My first thought when I read this prompt was the old phrase “of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” ~ Mark Twain
I looked at my daughter and asked if I was missing anything in my life. Her reply took seconds. I miss my original language.
Missing something implies possible regret. Missed opportunities. I think my life unfolded exactly as it should. I have had a world of experiences and two children that grew into honest, honorable and kind adults. What more could I ask for?
It seems I’ve been talking about fully learning the language of my birth more than I realized. I have even started looking at YouTube classes to refresh my memory. Was it even worth the bother at my age? What are the chances I’ll ever get back there?
I left Germany at 4 ½ years of age, starting kindergarten in Kansas City. We moved twice the next year, then went back to Germany for three more years. I attended a base school that included a class on German language to help the kids that had never been there. My playmates were mostly the German neighbors. They didn’t taunt me even though my German was not up to standards even to them.
While we originally lived in Germany, my dad, with the US army, spoke to me in English and I answered in German. We understood each other. Once we landed in the US my mother ‘earned’ her citizenship with study and testing. She stated to me that this was where we lived now, this is where our money came from and this was the only language we would speak. I was only to hear words in German if she did not know I was in range. They were usually muttered to herself, never outside our home. At that time in history, we were not well received here.
I traveled to Germany twice with my mother after their retirement. The first time was on a group tour with other military couples when my dad’ decided it was too much for him. Mom needed company. We were with Americans and that was primarily what was spoken on that trip.
The second time we went alone on her last trip, to all the places she had been with my dad and to visit some new online friends. Mom was struggling with pulmonary fibrosis and the trip was grueling. We rented a car and I did all the driving trying to understand road signs and rules. Mom had forgotten most of her German but I seem to find mine out of sheer need. Each occasion requiring information brought up words from the deep dark reaches of my mind. Mom would look at me and ask how I knew those words. I could only shrug and marvel at their appearance with gratitude.
I think that brought on the desire to relearn what I had lost and build on it. I used to think in German and translate to English. Now I think in English and work very hard to translate to German. I’m not certain I’ll get the level of mastery where I can converse fluently but it would be so nice to go there, immerse myself for a few months and then once again, dream in my first language.
Do you feel there is anything still missing in your life? How would you go about finding it?
From my heart to yours,