Monday, December 28, 2009

Going home for Christmas

Going home for Christmas is always interesting* tiring, and tasty.

The transportation is always a bit of a pain but once I arrive there are cookies to be baked and Gravlox to be um, cooled, packages to wrap and children to amuse. There's a Christmas Eve party we attend every year followed by church at 11 PM. We watch the choir process and listen to to the Christmas homily (this year "Change brought by a Palestinian peasant lying in a feed trough") and light our candles for "Silent Night"

But the thing that's been nagging at me for a few Christmases is Christmas dinner at my sister's house. My sister's husband Miguel is from Puebla in Mexico and most of the people who attend the dinner are more comfortable speaking Spanish than they are speaking English. I have nothing against that-rather every year I grow more annoyed with myself for not bothering to take a class in Spanish.

It's not that I want to intrude on their family conversation-its more a matter of respect-particularly since I know that I am language receptive. I don't say this to boast-its just one of the things that I can do. And because language is one of the things I can do easily I am annoyed with myself for not having taken Spanish 101 again.

I don't want to be the Caucasian girl who has deigned to learn a few words in Spanish. I just want to be able to say "pass the salt" or "that's a nice sweater you're wearing" or "wow this is delicious"or "Don't clean up the toys-Susi would prefer if you left them for Jack and Juliet to clean up-since it's their mess."

As I mentioned above-I don't want to intrude-if they all spoke English there would still be some conversations I would have no business putting my oar into and I'm (hopefully) old enough to understand where not to put my foot. But when I go to my sister's house and there are a lot of Miguel's relatives around (good people all) I always feel like "That White Girl With an iPhone-Susi's Sister." Subtext-"who don't know shit."

Because I absorb languages (starting with a background in French and ill-remembered Spanish) I understand some of what people are saying. I laugh and nod, to indicate my understanding (so I'm hoping my sister's relatives have upgraded me to the equivalent of mildly retarded in Spanish)

*when I was a kid trying to describe things to the Parents they wouldn't let me use this word because its too general.

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