“I walk into Wegmans with Mommy. Cinnamon scented pinecones and newly baked bread enter through my nose and linger in my mind. Mommy goes up to a worker and asks a question. I can’t seem to hear what she says, but I see the worker’s glares, the familiar anger and resentment. She stumbles upon the question again, “Tell me…where you…have…book,” I hear through imperfect English and sporadic hand gestures. Even I can’t understand what she said. I hear snickers and rude remarks from the cashiers who listen on. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed.
“It’s not her fault. Three English classes a week with two different teachers haven’t helped her much for the past twenty years and she struggles with the best she can do. She tries so hard. Often, she asks me to spell out words like “surprising” and “zealous” for her and for me to write them onto sheets of paper so she can memorize them. Sometimes I ignore her. Every night she watches “Wheel of Fortune” with Daddy and she asks us what all the phrases mean, and sometimes we’re impatient and stubborn and we say nothing. But still, she lets these English words linger in her mind and she says them to herself over and over again.
“Mommy walks away from the Wegmans worker. She smiles, continuing to walk toward the bakery while I trail behind her and hide the tears in my eyes. Why isn’t she as hurt as I am? Maybe she is used to it. Mommy is so strong.”