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The Universal Language of Love This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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In that moment, with my Abuelita’s arms wrapped tightly around me, I felt warm inside and out. I knew she loved me in every language.

When I was eight years old, my grandparents visited Hong Kong for the first time. My dad’s family is from Mexico and before this trip, they had never traveled further than to the United States by bus. Our family was delighted to have them as company, because the distance between us made seeing them a rare treat. We only saw them once every two years when we visited Mexico. Growing up and living in Mexico their whole lives, my grandparents never learned English; they only speak Spanish. To their disappointment, my dad hasn’t taught my sister and I Spanish yet, and my mom only speaks English. Whenever we’re around each other, my dad acts as a frantic translator; trying to keep everyone updated and included in the fast pace conversations. During this visit, both my parents worked full time, while my sister and I were at school, so during the day my grandparents stayed at home or cautiously explored Hong Kong alone. Because my sister and I would come home late, we’d have homework to do and preparations for the next day, leaving little time to spend with our grandparents.

One afternoon, I came home from third grade enthusiastically talking about cross-stitching. My best friend Natasha and I had joined an afterschool club led by one of our favorite teachers, Mrs. Carlson, where we stitched simple projects. While my grandparents were in Hong Kong, they made fresh, authentic Mexican food every night. Through dinner that night I continued to rave about the activity in English, as my dad translated almost immediately what I had said, to my grandparents in Spanish. Once my grandmother understood, her eyes seemed to light up. She exclaimed something in Spanish to my dad, while he and my grandfather laughed heavily. The conversation then picked up in Spanish, the three of them throwing words rapidly. As I listened, I recognized a few simple words here and there, but the rest was a confusing blur of speech. Eventually my dad noticed the confused look on my face.

“Did you know your Abuelita is very good at cross-stitching? She does it all the time. I used to watch her when I was younger. You two should stitch together. How about tomorrow after school? You probably won’t have homework on a Friday,” he suggested. Agreeing right away, he didn’t need to translate my reply. The smile on my eager face let my grandmother know I would love to.

The next day, we sat on the living room couch. Arms full of cloth, string, various needles, pattern books and more; we started the basic steps. Even though my grandmother is aware of our language differences, she never stops trying to talk. If I seem really lost, she’ll talk louder and make more dramatic hand gestures until I understand, or at least act like I understand. Today was no exception. Becoming frustrated quickly, I thought about how there were many things about her that I didn’t know. How could I hear her stories, learn about her talents, and know her well without being able to speak with her? I noticed my sister and grandfather were having a great time across from us; laughing hysterically. How could they be enjoying each other’s company so much? I wondered. While I was thinking, my grandma continued talking as if we were a pair of friends who hadn’t seen each other in years. She wasn’t shaken by the fact I couldn’t respond.

Cross-stitching was amazing. I loved how the patterns started out in the center of the cloth, then expanded outward in a range of designs and colors. Having done this for most of her life, my grandmother was a professional. She weaved the needle through the cloth faster than I could blink. Soon, she had created a big, vibrant rose, with the word ‘Love’ underneath it in English. My cloth looked similar, but I was only able to make a small rose. Like hers, the word ‘Love’ was stitched across the bottom. We held the pieces of cloth in front of us. Suddenly, my mood changed. I realized that though there were things I didn’t know about her, a full conversation wasn’t needed to appreciate her love and presence. The value of family and importance of spending time with the people close to you was what I learned in that quick moment.

I’m not sure, but my Abuelita must’ve known what I had just learned at eight years old, her whole life. She wouldn’t have continued to talk, despite our language barrier if she hadn’t. I felt this, because she then embraced me tightly in her arms, mumbling affectionate things in Spanish. At that point, it no longer bothered me that I didn’t know what the words meant. There in her arms, I came to know that love is shared in a universal language.



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Nike K said...
Feb. 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm
BOLDLY BEAUTIFUL!!
 
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