Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy birthday to you too!

We're visiting the Jefferson Memorial. The place is filled with foreigners for whom today does not conjure images of rosted turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. There are also some Americans who came to honor the great men of this country. We pause as we read the words that adorn the walls. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". My parents discuss the omnipresent reference to God and the "creator". We head out still talking. The basement door is heavy and blocks the chilling wind. I see a kid, wearing a yellow jacket, pushing the door to open it. He is trying all his strength over a sign that says "Pull". I see him thrusting all his body weight on the door, trying all his might and while walking toward him I say "Pull! Pull!"to no avail as the kid is still pushing. As I am getting closer and closer to the door, my impatience is growing to see so much pure strength applied so blindly. Surely, one could realize that it is not working and pause for a while to consider what could be the problem. The kid seems about 10 and oblivious to all. He is pushing his small body against the door, a determined look on his face. I shout "Pull!" when I hear my mother behind me saying. "Don't shout. Maybe he does not understand English." As I open the door for the kid, much calmer now, she explains that it happened to her once. "Maybe he speaks Spanish", she says. "OK. So how do you say "Pull" and "Push" in Spanish? I ask. "Empuje" and "Abre" is the answer. As I am repeating the words to remember them, the kid's mother turns around and smiles. The family is right in front of us. A teenager in baggy jeans still making fun of his younger brother, the father and the kid, smiling shyly. My mother smiles back and immediately starts speaking in Spanish. The father asks immediately where are we from. France. He switches to French. They're from Venezuela but are living in Montreal. Visiting Washington. My mother explains how easy it is to be confused with doors and she compliments the kid to be so well behaved. Polite exchange between foreigners. As we part and exchange good wishes of good vacations, I say "Happy Thanksgiving!" I am not sure if it is by joke or confusion but the father answers "Happy birthday to you too!"


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