When the young mother from Syria learns the word ‘scarf’ becomes ‘scarves’ when made plural, it’s like she’s discovered gold, she’s so delighted. This small thing.
It turned colder on Monday. I took the last of the collected scarves, gloves, hats and ear warmers and I stood by the exit after class, watching students go out into the wind, supplying needs as I saw them. I’ve noticed it takes a long time for the women who’ve spent their lives in warmer climates to get used to dressing for our winter weather. Here it is, beginning of February, and they are just beginning to wear their coats. What are they saving them for?
I gave away my favorite pumpkin scarf. It’s seen better days. I thought of sending it to Goodwill a few times, but never could because I was so crazy for the color and feel of it. But a Congolese student was heading out with a bare neck and my bag was empty. I stood there, bundled to the very top of my head, almost overdressed. My car was 50 feet from the door. She would be walking several blocks to the bus stop, then waiting. So I unwrapped the pumpkin scarf and wrapped it on her, warmth still in it. We walked out together into the wind. I don’t miss the scarf.
An agency director came and gave a short talk to the class about the executive order that’s dominated the news, explaining it while we had interpreters present for a special presentation on parenting. Questions were invited. Answers, if known, were given. Then we moved on. It is important for people to feel heard and to be able to ask questions in calmness and safety.
We have a new student from Iraq. The family received death threats after assisting the US military, so they fled the country. She is lovely, a 32-year-old mother of three and she’s undergoing treatment for cancer. She’s had chemo in a few different countries. Today she’s receiving it here. Tomorrow she’ll be back in class. It takes everything out of her to come to class and afterwards she is wiped out for the day.
I saw the young mother from Syria telling the new student about ‘scarf’ and ‘scarves,’ and the Iraqi woman writing it in her notebook, smiling. A new language is built one word at a time.