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Sunday, August 18, 2013


I was thinking today that I used to be a rarity, but I have become utterly commonplace. Seriously! There used to be things about me that were unusual enough to be conversation starters. For example, it used to be notable that I was the only person in my family that was born in the USA. My father was born in a moderately-sized town in Hungary, and my mother in a small village. My sisters and brother were born in the village of my mother's birth. They left Hungary in the middle of the night after the Hungarian Revolution failed, and I was born in Chicago a few years later. My siblings all eventually became US citizens, but I was the sole sibling that was lucky enough to be a citizen by birth. This used to be a story that would impress people, but nowadays people are more likely to say, "Meh. My neighbor/gardener/coworker/whoever came over from Country x on a boat and, and, and..." And my experience has become very usual.

There were three languages spoken in my parents' home, Hungarian, German, and English. I spent the first seven years of my life speaking all three and could have switched from one to another in the middle of a sentence.  But with my mother's death and my father's imprisonment, along with some other factors, I lost my ability to speak anything other than English. Trust me, though, I talk as much as if I still had three languages at my disposal, but I only do it in English. It seems that these days, everywhere I go, someone is able to converse in the language of their ancestors. I am a big fan of people learning the language of the country in which they live, while keeping the language of their forebears alive in their younger generations. 

I wonder if this is the root of my love of languages. I have a hunger to speak other languages, and studied both German and Spanish in high school, as well as some Spanish in college. I'd love to travel all over the world and be able to say a few words or sentences in the languages spoken in all of the countries I visit. Before I went to Hungary and France, I made sure that I knew at least a few words or sentences in both Hungarian and French. I mastered the basics like "Good morning or afternoon or evening," as well as the ever-important "Where is the bathroom?" and "How much does this cost?" But my former linguistic abilities don't even make a blip on anyone's radar any more.

It used to be a big deal that I was born in Chicago and as a result of numerous events ended up living in Colorado. Almost everyone I grew up with was a Colorado native. As an aside, I'd like to mention something that really irks me. Some people act like they are more of a Coloradan (or fill in the state or country of your choice) or a better Coloradan than other people since they were born here. To this I say, big deal. Your mama was in Colorado when you were born. It's not an accomplishment, it is a fortunate accident, just like me being born a US citizen. It wasn't any of my doing, I was just really lucky! These days, Colorado, like most other states, is populated with people from all over the place. They may be from Kalamazoo or Kuwait, Ohio or Osaka, you name it. But being from somewhere else is pretty average these days.

I don't want you to get the idea that being ordinary bothers me. It suits me just fine. But the circumstances that resulted is me losing my languages and being a non-Colorado native? I wish those were more unusual and exclusive. I wish there were fewer of us who lost a parent violently at an early age, and lost the other parent to prison for committing that violence. I wish that no child ever again should find her mother struggling to ask for help because she has been beaten to the brink of death. I wish that any child who loses their parents and ends up in an orphanage will find people there who give them genuinely loving care. I hope that they are hugged and told how worthwhile they are. Let them please be taken into a family that truly wants and loves them, and tells them they are an important and loved member of the family. Let them get away from the cycle of abuse instead of becoming the maternal figure's whipping post, literally and figuratively. Let them stay in a home full of love instead of being tossed away to another home because they are too much trouble to deal with. But if they must, let them not be told that the person they will be living with has always hated them.

I wish for them not to be constantly told that they are inferior. Let them not be told that they are too stupid to come in out of the rain. Let them know that if they need a band-aid, it doesn't mean they have a psychological flaw and they're just trying to get attention. Let them never be told that they are crazy just like their father, or that everyone who finds out about their past will hate them or not want them as friends because "everyone knows that craziness runs in families." I wish that they never hear comments about how their skin is oilier because they are genetically inferior. Or that you can take the girl out of the slum (and I never lived in a slum, thank you very much) but you can't take the slum out of the girl. I hope that children will be cherished and valued for the gift that they are and the potential they carry. I hope they will be loved and treated kindly. I hope, I hope, I hope...