The Question of China
By: Barbara Matousek
“Mom, what does C-H-I-N-A spell?” He asks from the backseat.
This is his latest used-to-be-cute-but-is-now-really-annoying obsession. This morning as I was making pancakes and his baby sister screamed for bananas and milk and uppie-uppie-uppie, Sam read me the titles of all 50 of his Pokemon cards, frequently mixing up the T’s and the F’s and the small L’s with I’s and the B’s and the D’s so that half of what I heard didn’t make sense. (What does K-I-I-I-I-T spell?) Now he holds a tiny white plastic baseball and a little red and white clicking toy that were in the giftbag from a 4-year-old baseball birthday party. Eva screams from the other side of the car.
“Give her a toy, Sammy. Give her something to play with,” I say.
“But what does C-H-I…”
“China,” I say. “PLEASE give Eva a toy.”
Eva’s screams escalate.
“PLEASE GIVE HER A TOY. NOW!”
“But I don’t want to give her any of my baseballs,” he says and Eva adds kicking to the screaming.
“Just give her something.” I turn to look at the cracker-crusted, blueberry-smeared seat in between them. “Give her that plastic Pokemon you got from McDonald’s. It’s right there on the seat.”
“But I don’t want to give her any Pokemon stuff.”
“Sam. Do you want me to take away your Pokemon cards for a week?”
He immediately reaches in to the netting hanging on the back of the passenger seat of the car and hands Eva something plastic.
“Here Eva,” he says “It’s a truck. Take it.” He talks in a high pitched up-and-down baby-talk voice that he uses only for her, and she is quiet. “It’s a truck. Take a fun truck.”
I exhale and put the rear-view mirror back to its right position, and I can actually hear the tires on the road.
“Mom, what’s China?”
“It’s a country. A country way on the other side of the world.”
“Why does this toy say China on it?”
“Because that’s where it was made. Lots of cheap toys are made in China.”
“Do they make toys in America?”
“Then why do we buy toys from the other side of the world?”
“I don’t know, Sammy. Good question.”