Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Proud Moment

As much as I love getting opportunities to practice my Khmer, I've recently become just the slightest bit disenchanted with speaking it and a good deal frustrated with how limited my conversational abilities are. I noticed this when my parents and I were in the fancy soap store last week -- picking out fancy soaps for my Grandma -- and I found I could not sufficiently explain in Khmer the differentiating qualities of the soaps to my mom.

Tonight, I stopped by my Grandma's to drop off these soaps. She picked up the soaps and admired the beautiful box they had been packaged in -- its colorful, illustrated lid and the plentiful crumpled tissue paper inside. She wondered if I had paid extra for the shopping bag the soaps came in -- so lovely a bag it was! Curious now, my grandpa held it up within an inch of his face (he is legally blind) to take a look for himself, and together they ooh'd and aah'd. After all this, and after discussing how nice packaging must contribute greatly to the high price of luxury goods, she then picked up the soaps, one at a time, for examination.

I explained that the soap she liked had been discontinued. I explained that I had gotten her the last of it the store had. I explained that I got them in Oregon last week. But for the life of me, I found that I could not explain that since they are no longer making that soap, that I've picked out another soap for her to try, one that I hope she will like just as much. And to not be able to form the words I so badly wanted to say felt sort of like a small bird had perched in my mouth and had snatched my tongue in between its beak, holding my tongue and my speech captive.

Needless to say, I also could not explain to her that this new soap I've gotten was recommended to me by the sales girl for its great exfoliating properties. I could not find the words to tell her that the exfoliating part is apricot kernel powder and that there is the essence of grape juice to revitalize her skin. All I could say is that I've gotten her a new soap, and I asked her to tell me if she likes it.

When I decided to leave, my grandma decided that my grandpa would escort me to my car. It pains me to watch them move, like they are on stilts, except the stilts are nearly broken and wobble terribly, which requires them to move slowly, so very slowly. So it was even more painful to think about my grandpa making his way down the long flight of stairs, down past the playground and down an endless stretch of dark sidewalk with me to make sure that I got to my car ok. I tried to fight it, I tried to ask him to just watch me from the safety of his front door, but he had already pulled on his tennis shoes and hat. And before I could kiss my grandma goodbye, he was out the door, halfway down the stairs.

As we walked out of earshot from my grandma, he asked me how much I make a month. When I told him, he exclaimed I could buy a house! That I must buy a house! I told him I would.

We arrived at my car, and I unlocked it so he could see the flash of the car lights. And immediately, after taking note of my car's impossibly small parking space between two large SUVs, he said that I must be a skilled driver to have gotten in there. So I guess all is not lost in translation if we can communicate the important things to each other -- namely, my grandpa telling me I have got some mad parallel parking skills -- even if my grandma will never know what exactly in her soap is making her skin so soft and smooth.

1 comment:

Irene said...

giiiiiiirl, i know what you mean.

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