Rock recently recommended that I read the book Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. He was so sure that I would love it that he asked me nearly every day for a month if I had started reading the book yet. I finally read it this last week and he was right I loved it. It was beautiful, but more than that I could relate to the little girl's experience learning English.
I learned to speak English first, but when we moved to Mexico where my father accepted a job at the University I forgot it all. Reading this book brought back so many memories.
I started my formal education in Mexico and I have vivid memories of that time. Everything was more colorful, flavorful, and vibrant, but isn't that how memories are.
I remember crossing railroad tracks to get to the school, wearing a white uniform and singing out in the courtyard. I would sit at my desk looking out through a wall of windows at the beautiful flowers in the courtyard and drawing picture after picture. I'm sure I did other work, but the art stands out most in my memories as well in some of my parents. Apparently at this point in my life I would wake up in the early morning hours (4 am) to color and draw.
The following year I began kindergarten, here in the states. I had forgotten most of my English, but immersion is an excellent way to learn a language quickly so I just started right into classes. Communication between the administration and the teacher was not very good because my mother quickly received a phone call discussing my placement into a program for developmentally disabled children. I was failing to complete my assignments and follow directions, unfortunately I had no idea what was being asked of me those first few days/weeks. My mother quickly explained that I didn't remember English.
It's interesting what memories are still strong. I was the only person in the class with black hair and the other little girls like to touch my braids. Everyone spoke to me very loudly as if that would somehow help me understand them better. No one knew "what" I was and I was quickly given the nickname "Chang" which stayed for may years. Sometimes children can be cruel.
I remember looking up at the alphabet train that ran along the wall of my new classroom and wondering what happened to the "ch" and the other Spanish letters. There were so many phonetic rules that didn't make any sense, especially after including the exceptions. The simplicity of sounds in Spanish was no longer part of my learning,.
I remember everyone getting up and leaving the room. I sat there wondering what I was supposed to do next.
I remember being so glad to finally go home and be with my family.
Those first memories of kindergarten have stayed with me and came rushing back as I read the pages of this lovely book that my darling son knew I would love. What a lovely blessing he is in my life!