She's crying and clinging to Puo Puo, wailing and gasping because she is herself and the earth, the earth is woe. Because God and the Universe, or whoever is in charge of this mess, saw to it that Isabel would remain Isabel and not become Puo Puo. She is Isabel and cannot be anyone else. The realization, when it hits her, results in this whatever-you-call-it, not a tantrum, but a six-year-old's stormy grief.
Mom had been making lunch and Izzy was helping. And then I looked up from my book and she was bawling "I want to be Puo Puo," muffled into my mom's belly. Hard tears soaking mom's blue shirt. In my oblivious and helpful way, I picked up the knife lying on the cutting board and finished slicing the tofu, which set Isabel off again. She couldn't cut tofu in straight square strips like Puo Puo did, or even like Auntie Caren did. And from that, I guess, the tears. The mourning. Cause and effect. I think.
I'm pretty sure I laughed a little, which I now think back on with shame, because I remember reacting in helpless fury at grownups who laughed at me while I cried. With this in mind, I managed to refrain from making her tears into a joke, but I did snap one discreet photo, when I was sure Izzy couldn't see me. Possibly my best camerawork yet.
I'm still working it out in my head. She didn't want to "cut tofu like Puo Puo," or to "be like Puo Puo." She actually wanted to BE Puo Puo, which made us gather around and say limp helpless sentences such as, "but you're Izzy," and "Izzy is wonderful," and "Puo Puo's been cutting tofu for forty years." Mom whispered into her hair, "You cannot be me. God made you, you."
And eventually, leaning on that grandmotherly belly, the wailing wore down to some whimpering, the whimpering to just a few hiccups, and it was over. The crying, that is. But she is still Izzy. And she is not Puo Puo.