Friday, September 18, 2009

A Story of Real Immersion

Over Labor Day Weekend, our family always goes to the same cottage at Lake Michigan. It's been a ritual for the past 32 years, and I've only missed one due to my honeymoon. The cottage never, I mean never changes, unless you count a painted room every 20 years or so. It's owned by a friend of my mother's, and she graciously rents it out over Labor Day week to my folks. The entire tribe gathers together on the Sunday before Labor Day for a big reunion for both sides of my family, and it's probably my favorite weekend of the year.

What makes it so special to me, besides the beautiful lake and beach, is that it's a way to measure our lives against this modest, unchanging backdrop. It has seen me through college, through boyfriends, through my marriage and all my babies. It has hosted so many relatives, many who have passed away over the years, but I can still see them in the kitchen, in the downstairs eating area circled around the food in prayer, playing horseshoes, and screaming at the television when Notre Dame scores a touchdown. I miss them all.

When we gather at the beach, it's always quite a spectacle. Blankets and chairs and umbrellas sprawled out in between the coolers. It's a private beach and we're one of the few renting families, so we have to behave, lest we get narked on by one of the uptight property owners. Over the years, my folks have made friends, and peace, with all of the neighbors. So far, so good. After a day of sun and food, the die-hards stay for a night-time campfire on the beach. This year, my brother Brian rigged up his own fire-color-changing contraption. It was copper tubing and a garden hose "pipe bomb" as he fondly referred to it as. I was quite nervous as he threw it in the campfire, but sure enough, we had beautiful blue and green flames, the envy of nearby campfires. Just yesterday, I spoke with a lady from a fireplace store, and she told me those things are actually legit. Other years, Brian has brought fireworks to the beach, and my nervousness stems from the time his bottle rockets exploded our gas lantern and starting shooting our direction causing us to hit the dirt to avoid bodily harm. That was probably my favorite evening, although I'm not anxious for a repeat performance.

Back to my Guadalupeproject, I admit I took some time off - no computer, no CD player. But, I did speak to Diego, my cousin's Erin's husband who was raised in Peru, South America. They met while she was teaching in Hawaii. Diego and Erin have two beautiful children, growing up bilingual in the Midwest. It's wonderful sight and sound to have them in our family. So, my lesson for the weekend was that I'm on the right track. I see how these little girls are learning English from their mom, Spanish from their dad. They seem to differentiate the languages with little trouble. However, Diego did tell me that his daughter said something Spanish to a dark haired American, who didn't respond; repeated in in English with no response, then told her dad, "He has no language."

I can only hope to immerse myself in Spanish as well as my new cousin has become immersed in our culture.

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