Saturday, January 07, 2006

Øst, Vest, Hjemme Bedst 

Light.  Book.  Santa.  Home, pasta, pretzel, car, cookie, nice, up, juice, shoes, cup, Elmo, baby, happy, eye.  These are among the many English words Molli Malou learned or perfected during our three weeks in America.  She also learned at least a dozen names and a lot of Danish.
She got her first haircut a few days before Christmas.  She was starting to look like a hillbilly.  The stylist evened out the bangs I'd destroyed, trimmed her sides, and gave her kind of a bob in back.  It's adorable but also strange to see her with any kind of a hair "style."  Civilization has got its hands on her.
She became dependent on three things while we were stateside: her pacifier ("dee-dee"), her blankie ("doe-doe"), and pasta with pesto.  She's been sleeping and napping with dee-dee and doe-doe for months, but the pesto dependence took us by surprise.  Her first healthy morning I lifted her out of the crib and she kicked to be let down; I set her on the floor and she went scrambling across her aunt's apartment to the kitchen, where she began thumping the refrigerator with her palms and chanting, "peshta!  peshta!"  I tried giving her oatmeal.  I tried giving her yogurt.  Then I finally caved and gave her leftover bowtie pasta with pesto for breakfast while I hosed the oatmeal and yogurt off myself.
She traveled surprisingly well.  We probably logged about 12,000 miles on this trip, and we only experienced a cumulative half-hour or so of truly difficult behavior.
She was awed by Chicago.  She craned her neck up at the tall buildings, unlike anything she'd ever seen, and said, "Nice."  She even learned to say Chicago, sort of.  She calls it 'cago.  Cool by me.
She was thrilled by the cows and the apes at Lincoln Park Zoo.  She was thrilled by the El.  She was suspicious of elevators until we let her hit the buttons.  We only made that mistake once and we got off easy at that: only three superfluous floors visited.
The visit wasn't all about Molli.  We are human adults, sort of, with interests beyond Molli.  Surrounded by eager babysitters, Trine and I managed to find time to go out with old friends, visit the old familiar places, and, on several occassions, drink ourselves extraordinarily stupid.
I wanted to have something at least semi-intelligent to say about America in comparison to Denmark, but the subject is too huge for breezy treatment.  America is vast and loud and anarchic, Denmark is small and tidy and well-organized.  But any idiot could tell you that.  An idiot just has.
There's more to it than that, obviously, but I think a lot of the differences are overstated.  I think Americans have weird ideas about Denmark--to the extent they even recognize it as anything but the pastures around Amsterdam--just as Danes have weird ideas about America.  But Americans also have weird ideas about America and Danes about Denmark.  We've all got pretty weird ideas about damn near everything.  I, for example, still worry about gravity suddenly being turned off.
Of course Denmark and the United States are extremely different in some very fundamental ways... but it's not hard to imagine Denmark as an American state, either.  (Sh, don't tell any Danes I said that, they'll revoke my residency.)
I'm glad we're raising our daughter in Denmark because Denmark has to be one of the world's best countries for child-raising.  I like Denmark's values.  I feel at home in Danish culture.  But I'd like her to be at least partly raised in America because I think despite everything you read to the contrary, America--the America people actually live and work and play in--is the most fully integrated, heterogenous blend of people and ideas anywhere on the planet.  And it works.  Denmark is proud of its receptivity to other people and ideas, but in fact it's often a conformist and extremely homogenous culture.
I love Denmark and I love the United States.  I could happily spend the rest of my days in either country, even to the exclusion of the other.  But I'm very, very glad I don't have to.
(That's all.  I'm back.  I will now return to my usual haphazard pattern of half-assed blogging.)

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