I have many gifts.
I don't have the one I desperately need.
I do not have a gift for languages.
I married a guy from Costa Rica whose mother doesn't speak English.
She doesn't speak the language I happened to study in high school for three years which was French. The language of love and romance.
She speaks Spanish.
I know some Spanish.
Mostly swear words. Doesn't everyone?
I'm pretty sure swearing in response to everything my mother-in-law says wouldn't be appropriate. At least out loud. Most of the time.
We communicate by pantomime, Morse code, and long awkward stretches of silence. Well, at least I do. She just stares at me and makes the crazy sign, rotating her index finger in circles by the side of her head.
I understand Spanish, and can follow conversations, if no one is talking directly to me. I sit at family gatherings listening to everyone jabber away in their foreign tongue nodding and smiling and interjecting the odd, "Si" here and there just to let them know I get everything they are saying. The minute they turn to me and ask a simple question like, "Would you please pass the chips?" I freeze and forget everything, even my own native tongue.
Just passing the chips would be fine without saying anything. I have this problem when that happens. I can't seem to pass up the opportunity to converse in a language I have no business speaking. I want to make a connection with them. I blurt out the first thing that comes into my mind. Usually the wrong thing like, "Madam, that shirt and your mustache look lovely." I don't stop there. I keep going. I'm on a roll. My mind is racing. I'm searching my brain for the right words and then I say what I think is, "Here are the chips," when what I'm really saying is, "We're taking a bath right now." Out of the corner of my eye, I spy my mother-in-law making the universal crazy sign again.
Later, at home, I tell my kids how smart they were for studying Spanish in school. They tell me that they didn't learn anything but some useless phrases. My daughter asks me when she will ever use the following phrase, "Can you please direct me to the nearest pyramid?" or "Let's go hunt for buried treasure." I laugh. Then I store those phrases in my memory. They might come in handy some day. You never know. It could happen.