Family Affair

More disclaimers: My computer has been working my nerves again. Still.  I haven’t been able to post any of the things I’ve written for the last couple of days.  But I’m posting now — and I’m being ridiculously stubborn enough to back date the posts for the day I actually wrote them.  It’s so rare that I can stick to a daily practice, so when I do, it’s  frustrating to have some external detail (like a fully functioning computer) thwart my efforts.  In any case, here is Friday’s post:

Let Down All Your Doors

I am coming in
to love you

— Ruth Forman

_____

Today we had a big event at one of the schools we work with, a time to get a lot of parents together and have them complete the crazy-long needs assessment we’ve created as we work on this project.  I was totally unprepared for this event.  There was a meeting with a local politician that was supposed to be happening at the same time, so I was going to be in that meeting instead of at the event.  But — as often happens with politicians, I guess — the schedule got changed.  And that was fine because I really like going to the big community events.

There were about 200 people there, which was great, but a little overwhelming.  We had the Mandarin-speaking parents sit on one side and the Spanish speaking parents sit on the other … not because we like segregating people by language groups but because we had interpreters but not our fancy we’re-just-like-the-UN headsets, so we wanted people to sit close to their interpreters.  I felt a little sorry for the woman who was doing the Spanish.  She had to wait until the Mandarin interpreter finished his part of the job — and he always had a LOT to say.  It was clear that she sometimes had a hard time holding onto the whole bit and that the Spanish parents were getting an abbreviated version of everything.  At one point, she got distracted by something and didn’t hear what I’d said, so she couldn’t interpret.  So I told the parents I was going to try telling them myself but that my Spanish is pretty bad.  So I said my piece — with only a couple of vocabulary stumbles — and they gave me a round of applause.

This always drives me a little crazy.  I know the applause is to tell me that I did perfectly fine with my speaking in Spanish and to tell me that they appreciate my effort.  I know that.  But it’s also a little, “Oh, look at the clever doll/puppet/trained seal!  She’s able to say a little bit of Spanish!  Isn’t she clever?”  I don’t actually think it’s intended that way at all.  I think that because a) the parents are pretty nice people, b) I may not speak well, but I speak well enough and have a good accent and c) I know that what I really remind people of is a child learning how to talk (I’ve been told this several times now!).  But my allergic reaction to the applause persists.

Once the talking was done, it was time for surveying … and time for me to take out my camera:

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It was so great seeing so many people taking the survey together, to see all the (totally adorable) kids.  It’s so sappy and cliché, but the ones with the parents and kids together were my faves.

Taking stock, a mini census
what do you think, want to discuss?
Your perceptions are the key here,
the pieces to lead us forward.
Let us know what we haven’t heard
about, all the things you hope we’re
going to work on in this project,
the things we shouldn’t miss, neglect.
We want to move on. Help us steer.

My struggle with the nove otto has begun … as if that poem wasn’t a clear enough illustration of this point.  I was finding it kind of easy at first, which surprised me, but now it’s giving me a headache.  It’s my own fault — not leaving enough time to get the poems written, to get beneath my surface and write about something real.  Definitely work to do.

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