And today, another. My sons have been in Spanish public school for almost a week. They’re fine. I’m….overwhelmed.
There are unspoken norms about how to say goodbye, and how to turn in paperwork, and a million other ethereal “how-tos.”
I’ve learned, from my oldest, who desperately wants to fit in, that my lunches are embarrassing, he will only hug me at home, and that I speak Spanish with an American accent. All so embarrassing.
My youngest doesn’t speak much, wearing his silence like armor. He comes home with paint under his fingernails, and sweat in his hair, so I place my trust in time.
And then there’s language. Despite the kindness of my slow-speaking Spanish friends, this week has taught me that I am far from fluent. Everybody at the school speaks like a brook—fluid, roaring, and relentless. I am swept away in its current, occasionally grasping flotsam–a noun, or a verb.
“Do you understand me?” they ask in English.
“Poco,” I reply, “Lo siento.“
There are other Americans at the school, and we muddle through the details together. It would be so easy to talk to them every day, to take refuge in our foreign status and mother tongue.
But to do so would not honor the work of my children. They, who are treading new ground, and attending their third school in one calendar year, are so very brave. And for me to cling to the familiar, while asking them to dive into the icy waters? It isn’t right.
And so, I attempt to seek out new friendships, while remaining incredibly grateful for the ones I have. I try to balance between New World and Old World, comfort and risk, safety and wonder.
It’s been five days. I still have a lot to learn.
But today? As I walked home with my boys, carrying a bag full of fresh oranges and sardines, I heard somebody calling my name.
A mother. Her son’s name is Oscar, and he is in my youngest’s class. She invited my family over to her house to swim tomorrow afternoon.
A small miracle. A sunset, dipping light into water, spreading sunshine to the ends of the earth.