The little Italian boy sat next to me at lunch everyday. I was the only American kid there and the only person in the entire building who spoke English, otherwise I would have been able to tell my preschool teachers why I cried every afternoon and wanted to go home to my mom.
Because my mom doesn't take her plastic lunchtime fork and jab it into my leg and drag it up and down until my tights are completely destroyed.
I didn't know my family was poor. I only knew my family couldn't afford to buy me a new pair of tights after every mid-afternoon assault. It was frustrating, being there in that school, with such wonderful, loving, dark-haired Italian women who obviously cared about me. It was frustrating because, even though I could point at things and demonstrate with my hands and tell a story with my body language and facial expressions, my teachers and I just couldn't talk to each other.
I eventually learned Italian and became quite fluent. I did so well in my language class, in fact, that my teacher selected me to learn American Sign Language, too. Boy, oh boy, did I ever think I was the bee's knees. Living in Italy came with some perks. The DoD school I attended even thought I was pretty damn special. They invited me to join the Talented and Gifted program. TAG, we called it. It was like being in a club. A special club.
I moved back to the states and had myself set up to test into the district's TAG program in my new school. Oh, wait until they hear my resume! I'll tell them about the time I visited a nursing home at Christmas time and sang "Buon Natale" at the top of my lungs while signing in ASL for those who couldn't hear me singing at the top of my lungs. They were probably the lucky ones that night.
To make a long story short, I failed. I failed the test. I wasn't considered Talented and Gifted enough for the United States. The cultural differences made no difference to them at all.
What cultural differences, exactly? Well, for example, school buses are blue and fire hydrants are brown. And cheese comes from goats. Right?
No. Not right!
This story reminds me of the time I took my daughter to a speech therapy consultation. She was three-years old at the time and it was in the middle of a scorching hot summer. To get a starting point to measure her developmental progress, the therapist showed her a series of pictures and asked her to name each one.
(picture of a dog) = Puppy!
(picture of an apple) = Apple!
(picture of a bed) = Night Night!
And so on...
(picture of a house) = House!
(picture of a book) = Story!
(picture of a cow) = Moo!
Until we hit a few roadblocks...
(picture of a knife) = ......uh, I can't play with those.
(picture of a winter coat) = ....Mommy, what is that?
(picture of mittens) = ....ugh, forget it.
Therapist: "You can't help her."
Me: "But she's never even seen one of those before. This is Florida."
Therapist (to Elle): "What do you wear when it's cold outside?"
Elle: "A sweater."
Me: "*snort* Well, Therapist, what did you expect? Good job, Elle. We're all done here."
Ha. Another Talented and Gifted flunkie is in our midst.