In high school, I took German for two years. I can now ask to go to the bathroom, sorta. Wo ist der WC? Basically, I know how to asked where the water closet is. I could probably ask for a wiener schnitzel in a restaurant if they have picture menu. So, when The Daughters were old enough to go comatose in front of the TV, I was grateful that Dora was not a purple dinosaur. And, I learned my colors, my numbers, the word for stars and Ayúdame, which means "help" and I know that because on more than one occasion, my children have summoned the help of Spanish speakers in Hellmart.
I thought Dora was great: My kids learned Spanish and I could catch a 20 minute nap on the sofa. My baby girls haven't watched Dora in years, but the language has stuck with me.
Earlier this week, the language actually stuck it to me as well. After a great night at the ballpark where we lost the game but got a great bruise, complete with stitch imprints, we decided to go to the Mexican restaurant where kids eat free.
We were quickly seated and poured over the multi-page menu looking for the cheese enchiladas with queso sauce. Our waiter brought our chips and salsa, and here's where my Espanol paid off.
"Gracias," I said with a smile.
The waiter smiled back and replied, "De nada." But that was not all he said. Without even taking a breath, he told me a very animated and apparently funny, if his giggles were any indication, story. I smiled at him, nodded my head when it seemed appropriate, and matched his hearty laugh at the obvious end of his tale. He slapped me on the back and walked from the table.
"What'd he say, Momma?" Daughter 2 asked.
I looked deep into her eyes and shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea. None. I just matched his emotion. Before my shoulders had even returned to their original position from their single shrug, the waiter was back.
This time he brought us a bowl--a very large bowl--of queso.
"We didn't order this," I said very loud and slowly. Then, for good measure, I added, "No," before handing the bowl back.
"Is okay," he smiled before launching into another story using words that were beyond my Dora lexicon. It wasn't quite so animated, but I nodded at the right times and smiled when he sighed at the end of his story and walked toward the kitchen.
I turned to my family and, before they had a chance to ask, I answered. "No clue. I have no clue what he said."
Over the course of our meal, which included an extra order of fries, an enchilada with red sauce that we didn't order but were given anyway, and some guacamole, which we didn't eat because it's yuck, I heard an obviously sad story, another funny story, and quite possibly his family history, if his hand gestures are to be believed. And when the ticket came? It was a good $10 less than it should have been.
"There's been some mistake," I explained in my loud and slow voice reserved for non-English speakers and the very old.
"No," he smiled, "It's right. I make it right for you." Once again, I smiled, paid our tab, and we headed home.
When we were in the car, Daughter 1 called my bluff, "You don't even speak Spanish, Momma!"
Daughter 2 defended me, "Yes she does. Didn't you hear her?"
"No," Daughter 1 was adamant. "I'm taking Spanish and she's never said anything but hola and gracias. And she does it with her bad Spanish accent."
"Well," Daughter 2 explained, "She listens in Spanish."
And this is where Daughter 1 jumped on board. "Fine. She can listen in Spanish as long as it gets us free queso."