Sunday, January 28, 2018


If I had it to do over again, I might think more about the classes I chose to take in seventh grade. Back then, I was pretty sure that I was going to be an artist. A visual artist. I didn't think about living in a house. I was pretty sure that the folks at Disney Studios would take care of that for me once I was in their employ. So I never took wood shop. I met the requirements, but I was so focused on my sensibilities that I didn't use my common sense. Do I wish now that I would have picked up a semester learning about power tools and how to use them safely? My wife would tell you that this might have saved us a few hundred dollars having to replace machines that would not bend to my will, when I ended up bending them.

Then there was this other choice: foreign language. There were two sections of seventh grade Spanish, since it was to that my peers flocked. Word was out that Spanish was easier than French and Everybody was going to take Spanish. Except me and the nerds who signed up for German because we had heard that it was the hardest of the three languages being taught at Centennial Junior High. Grammar rules that required a manual thicker than a Manhattan phone book and words that stretched on and on in some of the most amusing ways that they served as a distraction to the challenge of keeping their spelling straight. The benefit I took away from all those hours of studying the dative and the nominative and the accusative allowed me to understand the Nazi dialogue in World War Two movies without resorting to the subtitles.

That, and I am still burdened by the following dialogue:

Tag, Anna. Wie gehts?

Gut, und du?

Auch gut.

Three lines that are etched in my brain more than forty years later, while I struggle to piece together the questions asked me by the parents of my students who hail from Guatemala, not Stuttgart. Add to this the shame of knowing that I spent a year in the Centennial language lab with headphones on, repeating the phrase, "hören sie gut zu, sprechen sie nicht nach," which translates to "listen well, do not repeat after."

My older brother, who took industrial arts and Spanish, can still sing Centennial's fight song. In Spanish. I buy replacement tools and hope I can find someone to translate.

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