I continued to not meet my book deadline by celebrating Sophie’s birthday in September, and finally making zhua zhou cards. Zua Zhou is a form of first birthday celebration that supposedly originated in dynastic China but is celebrated in lots of countries in East Asia–it’s Doljanchi in Korea, Thôi Nôi in Vietnam, and Erabitori in Japan, for example. Anciently, the procedure was to present baby with a variety of symbolic objects connected to future occupations, and whichever item baby grabbed first would give an indication of their future life. The items presented depended on gender. Girls were given jewelry, flowers, or scissors and thread, while boys could choose from items like scrolls, pen and ink, and swords. I’m not sure who thought swords would be a good idea…While the tradition used to be perceived as a peek into a child’s future, today it’s basically an event that provides blog fodder and a reminder that my kids are something or other sixteenths Chinese. So for Sophie’s first birthday, we used the cards to predict her future in the most unscientific way possible. Stella chose an onion and a calculator in 2015. Not to be outdone, Sophie surprised nobody by choosing…you’ll never guess.
The meanings of most cards are probably obvious–books for scholarship/academic inclinations/the perpetual state of limbo euphemistically dubbed “All But Dissertation,” or ABD Land; an egg beater for reigning power in the sphere of domesticity; pen and ink for literary aptitude/writerly talent…etc. But some are less obvious, like peonies for reproductive power/beauty/richness/honor/high social class; noodles for long life; or a syringe for upstanding medical professions (not intravenous drug use, silly). I threw in the cleaver just for fun. Sophie didn’t pick that one.
And Sophie picked… the same thing every kid goes for: whatever is closest to her fingers. But that’s a boring story.
We’ll go with a tie between cupcake and gramophone.
Cupcakes for the ability to enjoy the pleasures of life. Sophie regularly demonstrates her appreciation for the pleasures in life. She loves food, sparkly things, and anything soft, furry, and fuzzy. When Sophie gets really really mad or wakes up cranky from her naps and is in a foul mood, food is usually our friend. Hold a cracker in front of her face and the crying stops instantly. She squeaks excitedly when in close proximity to dogs and carnival stuffed animals. At church, she practically fell out of my arms in an attempt to snatch a lady’s glittery, neon pink scripture case. The lady was really nice and gave me the scripture case, making me promise to give it to her when she was old enough. But that decision might have been inspired more by the puddle of drool Sophie left on the handle.
Let’s just say that cupcakes don’t symbolize a potential penchant for hedonism, but instead a possible career as food critic or patissiere. Yes, that sounds nice.
And a phonograph, for what I initially thought might be musical talent. When I made the cards I was just looking for a cool picture of a musical instrument. It was going to be a violin at first, but then I stumbled upon a phonograph and chose that instead. And then later, I realized I didn’t know what a phonograph was. So I asked Google. And Google says it’s one of the most revolutionary inventions of all time, Thomas Edison’s favorite patent. That is so COOL. If you’re bored or in the bathroom with nothing to read and want to know more about phonographs, here’s a fascinating article from Smithsonian. But if you have better things to do than read about phonographs, just know that Edison’s phonograph was responsible for some major evolutions in music. 1) hits and genres emerged when producers realized they could sell music and people would need quick and easy ways to identify what they wanted; 2) songs got shorter; instead of one hour live symphonies, songs were cut to 3 minutes to accommodate a phonograph’s recording capacity; 3) genre instrumentation changed because some instruments produced better sound quality on the phonograph than others; 4) performances had to be perfect--instead of an occasional vocal slip being acceptable on stage, the most “microscopic accidents” became monumental in a recording; 5) listening to music changed–you could listen alone at home instead of going out and listening live or playing music yourself, which were your only two listening options.
All this is to say that maybe Sophie will invent something. Or be a music historian. Or own a bakery franchise. Or maybe she’ll be a *Bowling for Soup groupie who goes on pastry tours. Either way, we’ll still love her.
*#27 on a list of 60 bands named after food