In December I left my job of seven years, we moved across town into the home I grew up in, and we enrolled Bilingual Baby in a new daycare. We’ve been living with my mom (called “Momsy” by Jojo) for about two months now and while we’re still settling in, it’s all starting to feel like home.
My mom’s the ideal “housemate.” She goes to bed early, she’s a great cook and *bonus* she doesn’t mind staying with the baby if we want to go out at night. In the year and a half since my father died it feels like we’ve still just been picking up the pieces. My hope is that by living together we can help each other get ahead and do more than just survive.
Being closer to my mom makes supporting her effortless: I don’t have to leave my family and drive across town to be with her, and I know that just being with her is sometimes all I need to do to help her build herself up after the infinite loss of my dad. And as for me, I’m not alone with Jojo on the nights when Lyon stays out late playing a gig (this is when we watch our Mexican telenovelas).
But perhaps most importantly, Bilingual Baby will get to live with her grandmother for six months. My mom takes her to school some mornings, she chases Jojo around the house and plays hide-and-seek with her, she throws pretend macaroni in her ears. She also sings songs to her that I’ve forgotten about and cooks more home-cooked meals than I’ve ever managed to. When I walk in the front door and I see the two of them on the floor with blankets and baby dolls strewn about, it hits me how special it is that Jojo gets this kind of intensive time with Momsy. Not a lot of kids get to know their grandmothers on such an intimate level.
And what about her Spanish? I’m slightly more outnumbered now than I was before. My mom is a lifelong learner of Spanish and is all for supporting her granddaughter’s bilingualism, but she’s not quite fluent. Still, she tries. She tries so hard that a while back we talked about whether or not she should let the Spanish go sometimes. We had both sensed that she might be creating a strain on her relationship with Bilingual Baby because, sometimes, if she didn’t have all the words in Spanish, she just wouldn’t say anything. Too much was going unsaid. “Give yourself permission to speak to her in English,” I told her. And right away, she did.
So now my mom mixes in a healthy amount of both Spanish and English. And I’ve been really impressed with how much Jojo speaks to her grandmother in Spanish. She knows that she’ll be understood and she knows that my mom enjoys conversing in Spanish. It’s been great to watch.
Bilingual Baby’s school is completely different from where she was before. At her previous Spanish immersion school she wore a uniform to an institution with over one hundred kids where she was in a small class with toddlers exactly her age. Now she’s at a home-based school with twelve kids who range in ages from two to five, and they do three days in Spanish and two days in French (and any kind of fashion goes, including red frilly tutus over jeans).
When I pick Jojo up from school she is in Spanish mode and rarely speaks to me in English. She seems happy and free and is always excited to go to school. We couldn’t be happier.
Sometimes living in my childhood home is hard because my dad’s presence is everywhere. At the dinner table his seat is always empty, and I can feel the emptiness staring back at me. But because he’s everywhere, there are even more chances to tell Jojo about her grandfather: “Grandad,” she says pointing to his chair, “se sentaba alli (used to sit there).” “A Grandad,” she says, “le gustaba el chocolate, como yo.”
Here is one of the few pictures we have of the two of them together; this one is from the day Bilingual Baby was born: