Posted tagged ‘learning English’

“Do you realize if it weren’t for Edison we’d be watching TV by candlelight?”

November 9, 2015

Today is a lovely fall day. It isn’t all that warm because of the cool breeze, but the sun is bright and sharp. My heat came on during the early morning so the house was comfortable when I came downstairs. It was my morning to sit and chat with my neighbor to help improve her English. She gets stuck on have or has. Usually she uses have for everything. She turns played and similar words into two syllables. We worked on that as well. She gives me the Portuguese word for what we’re talking about and helps me with the pronunciation. I guess that makes it a joint effort.

After Wednesday my dance card is empty. It is getting on to the time of the year when I tend to hibernate. I’ll see a movie now and then and play games with my friends on Sunday, but that’s about it, and I’m fine with that.

When I was a kid, my winters were about the same as now. We went to the Saturday Matinee a couple of times a month, but the rest of the week was pretty quiet. It got dark only a few hours after we’d get home from school, but most days we just stayed in the house as it was too cold to play outside. We’d watch television and we’d do our homework. Most afternoons we did both at once. I remember watching Superman and even back then I wondered how Lois and Jimmy didn’t recognize Clark. I guessed the glasses were a better disguise than we imagined.

Supper was usually around six. Most nights my father made it home in time. In my memory drawers I see him walking in the door wearing his overcoat and his fedora. He’d put them in the closet then change out of his suit. He always wore a suit to work. Supper was eaten around the kitchen table, but there was never enough room for all of us unless the table got pulled out and another seat was added at the end. I think that’s when my mother started eating at the counter as we never did pull out the table except for holidays. Much later, in a different house, the dining room table was big enough so the whole family and more could sit together and eat; however, we mostly did that only on holidays because by then we were scattered and it was only during the holidays we’d all together. My mother always joined us at the table.

“Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.”

October 5, 2015

Mondays are my late day as I go to my neighbor’s at ten and stay a couple of hours. She is from Brazil and thinks her English needs help so we chat. Through our conversations, I get the chance to explain and correct as best I can what she says wrong. Lately it has been subject-verb agreement though I never use those words. She is stuck on he have. She tells me English isn’t easy, and I totally agree.

No weather report today. Just look at yesterday’s and the day before that and on and on. I swear I saw a patch of blue sky but I may have been hallucinating.

I sometimes thought my dad was really born in another country and English was his second language. He had no idea how to spell words. He wrote them the way the way they sounded to him. I had the challenge of translating into English and typing what he wrote for the company newsletter. It took me the longest time to decipher some of the words. I’d read the sentence aloud over and over trying to figure out the word through context. Usually I was wrong. My dad couldn’t understand why I’d miss such easy words. I didn’t bother to explain.

We were a game playing family. Every Christmas we got new games. When we were young, we played board games. When we were older, we played card games. I remember so many nights sitting around the kitchen table playing cards. Cribbage was always my father’s game, and we played every time I visited and every time we traveled together. When it a bunch of us, we played all sorts of card games. Uno was our game for a while. My Dad never remembered to say uno when putting down his second to the last card so he always ended up having to pick up another card. That frustrated him, and he always used the appropriate swear to accompany his mental lapses. We laughed at him. He was never grateful. Finally, after two or three times of forgetting, he took a match book, put it in the middle of the table and said that was his uno. He didn’t have to say it any more. We handed him back his match book without a single word.

We played Jeopardy with clickers so the first person to click got to answer. My dad ignored the clicks. He’d answer whether he clicked or not. We sort of gave up on Jeopardy.

We played hundreds of games of Hi-Low-Jack mostly on Friday nights. One of my uncles was usually there. The bar was set up on the counter, and the kitchen was filled with smoke. Whoever sat out a hand was forced to be the bartender. Those nights were the best. We laughed all night long. We all made fun of my Dad, the perfect target. He bid high and often, and it was a pleasure to take a trick away from him with the jack of trumps. We all did it with a flourish just to antagonize him. If I had three wishes, one of them would be to have one more Friday night at my parents’ house with all of us there playing hi-low-Jack. I’d even volunteer to be the bartender.

“I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world, like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full. “

June 1, 2015

I apologize for the lateness of the hour. Every Monday my neighbor and I chat. It is her way of improving her English. She is Brazilian and does speak English but is hoping to learn better pronunciation. Today her son, who is graduating from high school on Saturday, joined us, and the three of us chatted about everything including corn ice cream, a favorite in Brazil. I couldn’t imagine ice cream and vegetables being a good pairing. Her son agreed.

The day is damp and cold. My house is only 65˚ so we’re back to sweatshirt weather. It has started raining, and it is a welcomed rain. My garden needs the moisture as does my grass. My pollen-covered car could use a good cleaning and a heavy rain will do the trick.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of going to faraway places. My geography book was a wish book filled with pictures of where I would travel. I was in Rio on the top of the hill standing below the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer. I went up the Amazon on one of those long wooden boats while two tribesmen paddled. Each tribesman had a bone through his nose. I wandered down the rows of banana and cocoa trees growing on plantations. I saw the sphinx in Egypt from atop a camel. Riding in an airplane was part of my dream. Though no one I knew traveled just for pleasure, I knew for certain I would.

I once walked from my grandmother’s house in East Boston to Logan Airport. My uncle, only two years older than I, was the guide. It was a long walk, miles, but I didn’t care. We wandered the terminals, the old wooden terminals. I stood on the observation deck of one of those old terminals and watched the planes coming and going. From displays scattered around the gates I took brochures describing airline routes, sights and hotels. I watched people with their suitcases getting in lines to board planes. I was both wistful and jealous.

When I got back to my grandmother’s, my parents were livid, but I thought their anger a small price to pay for what had been a grand adventure. A few days later, I started reading the brochures and cutting out pictures. I began an album of my trip. I described the plane ride and flying into and being surrounded by clouds. The pictures of my hotel rooms had arrows pointing to my bed. All the wonderful sights we saw in the different cities were pasted on the pages and described by me in a first person account. I was traveling the world.

I filled the whole album with wishes and dreams.