Let’s start with background info: my father is both an engineering physicist and a tech entrepreneur. Add to that Olympic athlete and type A+ personality, and you have a world-class Explainer. My dad is so good at Explaining Things nobody even knew existed, much less needed explaining, that some time ago I started a Dad Explains It video collection.
In this collection you can find such explanations as the anti-slip rubberbander (see below); how to separate an egg using a plastic bottle (a favorite – highly recommend); why an empty wine glass will, albeit unsatisfactorily, substitute for spectacles in a pinch; how to fix your fire truck ladder with glue, and how glue works; how to make a one-flip pancake; advanced paper-lantern lighting in a five-pointed star from Nepal; why it is easy to rip saran wrap in one direction but not the other; and a best-hit, the benefits of curtain velcro. My mom typically plays a key supporting role in these videos, as herself:
On the Explaining front, Dad and Aamaa turn out to be a match made in heaven. Because Aamaa requires explanations of everything from traffic lights to faucets, and Dad has a limitless endurance – some might even say compulsion – to leave no beautiful creation of the universe Unexplained. This is extremely handy for all of us. We girls (Bishnu and Mom and I) just aim them at each other and go about our business.
Over the weekend, we’ve made a family visit to a high rise apartment being constructed in downtown Bethesda. Aamaa is curious about all forms of construction. Like my nephew Jonah, she presses her nose to the window every time we drive past something being built. I decide this comes in the same vein as knowing the origins of food and other things that in Aamaa’s world travel very short distances from creation to use. There are comparatively few things in her life that just appear with no traceable origins–I mean, back in the day, Aamaa and Hadjur Aamaa used to walk to the border of Tibet with baskets to trade for salt. Even modern concrete houses in Kaski are constructed without machinery using materials readily available in the local environment. So a suburban high rise presents a mystery on many levels. How is it all put together? Where does it come from?
First we stop at the building company, where we are provided hard hats. We all agree that Aamaa kills in the hard hat. (She has to sign a visitor agreement, and since Aamaa can’t write her name, she uses a kind of plus sign – it is always strange to see Aamaa’s incredibly dextrous hands fumble unfamiliarly with a pen.) Then we head across the street to a service elevator that is in place just for purpose of constructing the high-rise. When Aamaa and I were in Kathmandu a few weeks ago, we visited the third-floor rooftop of a mall. “Holy crap this is high up,” Aamaa proclaimed. “All the buildings in Kathmandu are enormous.”
“Push the button for floor seventeen!” Mom cries as we enter the service elevator.
Aamaa grasps Mom with both hands and the elevator lifts us off the ground with a jolt.
We wander the half-built highrise apartment, whose main walls are still open to the sky. Aamaa and Dad are transformed in to a superhero team patrolling Gotham City: there are things that need explaining EVERYWHERE. The space is divided by empty wall frames which have mammoth-size pallets of insulation stacked up between them. Dad and Aamaa commence an epic geek-out over insulation and plaster, and then shift their nerdfest to the feat of having transported the insulation – and the rest of this stuff – seventeen floors above the ground. Where will the plumbing go? And electricity?
The construction company employee treats us to a view of the roof. Aamaa has surprised us all with an ominously keen sense of direction in this unfamiliar world. The first few days after she arrived, we were driving around in Connecticut when we approached the drug store on the corner of my street. “This is your street, right?” Aamaa asked, before I had made the turn. I was absolutely baffled that she could get oriented so quickly when most of the visual landmarks are foreign objects with no inherent meaning, like a drug store. Now, on the roof of the high-rise apartment, Aamaa surveys the city below, which she has spent some time touring with Bishnu and me. She extends one finger toward the top of some buildings.
“The subway is in that direction, right?” she asks, correctly.
My Dad becomes ecstatic over Aamaa’s engineer-like spacial acuity. My Mom responds by scanning the horizon herself.
“And over there I see…Machhapuchhre!” she announces.
A few days later we went to go visit Great Falls and the Tow Path and along the Potomac River, where my parents used to take us for hikes on the weekends. Back then we had a special rock bench that my brother and I “discovered,” and which was, for purposes of eating a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, the target of every summer expedition we made to Great Falls. My dad and I have both rowed many miles on the Potomac River, and on the fourth of July our family would come to the boat house and put on smelly life jackets and watch the fireworks from canoes on the water. This area is part of the circulatory system of our family. We pulled in to the parking lot at Great Falls with Aamaa.
For some reason that now I can’t completely put together, one of the first things to occur was that Aamaa and Dad got to trading their shade-producing accessories. I’ll just leave that there.
The only major bodies of water near Kaskikot are the Gandaki River and Phewa Lake. The first, we can cross through the riverbed in our flip flops unless a flood or unusually extreme rain has come through. The second can be crossed by paddle boat in about half an hour. So Great Falls was…great.
And now another confession. For all the years that my family has spent at Great Falls, for all the rowing and firework-watching and picnicking…my brother and I somehow both grew up thinking this was the “Toe Path.”
I know. It’s bad. Because of the Explaining that is required with Aamaa there, this comes up in conversation.
“What?” my dad says, with the displeasure of a Master Explainer who has realized, at a time when his offspring are grown-ass adults raising children and trying to survive in the world on their own, that something so basic, and so explainable, and so important to the family history as the tow path, NEVER. GOT. EXPLAINED.
Dad explains the history of the C & O Canal as a trade route, complete with a detailed explanation of the the locking mechanisms that allowed canal boats to move upriver. And, swept up in all this Explaining, Dad finally breaks out in to song. This is a thing that happens sometimes.
And so on. Lead the way, Dad!!
*Bonus reel (true undoctored historical evidence)*: