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Sunday, January 5, 2014

FaceTime with Familia

My mother is from Puerto Rico, and my father is American from Ohio, so growing up, I knew that I had family that didn't speak English. Even though my mother speaks English and Spanish without any interfering accents, her parents spoke English with an accent. While growing up, I'd hear her on the phone speaking Spanish and knew immediately she was talking to family. That was a connection I wanted, and that was the biggest impetus to teach my own kids Spanish at home.

I learned the other day that my Puerto Rican grandfather had just gotten an iPhone and that he had called my mom on FaceTime. She was a little taken aback, but thrilled, that her father had taken so easily to this new technology. I also learned that his sister, Tía Vive, who lives in Puerto Rico and whom I had never met, was visiting him at his home in Florida. So, I thought I'd give him a call, too.

My wife had gone to the gym, while I stayed home with the boys. I thought this would be a great time to try out FaceTime with Abuelito (Grandpa), as I'm calling him to distinguish him as my sons' great-grandfather from my dad, their grandfather, whom they call Grandpapi. He picked up, and lo and behold, there was Tía Vive, sitting right next to him. I was sitting on my sofa with both of my boys in my lap, and I could see Abuelito's face light up as he saw his great-grandsons. Of course, he was glad to see me, too.

He introduced me to his sister, and I was so excited to talk to her! She lives close to the home where they grew up, in Hormigueros, a small town close to Mayagüez, on the western side of the island. Here I saw my grandfather and his older sister sitting side by side on my screen, and it was as if I were sitting across the living room from them. They have the same caramel skin, the same gray hair, the same smile.

She smiled as she asked who those boys belonged to, and I beamed with pride as I said they were mine. Her next question, a little hesitantly was: "¿Hablan español?" ("Do they speak Spanish?") My grandfather chimed in: "¡Estos nenes hablan español! ("These boys speak Spanish!") I could tell he was proud, as was I. Not only am I his grandson--a bilingual and bicultural Puerto Rican--but I'm also a Spanish teacher, so this was a point of pride for me, personally. I asked JJ (almost 3) and AJ (almost 2) to count for Tía Vive in Spanish, and JJ gladly obliged. Tía Vive was over the moon! As she observed how I interacted in Spanish with each boy, and after hearing JJ's proud counting, she proclaimed to everyone in the room "¡Estos nenes hablan español! ("These boys speak Spanish!").

The boys were getting a little restless, and it was almost dinner time, so I asked the boys to say "Adiós" (Goodbye) and "Te quiero mucho" (I love you). Tía Vive has been visiting Abuelito--my Grandpapi--for about three weeks now, and she, along with her daughter and son-in-law will be there a little while longer. "Es mi hermano preferido" ("He's my favorite brother"), she smiled as she gave him a hug.

We'll FaceTime again, for sure, as I want my boys to connect with their family--their culture, their language, their history, their pride--even if we can't be all in the same room.