We had a charming but odd encounter with a Chinese family at the library yesterday. I had been wandering around the serious novels, and the boys were up the opposite end looking at Horrible History paperbacks (Marcus) and large DK nonfiction hardbacks about lizards and comets (Michael). On my way back through I spotted Marcus in the kids' picture book nook, waving. I went over and he had a buddy, a 2yo boy named William. Marcus had been reading to him.
Marcus is great with smaller children - he suddenly becomes relaxed and gentle. I had a chat to William, and his mum translated for me - it turns out they only speak Chinese at home, so he doesn't understand English. They were visiting for the day from Launceston - I think both parents are studying. William's mum introduced herself as Maggie. She was full of effusive praise for Marcus - so gentle, so patient, so SMART, look at this book he is reading, goodness, its full of big words, so clever, so patient. Maggie's mother was in the background nodding and making the same noises but in Chinese.
Marcus was squirming and so was I - neither of us are good at dealing graciously with praise. I told Maggie Marcus' name - she found it hard to say both syllables. Mostly it came out as 'Max' but after a bit more coaching from me it became 'Marx'.
Granma chimed in at this stage with another smiling volley of Chinese with much nodding. Maggie translated "My mother says it is not surprising that your boy is very smart. Chinese people think very highly of a man who was born in Russia, and his name was Marx too. He was very, very smart, and that's why your boy is as well".
Marx was German, but we took the compliment on board anyway. They were lovely people, and I appreciated very much what they had said, but I realised at that point that I had a big sweat patch on my chest, from the sheer effort of keeping up one end of the conversation. I said something lame about finding some CDs and wandered off to evaporate.