So, when I was a girl, we spoke Spanish at home My parents often allowed us to come up with the word we were looking for so that we could go on with the conversation rather than interrupting the flow and saying, “How do I say this in Spanish” and getting lost in a tangent (as my family is apt to do). It means that I learned real Spanish and Rosie Spanish and Rosie Spanish can be dangerous.
Case in point: I was once late to Spanish mass, where I was meeting my parents on my first day home for the holidays. I had driven there after work from North Carolina and holiday traffic and the like was just a bit too much. I arrived about five minutes late, ducked in, found a seat and went up to my parents after the service. The whole congregation (it felt like) gathered around me, as they do when anyone’s child comes home for the holidays. I smiled and greeted and hugged and then someone teased me for being late. I am so sorry that I was late, I said in Spanish. “Estoy muy embarrassada.” The smiles on the faces of the priest and the congregants disappeared. “Because I am late,” I further explained, thinking they had missed my point. My mother leaned over. “You’re embarrassed, m’ija, not pregnant. Embarrassada is pregnant.” Then I was really embarrassed.
So things get lost in translation with my family all of the time, but today’s episode has me bent over laughing. Talking to my mom this morning on the phone, she chastized me because she still did not have wish lists from me and my husband (we have this conversation about this time every year). She then went on to say that my sister had given her ideas for her husband and that she was getting my brother-in-law an owl.
“An owl?” I said. “He wants a bird? Where the heck is this owl going to live?”
“Up in the trees in their backyard. They already have some that live there, but he wants one of his own.”
“So your Christmas present to him is just going to be able to fly away after you spend money buying it?”
“No, your sister said it would just stay in the tree. That’s what they like to do.”
“Mom, I must not be understanding you right. He wants you to buy him a bird? Where can you buy him that?”
“At Wild Birds Unlimited, your sister said. And, no, I am telling you right. In English, they spell it O-W-L.”
I drop the subject because it is the most outlandish thing I’ve heard. And when we get off the phone, I have to call my sister.
“Scott wants an owl for Christmas?” I ask without even saying hello.
“An owl?” My sister says. “No, he wants a screech owl box.”
I lose it, cackling in my sister’s ear.
“Mom thinks Scott wants an owl.”
“Well that explains the very weird conversation I had with her yesterday,” my sister tells me. “She told me that she was just going to give me the money to get Scott’s Christmas present because they couldn’t keep it for him at home until Christmas. I asked her why not and she said, ‘It’s too big’ and all I could think of was ‘it’s not that big’.”
“She didn’t want to keep your darn owl,” I tell my sister, “and who can blame her.” And then I laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh until I can’t breathe anymore.