One of the things that I remember about my Grandmother was her stubbornness in speaking only Chinese, even though I'm pretty sure she was completely fluent in English. I mean, how could you live in Canada for over 40 years and not be? I swear, she even knew some French, being in Montreal and all. My sister and I would have conversations completely in English in front of her sometimes (to discuss secretive stuff, that teenagers do, we were nice that way)... and she would throw in a word or two every so often that would confirm our suspicions. But whenever we would confront her or ask, she would deny understanding a single thing.
So she would launch into conversation in Cantonese, with anyone, even if they were obviously not Asian. And appear shocked when they wouldn't understand her. Eventually she would just get really pissed off. What a riot she was. She would do this to Ian sometimes, and with a little charade-playing, he could actually understand her. It would make him laugh, a lot.
I thought about her this morning at the school bus stop. All the kids at this stop happen to be Asian. Now I'm not sure whether they are all Chinese, but I suppose that my kids appear the "least" Asian because they are of mixed heritage. "Half-age" -I spelled this phonetically as it's a term I heard in Vancouver for the first time this year. A term used by a hostess at a restaurant who couldn't stop fawning over my kids, saying how beautiful they were and how she hoped she would have kids like that one day (only the young, I know). But I digress...
The little boy across the street started Junior Kindergarten this year and is taking the bus for the first time as well. His family just moved in a few months ago, and he is being cared for by whom I assume to be, both his grandmothers. Who don't speak much English.
This was his first day at the bus stop without either of his parents. Today his grandmothers brought him kicking and screaming. He was crying, and making a fuss. One of the ladies turned to the older boy who waits at the bus with my kids. She started rattling off in Mandarin. I know this because I know bits and pieces, but I couldn't follow her questions. And neither could the boy. He just looked at her dumbfoundedly. Finally the other lady clued in and said in broken English "You understand?" and the boy replied. "No, sorry."
Then I could hear them chatting away to each other, and I'm sure from their tone of voice they were appalled. But they asked "You take Ricki to school?". And the boy said he would, but he didn't know Ricki's class.
So then my boy piped in, "I'll take him. I know whose class he's in, he's right next to G's room".
I told the ladies that my son knew where Ricki should go and they nodded gratefully at him. I couldn't help but beam with a little pride, ruffling my son's hair proudly.
That boy, he's been doing his darnedest to impress me lately. It's working.
And my Grandma? She's been gone almost 15 years now. But she was the one holding and consoling me when I was 4 years old. Crying and not wanting to get on the bus to go to Chinese school - that was me when I was a little Ricki.
A tiny glimpse of what seemed to have happened just yesterday. And it made me smile.