Leaving work one late afternoon, I was happy to find myself walking out to my car at the same time as one of my favorite women on our faculty. She and I enjoy a camaraderie in the midst of an organizationally challenged workplace, an ability to banter easily and we always manage to share a few gripes about the ol’ establishment and the shortcomings of it’s leadership and yet walk away still laughing and feeling buoyed by the other. This is not one of those friendships that takes place over long lunches, streams of texting or for that matter, even frequent sightings. But when we do bump into each other, there is always a seemingly mutual happiness at our seemingly chance encounter (as chance as it can get when we work in the same place!). And that day we ended up having what I decided was a conversational event that left me thinking…
…I’ve always wanted to speak more than one language; but it eludes me; not finding me a worthy companion. I must accept the fact that Rosetta Stone and I will never be tight.
Let me explain.
I stare at my shampoo bottle every morning, willing myself to understand even a smidge of French by trying to translate the directions for shampooing from English to French, reading the ‘faites…rincez…repetez’ – over and over and over. All I have learned is that oui, it is true, moi will most likely never (I know, never say never) speak French, unless ordering a croissant should ever count.
Despite the fact that I grew up in a community where Spanish was spoken as much or more as English, I no habla Español. Well, I suppose you could say I speak just un poquito, enough to ask for the el baño or more importantly, for more muy grande margaritas. The important things.
Perhaps I should take into account the Pig Latin I spoke fluently as a child, used fervently to pass notes to friends seated a row or two away or surreptitiously in the transition from recess to math. All the while under the misguided belief that we were the first to invent this language and that our teachers ad-Hay o-Nay ue-CLay at-WHay e-Way ere-Way aying-Say!
And I cannot forget the sign language I learned so that I could teach it to my son in his infant and toddler days, so that he would have words before he had well, words. So that he could tell me he needed more milk, or that he wanted me to read him a story, without the need for tears or tantrums. Those happened too, of course, but for reasons far more dramatic and upsetting; like a toy being beyond reach or the commencement of the ever ill-fated nap-time.
And while Rosetta Stone and I will never be BFF’s, I should disclose that I am quite fluent in Fours, four letter words. I have to remind folks of this at times, of course, when an unnecessary apology follows closely on the heels of an exceedingly necessary expletive. They apologize as if speaking in the French I do not know and would not comprehend, and I must remind them that oh hell yes, I do understand how freaking shitty the whole effed up mess really is. I have to admit, I keep a stash of f-bombs handy, (I didn’t want to waste one back there, the situation didn’t really call for it…) you never know when one will be needed. What I don’t understand is why these ‘apologizers’ always ask me to pardon their French. I clearly do not understand French if I can’t decipher the simple instructions for lather, rinse and repeat on my shampoo bottle but that does not translate to not being able to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. So, feel free to speak in Fours to me, but if you speak in French I will be waiting for the croissant…
I am also fluent in the lingo known as texting, tagging, and tweeting; hashtags, likes, posts and shares. Emails can be exceedingly exquisite, and when needed, extremely efficient, and my fingers usually cannot keep up with my mind, but we work it out and get the point across.
So while I am perhaps ‘multi-lingual’ in unconventional ways and can, with confidence, order a margarita por favor, tell you something is full of it-shay, sign with a baby and tweet like a bird, the language I love the most – while not one bit musician – is the one that feels like a melody to me. A melody that as easily finds itself in the low notes as it does the high notes. It is the language where in one moment we connect with another – whether new friend or ancient confidant – at a level just below the surface, at that place where words are almost not necessary and in the next, laugh together at the silliest so-funny-you-had-to-be-there-belly-laugh-kind-of-way thing and then in one swift moment, go back to that other place. In a dolphin-like way of dancing between the depths and then resurfacing – gracefully, playfully, effortlessly.
Like the day my colleague and I walked our to our cars together and in one breath, almost without words, we were talking about and completely understood the other’s pain of losing our mothers far too early in life, the grief, what it’s been like in the motherless years since, and then in the next moment found ourselves in a fit of giggles at the hilarity of an astonishingly messy trunk and not wanting the other to see this side of her otherwise always professional presence. And then we were back to our mothers. And then the damned trunk. And then the grief. Just like a dolphin. But also like a song, the two parts harmonized and resulted in something much more than if each part were sung as a solo. I emailed her the next day and said,
“You, and that ‘conversational event’ we had in the parking lot yesterday? That made my day”.
She wrote back and said,
Like the reconnecting of friends who have now known each other longer than not, who find themselves in the same zip code, finally, for but one day, and fluidly, naturally, swiftly move between sharing the profound moments in their far away lives and being profoundly silly.
Like the quiet between friends when words are not necessary to communicate the importance of the other.
Or the unexpected, but welcome, free, affirming exchange of emails, posts and comments between friends, while new to each another feel old as days, where there is ease in the acknowledgement of affection, appreciation, admiration yet allowing vulnerability sight unseen, punctuated at each turn with an easy laugh and a carefree silliness.
Now we’re talking.
Yeah, that’s a language I understand, I recognize. Hands down, in friendships – from newly planted to beautiful old vines – when the ace of hearts is played, I have gratitude in spades. Rosetta, it appears I may not need you after all. But, I still want the croissant and the margarita.