It’s been enlightening to experience so many Western Culture firsts with a brand new American. We are celebrating the 7-month anniversary of our African-born son’s arrival to the US. His language skills are improving everyday…just in time for the holidays.
For instance, explaining trick-or-treating to a five-year old the morning of his initiation into the holiday (the kids at his preschool were about to go to the church staff offices in costume to beg for candy) went a little something like this:
Me: I’m packing your Captain America costume so you can put it on at school today.
Ezra: Why I bring this to class?
Me: You and your friends are going to walk around church to see the people who work there and ask for candy.
Ezra: Why they give me candy?
Me: Because you will have on a costume and say, “trick-or-treat”.
Ezra: Why I say this?
Me: Because it’s almost Halloween and that’s what people say when it’s Halloween.
Me: (interrupting) Hey, you wear a costume and you get candy. Just go with it.
Now that every store has their Christmas decorations up, I have started explaining Christmas traditions. When I say them out loud, these traditions sound a little absurd. “So when it’s Christmas, we’ll put a tree in the living room. We’ll add lights and a bunch of other things hanging off the branches. You see that box with those four long socks I got in the mail the other day? Well, those are called stockings and I’m going to hang those, too, but not on the tree, over the fireplace. No. They’re not for your feet. They’re to hold toys and candy.” I’m not even going to attempt Santa Claus, and you can forget about any Elf on a Shelf.
Beyond explaining the holidays and other pertinent facts about us, we’ve had to learn new things about our little fella, too. Like, his sneeze. It’s an explosion of sound and fury, and it comes ashore with no warning. The first time my husband and daughters heard him sneeze we were at a funeral visitation for a family member. People gathered in hushed circles all over the church. Upon returning from the restroom with Ezra, I walked towards them where they were sitting in a pew. Right at the front of the church, he paused and let out a thunderous sneeze. The looks on his family’s faces were priceless. There were learning a new aspect of our boy, another piece of what makes him Ezra.
During the past 7 months, we’ve had several “mis-ezra-standings” that needed clearing up. When he saw a picture of me very pregnant with our now 11-year old son Knox, Ezra pointed to my belly with a questioning expression. “That’s Knox,” I said. “Mama, you mean,” he scolded. “Why am I mean?” I asked. “You (gulp sound) Knox-y. You mean. You no eat him!” Oh terrific, I thought, now I will explain The Birds and The Bees using the 50 simplest words I can think of. It’s like Dr. Seuss wrote a book about “Your Ever Changing Body”.
Every day brings more discoveries. There are times when I don’t feel up to the challenge of explaining why ice cream is cold or why leaves change color. And If I don’t express my answers carefully, I’ll invariably get the question: “Mama, why you mad?” I’ll tell him I’m not mad, just ready for a break from talking for a few minutes. This little boy has learned to read expressions and tones so quickly. He works hard to gather information from conversations (both verbal and non-verbal) so he can make inferences to better understand his family and their crazy American ways. We are getting to know the essence of him a little better with each passing moment.
Even though I’m looking forward to things being easier, smoother, not so fraught with confusion, I will miss the intentionality of learning each other. Like the excitement of a first date, there is something special about falling in love with someone whose path you know you were meant to cross. Something special about learning their likes and dislikes and what makes them smile and that funny way they sneeze.