03 June 2008

Verb Tenses and Getting Away

As a linguist by trade, I'm familiar with verb tenses one and all. From the basic past, present, and future to the more esoteric subjunctive, plu-perfect, and conditional, I know the ins and outs of how to time-stamp words.

There is one tense I did not learn about until I was in the Peace Corps, though: the Present Obvious.

The Gabonese are masters of the Present Obvious. If, for example, I was sitting on my duffel bag at a crossroads, a daypack on my back, clearly waiting for a bush taxi, the comment I would most often hear from passers-by was, "Madame, vous voyagez." [Madame, you're going on a trip.] Why yes, kind of you to notice. If I was drinking a Coke while I waited, I might also hear, "Madame, vous avez un Coca." [Madame, you have a Coke.] True. If it was raining, guess what? Someone would probably feel the need to add, "Madame, il pluet." [Madame, it's raining.]

I didn't realize until I had toddlers that the Present Obvious is the preferred tense for the two-year-old set, too. 

"Mama! Mama! Big truck! I see big truck!"
"This Maddie's duckie."
"Paul put gas in MaddieRiley car."
"Ba holding Riley's hand."
"This hot."
"Maddie drinking agua."
"This pink cup."
"Riley working." [as he bangs on the fence with a water bottle]

The Present Obvious does not lend itself well to conversation; once the obvious has been stated, there's not much left to say. Of course, with the twins, I validate what they've said and try to ask a follow-up question (What color is the big truck? What is your duckie's name? etc.) But it's interesting to me how the twins love to comment on their world, and how everything they see is worthy of making a comment on. Part of it is that this is their level of language right now—we're just not yet to the point of having philosophical discussions. But it's also related to what they find interesting and what they notice, often things that to me are totally unremarkable and even boring. 

*************************************
I went to the movies with Gio last night; we saw Sex and the City. It was wonderful and perfect, over two hours of total fluff and complete escapism. My dinner consisted of hot pretzels with cheese, Raisinets, and Diet Coke. I laughed and cried. 

I absolutely love going to the movies. I'm one of those people who gets completely sucked in by the experience. I truly forget where I am and become a part of the action on the big screen. It's one of the few times in my life when I'm totally in the moment. I never see what's coming next, I only see what's there, right in front of me at that very second.

John got a total kick out of this. When we watched the movie "Miracle" together, about the U.S. hockey team's defeat of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, I was a wreck in the last few minutes of the game. I was gripping John's arm and could barely look at the screen. "Goose," John said, "you know who wins!" True, but in the moment, I was giving no thought to what was coming next. 

This total absorption makes movie-watching very exciting for me, and it's what makes going to the movies feel like the ultimate indulgence. When I'm at the movies, no part of my brain is thinking about the laundry or other chores. I'm not worried about the fact that I have not been exercising enough or that I yelled at the twins over nothing or that I feel sad. The movies are a total escape from reality, and going to the theater is the thing I miss most about my pre-child life. John and I went to the movies a lot, once a week on average. It was our thing, our way to get away. 

The timing on movies is tricky. Showtimes are usually around 7:00 p.m. and around 9:00 p.m. To be at a 7:00 movie, I have to have have a babysitter who feels comfortable putting the twins to bed. If I go to a 9:00 show, there is every chance that I will fall asleep before the movie is over. So I haven't made it to the movies much since Maddie and Riley were born. But as they get older, it gets easier for someone else to put them to bed. I'm thinking that I need to get out to the movies more often, maybe once a month. Gio and I saw the preview for Mamma Mia last night—that might have to be my next big escape.


32 comments:

Deb said...

Glad you two had a good evening. It is so important to be able to just get out once in a while and reconnect - without kids. Of course with you two, you have the kids in common so thats nice too. Glad you have each other - very cool.

jenn3 said...

I totally know what you mean about toddlers commenting on the obvious. It's something I never noticed before having my daughter.

I'm the same way about going to the movies. I LOVE going and, as a single mom, almost never get to go anymore. I get so excited when I get the chance to go. It's almost sad. :)

Anonymous said...

I saw the musical version of Mamma Mia - great fun.

Tamar

KCRSummertime said...

When I was in college, I went to Paris by myself for the first time. I was walking up a narrow cobbled street, passing one of those lovely, delicious French fruit & vegetable stands, when a clementine fell off the display and rolled down the street. I bent over and caught it, and a young man passing by said, "Vous avez gagner une clementine!"

It's about my favorite travel memory, because I realized that even with my pathetic high school French, I knew immediately exactly what he said, and was able to share the laugh. I didn't know it was because he was using the Present Obvious! :-D

moo said...

I don't really enjoy going to the movies these days ... perhaps I'm getting old. Still, I HAVE had those experiences like you describe, where you are totally in the moment.

I think a movie a month club for you would be an excellent idea!

Anonymous said...

Every time that the kids say something in the Present Obvious, even if it is a one word sentence ("Airplane!") they've handed you a wonderful built-in teaching opportunity. "Yes, looks like a jet. It must be maybe 25,000, 30,000 feet up there."
"Pink cup!" "It's about half full. If you drink a little more, how full will it be? . . . Yes, you drank some down. Look--now it's about a quarter full."
"Agua." "Right. And the Spanish for cup is copa."
You can do concepts: time, size and weight, estimation, colors, prediction, history, bilingualism--whatever--simply by expanding on their sentences and introducing whatever you want to at that moment.
Pat

NanarocksWeen said...

My two daughters (ages 35 and 37)and I went to see SATC The Movie last Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (cost=$5.00/ea.)
and we loved it. The theater was full! Movies can take us "away" for awhile, and I, too, appreciate the experience. I saw Mama Mia on Broadway WAY too many times, but I'll see the movie, as it looks like just plain FUN, as was the musical - at least the first couple times :-)

Becky said...

Yes, Mama Mia looks like so much fun!!

Jen said...

I never get to the movies either. We should go together! (Totally agree about the awkwardness of movie times.) This week is too busy for a So You Think You Can Dance get-together, but maybe we can do next week? Let me know.

With all due respect to Pat's comment about the teaching opportunities of the Present Obvious, oof! So much extra work! ;-) Rest assured that your kids are getting plenty of instruction from you already. Sometime when you have extra energy (!) you can work in a math lesson about how much milk is left. 90% of the time I just say "Yeah! That IS a pink cup!" (or whatever the easy response is). I feel confident ASH will get plenty of learning done nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

PS... the boat sinks in Titantic.

Kathleen999 said...

Yes, I am the same way about movies. I think it's a great way to be, except during the scary ones. I have to leave the theater or sometimes can't even go. I didn't sleep all night after seeing The Sixth Sense. My husband has to remind me that just off camera, the crew is eating donuts. That reminds me that it's not real.

I am looking forward to Mamma Mia too! It looks great. Am seeing Sex this weekend.

Denise said...

I have exactly the same complaint about movie times. Now that the kids are older, they are easier to put to bed, and I am sometimes able to get the babysitter to come earlier, but it always seems really rushed. Why not an 8:00 movie for us parents?

Kristin.... said...

Yes, toddlers are the master/mistress of the obvious. It's actually quite funny to converse with them knowing that.

Oh a movie. I haven't been to the movies in 5 years. I've set a precedent and am not going to break it now!

laura said...

I'm so glad to read your post!! When people ask me what the twins (just turned 2) are saying and talking about, i tell everyone that it's all about stating the obvious. Everything is some sort of comment about what is currently occuring. Cracks me up.

I'm with you on the movie experience. I love getting sucked into what's on the screen, and I for some strange reason, love sharing that experience with a room full of strangers ...

I just saw SATC too ... I laughed so hard I cried, and cried so hard I laughed. A good girls night.

Anonymous said...

My two year-old son the other day...I touch it, I touch rain! I wish I could have a video camera with me all the time to capture those moments.

Totally agree about losing yourself in the movies and not getting to go to them often enough.

BrooklynGirl said...

I have a hard time getting out for exactly the same reason...our bedtimes are still such a challenge that I feel wrong foisting them on someone else.

I did think about going to see SATC (or even Indiana Jones) the other night, but my movie enjoyment is so much about the large Diet Coke and now that I'm old if I have caffeine after 4 pm or so I can't sleep. Not fair.

Cair said...

The difference between your kids and the Gabonese is that your kids will outgrow the use of the present obvious tense. I have not quite 2-year-old neighbors on both sides so I've heard a lot of the present obvious recently. As a person who doesn't have to deal with it constantly I like it, it reminds me how everything is new and amazing to these little kids. I don't think I was quite so generous when my daughter was that age.

Enjoy. This too shall pass. Soon enough you'll be trying to answer your 4-year old asking how babies get in the belly of the mother (but how?), or how does the engine make the car move? It might even make you yearn for "mommy go pee-pee."

Shamelessly Sassy said...

I miss the days of my daughter speaking the present obvious tense. I went to see Sex & the City this week end too. Loved it. I went to a theatre with a bar. So it was even better.

ricky said...

i watch movies much the same way...totally in the moment. but only at the movie theatre. and not yet since the twins came. maybe sometime soon i will have to get back.

it would be interesting to mark when the twins move out of the obvious stage....it will probably be one of those things that you notice and cannot remember when it happened. seems to happen to me all the time as our twins get older.

Jody said...

I totally know what you mean about getting lost in the movie. Whenever I see "Back To The Future" the whole clocktower sequence at the end stresses me out. (Will it work?! Will it not work?! Yes, I'm a dork.)

Juicebox Mom said...

I totally agree about movies lately, what a great escape. I've recently discovered going to movies alone is a wonderful thing and even magnifies the escape experience. Enjoy!

liz said...

Forbidden Kingdom was great and totally worth going to see it on the big screen.

And I hate to tell you, but the present obvious goes on until at least six...when the child will not only comment on the existance of rain, but then comment on the comment.

Seriously.

Keen said...

Ah, the Present Obvious tense in Africa. Good times! I had to laugh because I read this post and then thought of you when I took the boys to the strip mall in the stroller and Primo kept up the running commentary: "Esta puerta está cerrada. Esta puerta también está cerrada." After every. single. closed door we passed. It doesn't get any more boring than that.

I also watched SATC on Friday, after a hellish week of work. Let's hear it for escapism! I'm with you--I never see what's coming next. It's like that part of my brain shuts down, because I just don't want to know what's coming. And if anyone tries to tell me, I'm seriously annoyed.

Bambi said...

LOL. I did the same thing during Apollo 13 at the end. Later I laughed at myself for the reaction.

Catizhere said...

Oooh! Since you are a linguist can I ask you a question about tenses?

What is the proper tense to use in the case of "plead". It always sounds wrong to me when I hear a newscaster say, "The defendant pleaded guilty."

Is there such a word as "pled"?

Mary Ellen said...

I know exactly what you mean about the movies vs bedtime (theirs and mine!) Still, I'm going to try to see the Son of Rambow this weekend, which looks absolutely delightful... You have inspired me!

Juicebox Mom said...

The present obvious comes back around age 12 (girls) and 14 (boys)...and it's not nearly as adorable. Enjoy it now

liz said...

Have your kids watched Oobi yet? MM LOVED that show, and so did MS and I. Once you get past their speech patterns which includes quite a bit of present obvious and very few pronouns, the show is charming, funny, and clever.

Pixxiee said...

I'm looking forward to Mamma Mia too! How about on the weekend taking in a matinee session rather than having the juggling act at night? And it won't be long before you are taking the twins to see kid movies - ha! Dr Horton anyone?

Holly said...

I'm fairly new to your blog. I love your stories and your sense of humor. I'm the same way with movies and haven't been to one since I was pregnant (I have an 18 month old). I'm so happy that you were able to make SATC! Jealous but happy:)

sheilah said...

How funny. My son at your kid's age also used agua and water interchangeably. I am not sure where he got it from (from where he got it??).

Julia said...

Or, you can go to a matinée on a weekend. The kids could hang with friends or a babysitter. And it is cheaper that way. :)