We have been playing this game called “The Salon Game.” I work in a salon and she’s a client. I do her hair, I bring her breakfast, I take her around the hotel where she’s staying.
Luckily the characters in this game (we both call each other “señora”) speak Spanish. We started playing it towards the beginning of the pandemic. And it’s been a window into her deteriorating ability to speak Spanish.
This morning at breakfast she said “Pause the game,” and then asked in English, “Mama, how do we say “where are you from?”
In what language? I asked incredulously.
“In Spanish,” she replied.
“You know how to say that!!” But it wouldn’t come to her. “It starts with “De” I said, hoping it would jog her memory. But the Spanish was stuck in there behind folds of English-dominated neurons.
“¿De dónde eres?,” I gave her the phrase she needed.
“Unpause,” she said, signaling that we were back in The Salon Game.
“Señora,” she said to me, taking on her pretend personality, “Dónde estás de?” That was a word-for-word direct English translation, not the phrase I’d just given her.
“Jojo!” I screetched. “It’s De Dónde Eres!”
I rolled my eyes at her and she smiled sheepishly and corrected herself, and most importantly, we kept playing.
My brain is tired, and the stress of the news and all the uncertainty of today means my will power is a puddle on the ground. I’m not keeping up with Spanish all the time the way I used to because it’s hard. I don’t want to do hard things right now.
But there are sacred pockets where we can get some time with our target language. I read to her in Spanish, she watches Netflix in Spanish, and we pretend in Spanish.
Finding set times for Spanish-only play is just as helpful to me as it is to her. I know I can be the señora in this game for the next 5 minutes. That, I can do. And so can she.
The power of play.