My new routine is both intimidating and invigorating. At 6:30 am I arise to a dark room and brumal chill. I shower, I apply make-up, and carefully select the day’s wears. I make coffee and pack my Rosie the Riveter lunch box. I walk down the big hill and around the bend to my car and then I drive to school.
I’m back in first grade.
Or full-immersion French for immigrants, held five days a week in class 302.
The students’ names are tapped to the desks: Gloria, Mimosa, Hiroma, Yuka, Amande. Wonderful names with soft rolling Rs and whispered Ms.
The days of the week and months are spelled out on construction-paper and hung to the board. Flashcards with pictures of books, cake, cats, and more trim the ceiling.
We practice the alphabet and play Bingo and Memory. When we leave class, we put our chairs on the desks. I expect to play the French-version of “Heads Up, 7Up.”
Every day, my mind floods with memories of how I struggled cutting Christmas trees into construction paper (I’m lefty), the putrid smell of the orange powder Janitor Bob used to cover up throw-up, and the smell of new books and pencils.
I’m brought back to the adoration I had for my teachers, especially Mrs. Hubert, the one who first unlocked my language; the one who taught me to read, write, and imagine.
The most heartwarming part of this process is the camaraderie of the classmates. There are only two other Anglos in class. Some speak Spanish, some Japanese, one speaks Armenian. And yet we communicate. We help each other understand through hand motions and broken French. We share gummy bears, stories from our native countries, and our favorite sports teams and musicians.
It’s that magical time early in life when your only mission is to observe and absorb. Before everyone got mean and jaded and before all the kids started competing for grades, boyfriends, best friends. It’s sharing and caring. The good stuff. The stuff in our genetic make-up; the stuff that makes us human.
I found the fountain of youth in an immersion French class for Canadian immigrants. Who knew?