la gente de la pie

I’d like to think of myself as a steady force but truth be told I’m a bit faddish, and my newest fad (semi-obsession!) revolves around a thrift shop in Aberdeen se llama Thrift world, a veritable mecca of decent brands, clean and organized stock, crazy-low prices, and kid-friendly employees. It seems I’m the last local to avidly take to the place – I’d steered clear based on previous tenents of the building (it has been a thrift store of sorts under varying ownership for at least twenty years). Having visited the other day, I am hooked.  “Have you been to Thrift World?” I ask my friends.  Yes. So basically there are trends in our little hick corner and I’m on the bleeding edge of exactly zilch.

Today’s date involves a meetup at the bakery with my friend J. and her daughter E.  We are late arriving to meet our friends (car problems FTW! But we did in fact get the battery issue in my mom’s truck sorted).  I order a coffee and we caravan the few blocks to the secondhand shop.  I’m searching for bedding, complete with my flexible tape measure (nerd!), as well as my notations of the items I’d seen a few days ago that were not on sale yet, but would be today (double nerd!).  J. is looking for jeans but, I am told by reliable sources, came away with additional t-shirts and tank tops, of which Thrift World has an impressive cache.

After plowing through piles and piles of sheets on packed shelves I am satisfied with my haul and drag it up front.  “Buenas tardes,” I respond to the cashier’s hello. I pile armloads of JC Penney and Eddie Bauer sheets and pillowcases up on the counter, topped by a pair of low-level Converse in a size just right for Nels and some growing room. “¿Cómo se dice en español?” I ask, holding up the rather threadbare shoelaces that almost always attend secondhand shoes. “Agujetas,” she says. I put my hand behind my ear, or say “¿Cómo?”, I can’t remember which (I am much better at learning a lanugage by reading than by listening; although the more I speak of Spanish, the more I can “hear” it properly), and she repeats the word firmly. I say it back, then: “¿Tienes aquí?” I ask. She turns to another employee to ask; the second employee replies in the negative and then looks at me and elaborates in Spanish (this always fills me with a little gladness as it’s how I learn).  At first I catch only “something-something bolsas”, but after a beat I understand: sometimes the manager brings sealed bags of shoelaces into the store.  “¿Con los zapatos?” I ask? No. En bolsas by the linen section.  Gracias.

The cashier rings me up.  Doce dólares for the whole lot.  I thank both the ladies and, my purchases swinging in a large white plastic bag, move to collect my own children, who have been happily playing in the toy section during my purchasing.

When I join my friend J. back at the counter the cashier looks over at me and asks, “You speak Spanish?” “Un poquito,” I respond (the only true answer).  She asks if I learned the language in school. “Si, pero… hablando con la gente locales,” I answer. I’m pretty sure I don’t have that right at all, but she understands what I’m saying, nods.  I add, “Y mi niños también: hablan un poquito.”

Such a transaction is enough to add a spring in my step.  I suppose I speak my Spanish, what I have, what I’m collecting, for three reasons relatively on par with one another: porque mucha gente en mi comunidad hablan espanol, because I like to talk, and because it feels amazing in my brain to flow in another language. I am slow to learn but oddly I learn best by, you know, talking.

Sometimes I”m fortunate in that my Spanish-speaking acquaintance will assist me with my errors but mostly I end up going home and finding out I said something like, “I had to wait outside in the bad date,” instead of the last noun being “weather” (this is because “time” and “weather” are both the noun tiempo, and I learned the concept of “date” and “time” on the same day in Spanish class).  And then I wonder if I just sound like a fool.  But, at least I’m no gringo simply shouting at native Spanish-speakers, or avoiding eye-contact, or all kinds of ass-hattery I see around this place.

Driving home and it’s sunny and lovely in this way so unique to the township I live, where I’ve spent so much of my life. My eldest child is on the bench seat next to me (the youngest is with J. and E. as we head en masse to the YMCA) and she leans her head onto my shoulder.  El sol es como música en mi piel y estoy muy contento.