Last night I took my mother-in-law to her first day of school. Well not ever of course, but her first day of school in oh about 3 decades or so. Since coming here Carmen hasn't gone anywhere by herself because she is terrified of having to try to speak English with someone. She's embarrassed that people will think her lack of English rude. I've told her ad naseum that ESL is kind of just par for the course here in California but manners are very important to her. She is a lady after all. So we were both pretty excited for her first day of night school.
Except... when we got there and it was time for me to leave while she studied I started panicking. I've never left her alone anywhere, let alone in a room full of strangers. Mostly non-English speaking strangers like her but still A ROOM FULL OF STRANGERS. Strangers that had started in the class together 5 weeks earlier than her!
I'm not sure what danger I thought would befall her at ESL school but it nearly broke my heart to leave her there all alone at school, so sweet with her red sweater, ponytail and newly purchased green notebook. As I left her expression was one of resolute bravery. Her face said "I'm scared but I'm going to do this."
I almost cried in the hallway. Every morning I cheerfully say goodbye to my hysterical tear-streaked toddler without a second thought but Carmen's stoicism broke my heart of stone.
I needn't have bothered with the drama though. When I came back 2.5 hours later I peeked through the door crack and saw her laughing with her classmates like a 16-year-old girl. Turns out she made friends with a nice 20-year-old Mexican man who was sitting next to her. She was beaming with pleasure as she packed up her notebook and pencils. "I did so good!" she told me. "That nice young man helped me!"
I agreed that a handsome young classmate does make English class much more enjoyable. "And" she continued proudly "The things Arnold taught me were some of the things we learned today!" "Oh?" I said wondering when she had found the time to employ useful phrases like "My name is Queen Carmen.", "Hell no" and "Are you kidding me?" "Yes" she said "I told the whole class. 'Nice to meet you. My name is Carmen and I am from Colombia.'" As she relived this triumphant moment with such euphoria my heart swelled with joy so much that I thought it would burst.
Heck yeah you are Carmen from Colombia and you are one kick-ass Grandma/English Student!!!