We arrived in Spain in the summer months, I think. There was plenty of time to spend long days with the neighbor, sitting on the hard white cement wall that surrounded the house. I would sit perched like a bird on the wall in front of my house while my neighbor would sit on hers. Two birds on a wall. I had a Spanish/English dictionary that I loved to carry around. I think it was my big sister’s because it was really something you’d see in high school, the print was very small and it was a bit worn. I don’t remember buying it.
We would sit for hours in complete physical discomfort. I would say a word in English and point to it in my dictionary and pass it across the large square post to my neighbor who would place her finger where my finger was and move the book close. The print was so tiny we had to lift the book to our faces for our eyes to focus. She would scrunch up her eyes in an expression of reckon. Then the eyes would light up. She would say the word in Spanish and I would repeat. Then we would often make charade like movements to the word and laugh. Then we would sit looking at each other and think of something else to ask, and she would find it in the Spanish section of the dictionary, point to it, and shuffle the book to me carefully keeping her place. I would put my finger near hers and bring the tiny print towards my eyes, read the English counterpart to what she had pointed to, and then I tried to pronounce it in Spanish. We both laughed, she would say it, I would repeat it. We would make some kind of charade type movement, laugh, and repeat. It sounds so monotone, so repetitive and boring. But it was one of my best childhood days ever. Magical. I believe it was my first Spanish lesson. Good times.
When school started, we were to attend David Glasgow Ferragut School on base. We called it DGF. It was taught by Americans and it was just like America. Except there were some very stinky pink flowers that bloomed all year round on the bushes that were planted beside the sidewalks of the school. They had the most offensive smell ever. We learned to hold our breath until I guess, we got used to it.
We lived off base, but the school would send a charter bus to pick up all the Americans for school. Amazing! We waited at the end of the dirt road with one other American boy. The weather was always nice. I don’t remember any very cold days. One day when we got off the bus, we saw our mom waving a familiar toy in the air. It was a giant pink bear that looked something you might win from the fair. When we saw her waving that bear, we knew that our things had finally arrived from America. What an exciting day! Until then, we had just been using what we brought and what we had bought. When I saw all my familiar things, I felt a sense of belonging. Now I belonged.