Two doors down from us lives the most delightful little family. They have an adorable 3yo boy who talks a mile a minute and obsesses over balls and bikes. They have a 5yo girl who is about the sweetest thing I've ever encountered. They play beautifully with my dc. As a matter of fact, they've become about my favorite children to have over without mommas around because everyone plays with everyone and no one gets their feelings hurt.
They also just so happen to speak about a dozen words each in English.
Both of our families moved in about 3 1/2 years ago. We were fresh from the South and they were fresh from the way south, also known as Mexico. For a few weeks, the mom and I made huge efforts to gather in the common area and watch the children play. Pretty quickly, though, the language barrier became too much. The mother told me in broken English one afternoon that trying to talk with me made her "shy." Yikes! I had no intention of making her uncomfortable, but somehow I had managed, in my enthusiasm to have a friend in the neighborhood, to freak her out. I apologized profusely. She finally said that it wasn't me (thank goodness!), but rather, the problems of communicating with someone whose grasp of her mother tongue went as far as what Dora the Explorer had introduced on that morning's video. For her part, while I found her English to actually be quite good, she said she could only understand "tiny, tiny" of what I was saying.
Needless to say, the friendship never took off. I met a group of moms in the neighborhood, and she connected with a church of fellow Mexican nationals. While we wave at one another on our way to get the mail, we've rarely spoken in 3 1/2 years.
Somehow, though, the most amazing thing has happened this summer. Our kids, neighbors for most of their little lives, have discovered each other at last!
My older two children use Rosetta Stone Spanish, and my 4yo listens in and has a pretty decent vocabulary as well. I've picked up enough Spanish in the past three years to get by in a casual setting thanks to overseeing the Rosetta Stone and helping dh fund-raise at a Spanish-language only church near-by. In the meantime, the children down the street have gotten a few key phrases in English down pat--mostly things about Batman and Dora, but English nonetheless. Put all of us together and we can tell someone when their pelota es debajo de un carro or whether or not Batman can go in the water.
It's a start.
Jo, Atticus and Logan are so tickled with their newfound playmates (who like soccer as much as they do!). They've taken joy in comparing Mexico and Georgia, in riding their bikes at break-neck speeds and in kicking, kicking, kicking that football all over the street. It's absolutely contagious. Their mother has yet to venture out and watch them play this summer. I'm sure she is still uncomfortable with the idea of trying to labor through a conversation with me and is staying snug inside her house. But, you know what? I'm going to make a little gesture anyway. I baked some cookies this afternoon and we're taking them over for their family. Maybe the spirit of acceptance and love our children have kindled with one another is catching.