We’re proud to announce the kids have learned the language.
The weather has turned. It’s summer all of the sudden – high 80s, ready-to-swim. The picture above is from a few days ago. Last weekend, Demetri’s cousin Andreas (brother to Katerina) and his wife Zara were in town, so we all met for an afternoon coffee at Notos, a lovely restaurant on the water just a few blocks from us. Michael and Georgios joined a soccer game with some big kids; Peter and Little Katerina played family and ran around, cracking each other up. They invited me to play because they were baby kittens and they needed a mommy cat. I was speaking in as much Greek as I can and saying things like “Let’s go for a walk.’ ‘Let’s go see the sea.” Little K asked me a question and I turned to Peter and asked what she said. He replied, “she wants to know if we’re going to get hurt.” Po Po! as the Greeks say. (Wow!) I had him translate more just for grins.
Later, they were playing bulls, and Katerina said she was a bull too. In Greek, Peter said, “you can’t be a bull, you’re a girl. You have to be a cow.” Big Katerina was there to hear that one. He and Little K talk exclusively in Greek. It is utterly amazing. Anna spoke to him in Greek and he responded to her. I mean, I know this is what was supposed to happen, but to see it is so fantastic.
Michael too. He understands what he reads for school and what the teachers say. He doesn’t have the vocabulary of a Greek 8 year old, but his language arts teacher tells me that’s ok. He can join a soccer game and talk to kids in the square. One night last week, there was a third-grade girl in the square who rides our bus. Michael wanted to eat quickly and go back to her because she was playing alone. I asked him if she spoke English and he said, “Um… I’m not sure.” And he ran off. This was big. Huge. Michael has been so shy to speak Greek, even though he knew what people were saying. There was a sad day in late February when he overheard a classmate say something unkind about him to another classmate. He had tears when he told me about it, saying “I know more Greek than people think I do.” I agreed with him and we encouraged him to speak more so that he doesn’t feel so isolated. He recited part of a poem at the school’s independence day program and returned from Spring Break a new man. He would have never joined a soccer game a couple of months ago, even though he really wanted to. I think having his cousin with him Saturday made him a little braver (it made George braver too), but more than anything, Michael understood them. Even better was that the soccer boys were all really nice. They patted each other on the hip when someone scored and they helped each other off the ground. When Michael slid and fell, one of them walked Michael over to me and said to me in English, “he’s a great defender.” That’s something coming from Greek kids who have had soccer balls since the minute they could stand. Michael’s eyes lit up and he had a huge grin and suddenly his shoulder didn’t hurt. (He did have a little road rash later, but he was pretty proud of it.). And he’s been practicing his ball skills ever since. Never know when a game might pop up.
Going to a Greek school was really hard in September. It’s hard to get along with people you don’t understand. How they play is different, how they express themselves is different … what seems like mean or rude behavior to one culture is nothing of the sort in another. Last summer, Demetri made up a story about two little boys who moved to a new place and didn’t know the language but after a while these little boys learned so much of the language that they helped their parents talk to people in the grocery store and at school and in restaurants or on the subway. (Yes, really, this is total fiction, despite any similarities to our family.) Anyway, the story has come true. Greek is a hard language to learn. Not only are we not exposed to it like we are Spanish, the alphabet is completely different and that’s incredibly intimidating. Learning Greek has been so empowering for both of them. Now they can laugh at funny things that happen in the classroom. And get a joke on a show. And recognize the Greek words for butt and fart. And understand when adults rub the boys’ heads and say something to them. Or trash talk with a kid on the playground who insults you. Case in point: one day before Spring Break we were at a park with Anna and the kids. Peter and Georgios were riding scooters and some big kids were on skateboards. One of those guys was coming down the hill right where Peter was coming up, and the kid waved his hand and said “Fige, moraki.” (Move, baby. But in this case move is more like ‘scram.’) Peter was incensed, dropped the scooter, clenched his fists, and yelled “I am NOT a BABY! YOU move!” I was really happy I knew enough Greek to understand that because I laughed for hours.
Happy birthday to me. This has been the best gift … ever.