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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)

TITLE: Aunt Emma's English
By Rachel Burkum


The airport was busy. I stood on my tiptoes, trying to see over the fast-paced crowd. Then I spotted her. She was the only old lady in sight, and she looked even more lost than I felt. But as I approached, I saw a spark in her eye that dragged my smile out from the shadows. "Aunt Emma?"

"Patty!" Emma's smile stretched from ear to ear as she pulled me into a tighter hug than I expected. "Oh, I am glad I made it. I was afraid we would go down and crash with a big kaboom!" Her flying hand mimicked a plane wreck. I couldn't help but laugh. I loved her Russian accent.

"Well, I'm certainly glad you made it, too." Linking arms, we made our way to the other end of the terminal to pick up her bags…

"…and they even gave me a hot meal!" Emma's excitement spilled over as she waited for her luggage.

My response was detached as I scanned the conveyor belt. "Cool."

"No, it was warm."

Her comment stopped my thoughts and a chuckle escaped. Emma's English wasn't polished, and her knowledge of American slang was minimal. "I meant it was neat," I clarified. "That's what 'cool' means."

"Oh, I see. How strange."

I laughed again. "Soon you'll understand our language as well as anyone."

Trudging across the parking lot, Emma's bags felt like they contained bricks. I panted, ignoring the two men who were admiring a parked convertible. Their conversation didn't mean anything to me.

"...man, that is one hot car."

Emma pulled on my sleeve. "Why would an open car be hot?"

The humor bubbled inside me. I wasn't making fun of my great aunt, but her innocence amused me. "It's kind of like 'cool,'" I tried to explain.

Emma just shook her head. "English," she muttered.

The ride through traffic seemed to take forever. And we weren't even going home yet. I didn't have time to take Emma to the house before Bible study, so she would be joining me.

Even with the driving conditions, conversation was delightful. I loved hearing Emma's stories. I hadn't known much about her, even though my mother had spoken of her every once in a while. Only now when Emma was a widow, had she come to the United States.

Finally, we arrived at the church. Emma was tired, but not too tired to keep her energy up and make the others in the small group laugh just as I had.

"That's Bob, and that's his wife Linda…" I gestured to my friends, helping Emma with introductions. "There's Janet, and that's her sister, Susan." I teased my good friend. "She can be a little cold, but don't worry, she's nice enough."

Though Susan caught the sarcastic humor and laughed, Emma's face turned worried. "Oh, well if she is cold, I go get a blanket for her. Maybe there is one in the-"

"No, no." I chuckled. "I was teasing. I meant that she isn't always friendly. But it was a joke."

"You Americans. Ha!" Emma rolled her eyes then looked at Susan with sympathy. "My niece. She is such a kind person, no? She insults you then smiles."

Susan laughed and took Emma's hands to lead her to an empty chair. "I love your niece. Now, you can sit here with me and I'll share my Bible."

Fifteen minutes later, Bob was reading Scripture aloud. "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are-" *

"Not again!" Emma's hands flew into the air, interrupting the verses. "Hot. Cold. Cool. Even in the Bible now I see it. I give up." She shook her head emphatically. "All I know is I follow Jesus, and He can decide the temperature Himself. In Heaven, I will be just right because I know Him."

Despite the round of laughter, I couldn't help but see that even though Emma's English might not have been perfect, she had understood the point of the verse without even realizing it. I never again read Revelation without thinking of her.

* Revelation 3:15-16a NIV

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/16/09
Love it! Of course, Emma's line: "All I know is I follow Jesus, and He can decide the temperature Himself. In Heaven, I will be just right because I know Him." is the best.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/18/09
I enjoyed this very creative use of hot and cold, as I fell in love with Aunt Emma.
Jim McWhinnie 04/20/09
Clever treatment of the topic and you do well with characters and dialog.
Sheri Gordon04/21/09
This is clever. It reminded me of trying to have a conversation with my teenager. Good job with the dialogue--you made Aunt Emma come alive.
Dena Wilson04/21/09
I loved the humor of your story, and can relate to how hard English can be for a new comer. I might of choice a more Russian sounding name, but other than that I loved the story.