived in DC. Nonetheless, Shannon only wanted her answers from her mother. "What's that building with the white dome?" "It's the Capital, honey, it's where the senators work." "Huh. Mom, what's that building with the white dome?"

It drove me crazy, but how can you be mad at a kid whose parting words, as she departed in the family car, were, "I will come see you again to visit the baboooooooons!" an animal which we had neither seen nor discussed at any point during her visit.

Anyway. Now she's a grown-up college girl studying creative writing, and I am determined to show her the best the Bay Area has to offer: Union Square, Alcatraz, Dave Eggers' Pirate Store, a visit to the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland hills, City Lights Bookstore, North Beach…the question is whether she'll believe anything I tell her, given that her mom isn't going to be here this time. 

So today's cheery Music Moment, from Philly hip-hop duo Chiddy Bang and called "Truth," is dedicated to Shannon and Sarah. (How can you not love a rap that includes the line "Periodically, I’m in my element, phosphorus," that isn't even by Flight of the Conchords?)  I swear, girls, if you have questions about the Bay Area, like why Happy Meal toys are banned in San Francisco or why Berkeley is a nuclear free zone, I am not making the answers up. The crazy here is for real.


  1. Dis here crazy is fo real. Word. That song is infinitely danceable - why haven't I heard this in your kitchen yet?
    My element is Oaklandium.

  2. My nieces and nephews have always assumed that I am a raving lunatic. So you seem to have gotten off easy...

  3. But Werner, you ARE a raving lunatic. And I really did know about the Washington Monument. So there's a difference.


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