Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Accent (02/21/13)
TITLE: Love Speaks My Language
By Emily Ritter
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“Time to start packing girls,” I say, announcing the end of rest period.
No movement. I wait to see if they are sleeping, but hear giggles coming from beneath covers. All at once, they leap from their beds and begin running around tossing items into their backpacks. With ponytails flinging my waist, I begin listing off the items they need:
“You are only allowed to take 5 things. A tooth brush, a pillow, a sleeping bag, a sweatshirt, and bug spray. Everything else you need, you will be wearing.”
“I am not going to wear my orange Ms. Anna,” Criselda jeers with an elegant Spanish accent.
To her and everyone else I continue my explanation: “I will have all the food and drinks…” I announce, pausing. I see three tiny hands shoot straight up, dying to tell me what I have forgotten. I continue, “…and everything else you will need.”
Lydia cradles Criselda in her arms; Criselda is packed and ready, has been for the last week. They share physical contact more comfortably than the rest of us, calm each other with an unspoken assurance. They share looks that commiserate mispronunciations and “senseless” regulations.
My American-ness crowns me head herder by default: I know English fluently. Lydia does most of the kid-comforting. She is good at it. Lydia and love each other. We’ve worked our way through other not-so-friendly co-counselor partnerships to get the change to lead together. Sometimes we share tantalizing conversation with little comprehension. Our love shines stronger when our words fail.
With backpacks piled at the door, twenty eight shoe laces get tied. Twenty two are doubled tied, mine and Lydia’s get singled knotted; we choose to live on the edge and temp the hill to trip us.
Forty-five minutes later, we arrive at the site overlooking a scenic drop. Hand carved dirt edges are lined with lush pines. Hundreds of feet below us rest a cool pond and mowed grass. The sounds are much softer at this height. Even though we’ve brought 11 mouths with us, we’ve left 582 mouths at main headquarters.
Our 25-person orange tent is secured 30 feet from the edge. The children drop their bags and barrel toward the ravine, marveling. Lydia and I dash at them yelping and mark their boundaries with a stick in the mud. Jobs are immediately assigned. Some peel carrots; some gather dry sticks. The knife I’m using to cut onions is dull enough to scratch a bare back. Needless to say, dinner preparation takes a while.
Lydia mans the wrapping station and soon unravels the last sheet of aluminum foil. Through commotion we attempt to assess the next step:
“Aluminio?” Lydia shouts to me.
“What?” I say, shushing the girls beside me to try to make out the word.
“Aluminio? Alummmiinnnioo?” She extends the word to try to emphasize its meaning.
I continue cutting vegetables, completely clueless to Lydia’s request. As I see her walking in circles, I hand her our food tote. Cut veggies roll off the edge of my 5 by 5 inch cutting board. Two girls are running in place making pained faces at the frozen hamburger patties they are holding. With ingredients piling, I realize what’s missing,
“Foil? “ I say, “You need foil?”
“Ah, what’s this foul?” Lydia responds. I dig through the tote and pull out the narrow box of conductive sheets. I point, as if instructing a five year old and say,
“No foil,” she says, “No,” and pauses to look at me. “Aluminum. Aluminio,” she repeats.
In that moment, I recall how similar Spanish and English are for some words. But not close enough when Americans use the short versions. Lydia and I laugh and hug. The girls rush us to finish wrapping their hobo dinners. As we watch the foil bundles warm on embers, we look into each other’s eyes, smiling. Impatiently we sing our prayer in hopes of hurrying the dinner. With swinging held hands we sing,
“Oh the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need the sun and the rain and apple seed the Lord’s been good to me. Amen!”
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