Monday, April 11, 2016
Today I am grateful for hidden memories. Sometimes I wonder how many things I’ve learned and forgotten. I’m certain that’s what happened with the multiplication tables. . .that is if I ever knew them. It’s also probably what happens when I try to pull up who is in a favorite movie, or where it was I had the best homemade bread in the world.
When I worked at my last job as a building secretary in an elementary school, there was a lot to remember. . .some of which I failed miserably. I rarely forget a face. . . never forget someone’s story. . .but can’t always remember their name. Because my school was very ethnically diverse, I tried to learn key phrases, like “hello” or “Good Morning” in a few of the native languages of the students. Not a lot, just some key phrases of inclusion.
Foreign words didn’t like to stick any more than English ones, so I would write them down on little scraps of paper and tape them on my keyboard, the shelf next to me, the inside of my drawer, or a hidden spot on my desk. Having lived as an expat in Jakarta, Indonesia for three years, I knew how great I felt when someone would try to speak my language and I wanted to pay-forward that feeling to the students and their families.
The other day when we were in Philly, after hailing a taxi to take my granddaughter, Himself and I to our destination. The driver, still on his cell phone, directed me to sit in front. As I was getting in I heard him end his call in what sounded like, if not Arabic, a language close. Being me, of course I chatted him up. He was from Bangladesh, a country very well represented at my old school. “You know Bangladesh?” he asked me, with the sort of apologetic look that only another expat can truly understand. A look that said. . .I’m sorry I’m bungling your language. . .I’m sorry that I am Muslim. . . I’m sorry if you are afraid. . .
By the time I could respond, we had arrived. I thought of those notes from almost three years ago, taped all over my old desk. . .flashing like I was sitting in front of them. The words on a tiny bit of green composition paper, taped to the bottom right corner of the box my computer sat on, popped into my head.
“As-Salaam-Alaikum”, I said, in fairly legible Arabic. The driver, beaming from ear-to-ear, wished me the same. Peace be upon you. BING! Heartprint!