Maybe it was the authoritative way she walked up to the lectern. Or the dark hair. Or her facial expression.
It was just something about her. As I sat there trying to grasp her Spanish, a memory came rushing back to me of a woman I hadn’t thought of, probably, in 30 years: that woman doing the reading in Mass yesterday evening reminded me strikingly of one of my high school Spanish teachers.
About “age 50,” she had escorted a couple of dozen kids (about ages 11 or 12; likely a Catechism class) into the church.
As she read, I kept waiting for “Señora” to look up over her glasses and abruptly exclaim “¡Silencio, por favor!” at misbehaving, chattering students…. behind me, long ago, on another continent. She would then turn to me sitting there quietly to the side, not making trouble. And, of course, she would pick on *me* to share with everyone how to conjugate an irregular verb in the subjunctive.
* * *
I did Spanish from grades 7 thru high school graduation at the end of grade 12. (That’s ages 12-17.) When I’d had to choose a foreign language at age 12, my mother had insisted on Spanish. She had also reassured me I should because she could help me.
Yeh, right. As I recall, her residual knowledge from her own high school days decades before helped me for about the first six weeks of 7th grade. After that, I was entirely on my own.
I did pretty well in it throughout school, but never “loved” it. I wanted to change to French in 10th grade. Oh, and, yes, err, my first, uh, “girlfriend” (until she moved away) was doing French; and I suspect my mother was horrified, as many a mother is, at even the thought of her son’s having a “first girlfriend.”
My mother wouldn’t budge on the language: No, I could not change, she pronounced. At the time – in that sullen, moody, teenage boy way – I hated her over that. Remembering it recently, I slipped it into one of my books:
Novel-writing: now and then, a form of group therapy for authors.
* * *
We have heard Americans over in the States declare they won’t visit continental Europe because of the language “barrier.” It’s not a problem, trust me. Most of the time, there really isn’t one.
In most of “tourist” Europe, English is spoken in the tourist trade. In fact, between all of the millions of British and Irish tourists and expats, and Northern Europeans (such as Germans and Scandinavians, most of whom have English as a second language and often speak it fluently themselves), I can’t see how someone can even hope to work in tourism here if they don’t know at least a little bit of English. They probably have to know “some” if they even hope to get hired in the first place.
Naturally, that doesn’t mean they’ll speak it like Shakespeare either. After church yesterday, we’d stopped in at a “designer” perfume shop where my wife had ordered a fragrance a few days ago. The (tourist English-speaking) Spanish woman we’d seen at the time had asked us to come back in a day or two, when they would have it in.
When we returned last night, by chance we saw a young woman who had been part of that “ordering” discussion (although she hadn’t taken the order and we hadn’t spoken with her). She remembered us. She immediately broke into fairly good English herself.
At the cash register, however, the glamorous young woman tried to make a joke in English, and in doing so may have pushed her fluency a little too far.
“Do you take American Express?” my wife asked as she took out the card.
“Ah, yes, American Express,” she smiled and laughed a little, “but only if you have some money.”
We must’ve looked baffled. She repeated herself and this time was clearer. She’d meant yes they did, but only if we’d had credit available on the card to actually pay.
* * *
The Spanish are probably the latest diners in the world. At “9:30 pm,” us strange Anglo-Saxons – and even Germans and other continentals – have largely finished our meals, while most Spanish are probably still only beginning to think about maybe what they’ll wear for the evening. So we tried to go out to dinner a little later last night.
Real Madrid was playing Barcelona during our meal. Huge game. Another restaurant several doors down had a television, so when goals were scored the yelling and cheering was, well, loud.
However, we couldn’t tell who was winning. Nor did we have the slightest clue who, here in the Canary Islands, might be supporting whom. Suddenly, I saw our late twenties-something server dancing around with his hands over his head out in the middle of the [pedestrianized] street.
As he came over to us again moments later, I asked, “Who won?”
“Barcelona, 1,” he raised a finger at me and smiled broadly, “Real Madrid 2!”
And he danced around in a circle again.
It’s great when your restaurant server is happy!
* * *
One last thing. You may recall how, in yesterday’s post, I described myself struggling up a cliff side. There was even a slim chance of my plunging off into a ravine.
Ahem. That is now my “most liked” post of all time.
I’m not quite sure what to make of that. 🙂