Tráeme Una Cerveza Now, Punk!

As a parent I’ve done one thing right over the past year. Well, maybe there were…well, there was the time when…wait, no…yeah, just the one thing.
Anyway, I did one thing right. We were faced with an upheaval with regards to the kids’ school. One was going to be going to middle school, one going into the fourth grade and, after five years at the same school, we were told that our kids wouldn’t be allowed school of choice. Both boys would have to go to a new school.
Since we live very close to the local charter school we took a chance, filled out a mountain of paperwork and got The Oldest and The Middle onto the waiting list (numbers 20 and 21 respectively). A couple of months later we got the call that they were in.
Right away I was impressed with the advanced curriculum. My kids were both learning Latin and Spanish in addition to the other core classes. Having taken quite a bit of Spanish myself during college, I was excited for the chance to share this new language with them. My mind was in constant motion trying to remember what I had learned so many years ago. Not just the nouns and sentence structure, but how to conjugate verb forms.
I began to realize that there are certain words and phrases that are easily recalled and others that I struggle with. It makes me think a lot about the science of memory. Why do we remember some things so much easier than others? Is it that I learned and remembered certain things because they were so important to me at the time? Did I recognize these words as fundamental to my future survival and lock them away in a special file for easy retrieval? Or, is it because of the importance these things hold in my life now? Did I search more deeply through my files to retrieve them because they are fundamental to my survival now?
Either way, it’s troubling. The fact is, based on my current understanding of, and ability to use, the Spanish language I can order food, cocktails and find a bathroom in any Spanish-speaking nation (not only can I order a beer, wine or vodka in Spanish, it seems I’ve retained the ability to do so in sign language as well).
Even more disturbing is the fact that I can clearly instruct someone “take off all your clothes” (I’m sure there’s a story there and you can be sure I won’t be sharing it).
The fact is that all of my imagined bonding with my children over a new language isn’t shaping up the way it was supposed to. There won’t be any leisurely afternoons spent talking about our gringo family members behind their backs. No long conversations about Bless Me Última after we’ve all read it (in Spanish, of course). My kids will be just like me, using every bit of Spanish they know to order enchiladas a là diablo and una cerveza at a dive just outside of Cancún. Oh, and ordering people to take off their clothes.
That’s the whole apple & the tree thing at work (or: la manzana y el árbol)

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