(pentax k1000, fuji superia 400)i don't know what to say. words are taken from me. i am robbed of them so often in her presence. i mean, it was just an innocent children's book, you know the one: the h*ngry caterpillar. a favorite of mine and now, she is asking for it night after night which makes me smile. she reminds me of the butterfly on the last page, all hand painted & colorful & beautiful & new to the world & ready to fly, but having come from. she's no idea how that once caterpillar struggled for those wings. maybe one day she'll get the analogy to her own life, or see herself the way that i do.
but tonight, it wasn't about the butterfly. we were on that page where the ravenous caterpillar eats his way through everything in sight, including an ice cream cone. and as baba and i continue our back and forth, naming each delicacy, and are just about to the lollipop, she stops and points back to the ice cream and says, "we call this one 'bing-ji-ling'..." (or so it sounds to me, something like this in spelling). and in our excitement we ask her to repeat this word, and in her shyness about her first language, at first she only replies, "that's how we say it in china". and so i ask, "can you teach me? because i know i'm not saying it right" and so she says it again.
and after we say our goodnights and thank her for sharing this special word with us, i google "ice cream" in Mandarin to find this, simplified:
there, inside her heart, her head, in words and phrases, these past weeks... they surface, they bubble up, unexpected.
language is a mystery to me. we will do everything in our power to preserve hers.