Grocery store French just doesn't cut it anymore; isn't enough of a connection to people. And when you get out of practice, like on school holidays, it can seem even more difficult to break through and say what you want to say. As Michele always said, 'the more you know, the less you think you know'. And that's a good thing. Really. Because it makes you want to learn more, keep going, express yourself more fully.
It is also frustrating as hell.
I could carry on all day long with the basics. And I would sound like a five year-old. Something like, 'I like there....Sorry, I have tired today.....Too far away words in my head....It makes cold and I like not it.' You get the idea. I joke, but I wonder how I must sound to someone who really does speak French and how on earth they keep from laughing. Which they don't ever do.
They always happily encourage and nod and move me along the path of conversation, holding my hand.
It's usually just when you're feeling like closing your ears and mind to the language that someone helps you open them again.
And so it was for me last week at the Middlest's football practice. I felt closed off and stood at the fence watching and daydreaming, thinking how much I missed hearing English and how hard this is sometimes.
Just then an older woman walked by and caught my eye. She smiled at me and started talking. And as she spoke she touched me; on the arm, hand, patting her words into me. It made me feel warm. After a few sentences of somewhat understanding her, my brain did a flip...I realized she was not speaking just French, but Spanish too. I heard the Spanish lisp and the familiar d for r sound of 'mira'.
So, we carried on that way. Her doing most of the talking; moving effortlessly between French and Spanish, patting, smiling, warming me.
As she continued on her exercise circuit around the football pitch she hugged me, 'a bien tot', 'hasta luego'. Kindness emanating from her regardless of language.
It is times like this when I am thankful that I am open. I would miss out on so many gifts if I tunneled down and buried my head in self-pitying English.
Once at a meeting with Ma Fille's teacher she said something that struck a nerve, 'It can be like a prison for you not to understand or communicate.' And she is right. It can. Only I don't want to be imprisoned by my ignorance so I force myself out. Open. Bumbling and stumbling. No matter what.