A couple days ago, I was in one of our counselors’ offices (btw–there’s a profession with not at all enough recognition: school counselors), and I noticed a Swedish Dala Horse on her desk! I asked her (maybe a bit too excitedly) if she was Swedish. She said it was her heritage, but she’d never been to the tiny Scandinavian country. She did say, though, that we have a Swedish foreign exchange student this year on campus!
“What?! You’ve got to introduce us!” I demanded. I’m half-Swedish (half-Iranian). Swedish–though not my most comfortable language any longer–was my first language. And something in me feels a huge burden to maintain my fluency. Not so much for any practical reasons, but more as a tribute to my family.
Today, a girl entered my room during my plan and waved enthusiastically.
My brain worked furiously to place the face, but it just couldn’t.
And then walked in the counselor and I understood who the girl was. I gave her a big hug and started welcoming her in her mother language.
“Oh! It’s been so long since I’ve gotten to speak Swedish!” she said (in Swedish), and we started jabbering on like two people do when they realize they share something important. I asked about how she liked Tulsa and she asked about my pregnancy. She said my Swedish was really good and that she could only detect a sliver of an accent! (Way too generous of an assessment, I assure you, but I’ll take it.)
Before she left, she initiated a hug and assured me that she would be back soon.
It was a really quick interaction, but I felt like I made a small difference in her day. I know what it’s like to live in a different culture, among different people. A lot of it’s exciting, but a lot of it’s overwhelming, exhausting, and frustrating. And to be able to speak your own language–even if just for a little while–is liberating.
When I came home today, my husband handed me a letter that had come for me. It was from a previous student. It totally lights up my day when I hear from my kids.
In it she wrote,
I’ve decided to officially adopt you as my second family, no take backs or trades, so I’m a part of your family too.
I am totally ok with that. I’ve decided that the more family you have in your life, the better. We have to take care of each other. Life is too “brutiful” to do this alone.