During this past week, I was invited to attend an Open House at one of the schools that is associated with this parish. When I arrived (just a few moments before the scheduled beginning of all the festivities) there were so many other cars present that I had to search for what seemed an eternity to find a place to leave my car. Finally, I ended up parking around the block (something I’d never had to do on previous visits), and walk quickly toward the main entrance of the school. Because of crowd control, the teachers had locked all the other doors which might normally be accessible at other times of the day. By the time I managed to find my way to the gymnasium, there was almost nowhere to sit and it seemed as though all the students were present … and this time they had brought their parents along with them.
I wasn’t surprised to see the teachers. I wasn’t surprised to see the principal … I wasn’t even surprised when she invited me to join her at the podium so that we could begin the formal part of the evening. No, the surprise that was waiting for me didn’t happen until most of the students had left the gym and made their way to their respective classrooms, parents in tow. Since this time was primarily meant for parents to meet the teachers and to get an overview of the way things run from day to day in their children’s classrooms, I chose to stay in the gym, waiting for the eventual return of the masses. While I waited, I had a moment to chat with some of the other adults who were there: support staff, members of the Parent Advisory Council … and one other family.
I was standing near a table where various articles of clothing (which were being referred to as spirit wear) were on display. Parents were approaching along with their children in order to verify the sizes of sweatpants, long-sleeved tee shirts and hooded jackets (otherwise referred to as hoodies). The idea was that they would subsequently be able to order the articles they desired (presumably in the correct sizes). One mother approached the table accompanied by her son. She was asking questions about the sizes, but it was evident that English was not her first language. She looked curiously at the indications of sizes marked on the inside tags of the clothing: XL, M, S … there were no Ls for some reason. As I continued to listen from a distance, trying to assist her with her quest, I noticed that she would speak to her son (who I presumed from his size to be one of the students) in a language which sounded like Spanish (although they were speaking so quickly that at times it was difficult for me to be sure. A little while later, a man arrived and conversed with both of them in the same language. They spoke to each other in this language, but were careful to speak to me and to others around them in English. Finally, as they turned to go, I ventured a greeting: Mucho gusto! (Nice to meet you!)
They all stopped and looked at me in disbelief. The father spoke first: Espanol? I told him that I speak fluently in a few languages, and that I’m hoping to learn more Spanish. We chatted for a while longer, and eventually parted with a promise that their child will help me to learn more Spanish if I help him to practice his English (and maybe even his French).