By Heather O.
I spent a summer in Switzerland when I was 15. Not the whole summer—looking back, it was a week shy of 2 months, but in my 15 year old brain, it felt like an eternity. I was eager to do and learn everything. Even helping my host mother in the garden felt interesting. Shopping with her blew my brain, and when I took a solo journey to a craft store to buy my host sister some colored pencils for her birthday, I felt, in a word, totally awesome.
I also was never afraid to talk. I talked, and talked, and talked. I was confused a lot, I was corrected a lot, and people smiled that small smile they use when children are trying hard to learn. But in the end, I learned. A lot.
My son isn’t, though. As we were walking to the grocery store today, he enthusiastically greeted everybody with a friendly “Shalom!” He didn’t get many replies, as people in our neighborhood don’t seem overly friendly. That didn’t deter him, though. He knows one word in Hebrew, and he’s going to use it, dang it.
I did try to use some English, but only out of necessity. I asked a dude at the bus stop, in English, if this was the stop for bus 26, and was met with a vague smile and a shrug. Then a taxi pulled up and honked at me, gesturing for me to get in. I walked away, and the dude at the bus stop followed me a little, pointing to the taxi. I guess a blonde woman wearing pants in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood kinda sticks out, and he figured I was lost. He wasn’t too far off, really.
I don’t know why I’m afraid to open my mouth. It’s not as if I can pass for anything other than I am—an American mother who isn’t Jewish. I can’t pretend that I am a native, so why not go whole hog and make a complete fool of myself in front of people who will never see me again and frankly don’t care if I’m an idiot or not?
At the very least, I should learn enough to navigate a grocery store. I was so overwhelmed at the store today with my two kids that I bought only basic necessities that I could recognize from either a picture or a clear packaging. Yesterday, I had to shop at the mini-mart because the grocery store was closed, and grabbed only a few things there as well. When I got home, I opened up what I thought was baby shampoo only to be met with the smell of talcum powder. Ah, you win some, you lose some.
I have to go. Little Sister is flashing the neighborhood from the balcony, naked from the waist down. Something tells me that this isn’t going to go over well.
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