When I was a little girl, my extended family would often get together at my grandmother’s house. There we would eat and laugh and play Scrabble with aunts, uncles, cousins. And there, shuffling around the house in her slippers, was my great-grandma, Josefina.
Josefina only spoke Spanish. I only spoke English. She would smile and hug me, and I would kiss her soft, wrinkled cheek. I would watch her making tortillas. I’d try my hand at rolling out my own, which usually ended up looking something like Texas.
Great-grandma Josefina and I didn’t have conversations. Sometimes I would ask how to say something in Spanish so I could talk to her. Something simple like “Agua, por favor,” “Water, please.” As she handed me my freshly-cooked tortilla, the Texas look-alike that she had gently stretched into an almost circle, I would say “Gracias” “Thank you.” But usually we just smiled.
Though we never actually spoke more than a few words to one another, I loved my great-grandma. I loved her yummy food, her shuffling walk, making tortillas together and knowing that she loved our family, including me.
When I was twelve years old, before I ever started studying Spanish, my great-grandma passed away. But bits of her life still remain. The cake table at my wedding was adorned with a beautiful, white lace tablecloth that she crocheted. Her family still gathers for food and laughter, and the occasional homemade tortilla, in that same house. And now, I speak Spanish.