I looked at my great grandmother my eyes fixed on her strange words.
She shook her head in disapproval but I was used to this. My great grandma and I have never been close, I mean she did live in new york but when she was here I felt more distant to her than ever. She was the only person in my family who only spoke spanish and I dreaded the days I would have to speak to her. She would only use simple spanish of course but I still felt intimidated at the age of twelve. I would wish my mom or dad or somebody would’ve taught me spanish. Why wouldn't they, it is my culture and I had as much right as any one of my brothers and sisters to learn. I’m the oldest of my two brothers and one sister and they are all being taught spanish with every passing breath whether it be at home or school but I was taught nothing not even the simplest verb, the easiest noun. I never understood why, perhaps I still don’t. Maybe it is because I was the first child, maybe I was the test subject the kid no one really knew what to do with.
“Mom, why didn’t you let dad teach me spanish.”
I’d ask that question over and over again and she would just say, “Ameer we just weren't prepared to put you or us through that besides it worked out fine right?”
But she was wrong it wasn’t fine I couldn’t have a reasonable conversation with my great grandmother because of them. I repeatedly found myself blaming my parents for everything that had to do with spanish and when I had no reason I found a reason. In the sixth grade, I had my first spanish course and I purposely came home with a D to prove that it would be different if they would have taught me themselves. This must have went on for a couple years and then when I was in 8th grade my mom picked me up from school early which was a rare notion so when this happened I figured something had to be wrong. She told me my great grandmother was in the hospital and may not have very much time left. My heart stopped. I was pretty sure she was going to have to put me in the hospital right there with my great grandmother but somehow I pulled it together and tried to stay as strong as possible.
“It’s going to be ok Ameer, hey, she is in a happier place now right?” My mom tried to comfort me as best as she could but I remember being pretty silent the whole ride. My mom wasn’t very close to my great grandma because she was my dads mother not my moms and my mom faced the same language barrier I did at the time she also didn’t know spanish very well, but she did understand how much she meant to everyone. My mom ended up picking up on some spanish after living with my dad but she didn’t need to speak the language to see how great a person my great grandma was. I interviewed my mom and dad now and asked them the same question I used to ask them when I was younger, “So why was I never taught spanish?” This was my dad’s response,
“Well it would be easy to say we didn’t know what we were doing yet, I mean it had all happened so fast. But that wouldn’t explain why we didn’t teach you while you were growing up. So honestly I don’t know why we decided not to teach you how to speak both maybe we thought it was too much work at the time, I don’t know, but looking back now I really wish we did.” This was my mom’s answer,
“Ameer I think it was really because we just didn’t really know how to work that in, now that were older we are able to teach your siblings because we learned and we didn’t want to make the mistake if not teaching them like we did with you.” I had an understanding response to both answers. I started to realize that I was the rough draft for my parents which was why they didn’t teach spanish. This thought made me feel very uncomfortable, I couldn’t understand why I was being treated so unfairly. None of it made sense.
Soon after that I started changing the way I viewed hispanic people, I started to feel like I couldn’t talk to them, something like the Key and Peele skit we watched in class. Both men acted different around eachother, thats how I acted around hispanics, I would change completely when in their presence.The language barrier I felt with my own family had widely expanded and hispanic people became like an unknown species in my life. I ignored them every time possible, made no effort to learn spanish in school, I completely abandoned spanish. I was tired of spanish. I hated spanish and the people that bore its fruit.
After what seems like such a long time I slowly started to change. There still isn’t a moment where I don’t feel uncomfortable when in the presence of a spanish speaking person. But now I just don’t really think too much of it. As the years passed by I like to believe there was a bigger reason as to why they never taught me spanish. I think it’s because my mom and dad didn’t see the importance of me having to learn at the time. They figured I would either grow into it or wouldn’t need it at all but they admit that that was wrong. I also changed my view because of being reminded of my great grandmothers death. The day she passed I was upset and confused, now years later I look at it as an opportunity to make her proud and learn the language she always wanted me too. Thats what keeps me from giving up on spanish.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzprLDmdRlcKey and peele skit