Each night Ella sits in her blue chair, her mac and cheese cooling slowly in front of her, while she shares whatever is on her mind. We listen to her talk about her latest trip to the zoo, or what she learned in school that day, or a squirrel or bird’s nest she is noticing outside the kitchen window while we constantly have to coax her to take another bite. Sometimes it takes her an hour to finish eating everything in her small bowl.
Today she was excited about her t-shirt. She stretched it our for me to see her idol, Dora, and sidekick boots floating among flowers on a sea of bright yellow with the word “Hola!” across the top.
I engaged her with the question, “What does Hola mean?” Her still face and darting eyes told me this was a question she had never been asked before. What does something ‘mean’ needed to be explained. So I gave the answer and waved my hand hello to demonstrate. I followed up with, “What does ‘adios’ mean?” but she still wasn’t quite sure what I meant. So I gave her the answer to that one, too. Then I remembered, she told us to vamanos once when she wanted to go somewhere, so I figured I’d lob that one to her. Her eyes lit up as she said, “Let’s go!”
I could tell I was breaking through! She was going to learn Spanish today, and lucky for her I took two years of it in High School. I quizzed her on colors. I made her count with me to twelve. I even threw out a few phrases, like, ‘buenos noches’ ‘muy bien’ and ‘Como esta usted?’ explaining what each of these meant along the way.
I was excited at how much high school Spanish I remembered, and yes the Dora videos I’ve seen recently were a good refresher, too. I looked around the kitchen to see if any objects would jog my memory of more words I could teach her.
Then my eyes landed on her. And this is the moment from this conversation that will forever be ingrained in my mind. The fleshy part of her palm was pressed into her cheek as the weight of her head was completely supported by her elbow on the table. Her whole body was shifted, leaning into it and her eyes were looking up at nothing particular on the ceiling, though she was facing dead ahead. The spoon in her left hand was about to fall on the floor, she was holding it so limp. It was the look of complete, utter, boredom. She has never made a face like this before. It caught me off guard and so our Spanish lesson paused for a moment.
“Do you want to talk about something else…?”
Her reply was as long and drawn out as it took her to sit up and reposition herself in her chair. “Yes…I want to talk about . . . macaroni.”
I think she was scanning the room for anything else to talk about and this was what was in front of her. Apparently I had bored her to death so much she was ready to eat her dinner.