Thursday, November 26, 2009

Learning Love

Gauze-like clouds sit atop the green mountains, surrounded by a sea of sky. Slight wind is soft and warm, while I'm sitting against the wall on the speckled-like-a-bird-egg floor in the mint room. This little "closet" is tucked away in the library whose door you can shut. There is a big window which overlooks the street beyond the white lace curtains, blown by the warm wind.

Enough reviewing reflexive verbs. I am sitting on the speckled-like-a-bird-egg floor enjoying the wind, when I could be sitting in the wind. I stuff what remains of my hastily-scribbled paper piles into the backpack and race down the stairs and out the door, to find a flimsy, plastic green chair.

I sit down. I close my eyes. The sun is warm on my face. I pull out my favorite white notebook, the one I just stuffed with loose papers, and flip to the tab that contains daily musings, for I want to capture the moment in the white book. But to do so, will mean I forfeit the moment, for I will have to write, and I want nothing but to sit beside this cluster of lavender flowers and absorb everything I'm surrounded by. The white book remains open in my lap. Untouched.

Today is Thanksgiving. I'm only half-conscious of this fact because the sun absorbs most every thought... until the bell rings. It is time for Fonetica with Dona Gabi. We will mimic her like adoring little parrots repeating each phrase after her and being repeatedly corrected until our accents aren't so thick.

There are four of us in our little cluster which herds from room to room for each different class.

Ruth the valiant, who just scuba dived and nearly drowned last weekend: Adventurous mother of four, venturing to Venezuela next summer. Ruth invents things: Like ingenious ways to carry an over-sized umbrella, by turning it into what looks like a weapon, slung across her back. Ruth is from Texas. She bakes these sensational little cinnamon-sugar cookies for her neighbors and anyone else who might enjoy them. She's an athlete: the one whose always at the ping pong table during breaks, competing with ease. The one who can hop on a bus and find her way to wherever she wants to go with little care for the fact that she never really knows where she's going.

Then there's Rebecca, the overcomer, who was orphaned in Colombia as a small child, and later adopted into a family in Minnesota. An artist and musician with wide brown eyes and a conquering spirit, Rebecca has Lupus. Last month, Rebecca contracted an infection in her hand which crept into her bloodstream, nearly claiming her life until she was hospitalized. When we went to visit her, she looked fragile and weak-- her eyes heavy with concern--how would the hospital bill be paid?-- but her Bible was beside her bed, and she, though alone, was not without hope. She was still laughing. Rebecca had three different hand surgeries, and is now back in class. She does not quit. Rebecca the overcomer.

Susan is the Detailed one. Mother of two, beautiful teenaged daughters, whose family is on their way to Peru. Verb conjugations pour out of Susan like water from a pitcher. One afternoon, when Dona Alejandra handed back our tests, my heart was bursting with pride when I held in my hands that which I assumed to be the best grade in the class, only to have Dona Alejandra apologize and hand the test to Susan. It was hers. And it was her piercing blue eyes which met me outside of class one afternoon with a bag stacked with delicious food for my family. She noted my exhaustion and that I had been sniffling. She knew Miguel felt poorly, too. So there she was smiling with dinner in her hand while she whispered, "Look in the bag, there's a little something just for you." That's Susan, anticipating needs, and rising to meet them with whole-hearted attention to detail. During our last grammar test, it was Susan who was walking around to each desk placing a few candy corns. She knew we could all use a little taste of home.

These are my co-learners and my teachers. I listen to them with awe: How did Susan manage to get that out so quickly? My, Ruth reads in Spanish with the voice of a radio announcer. And Rebecca pieces everything together verbally without a hint of accent...

We watch each other and laugh. We listen to one another's mistakes and giggle. It's like being a child again in so many ways only this time it's different. We're grown-ups. Time is wasted when I want to be better than my amigas. This time we know that if we have not love, we are nothing.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and
understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and
though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and
though I give my body to be burned,
but have not love,
it profits me nothing.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)