Seven years ago, when my daughter moved to Brazil, I started taking classes, at a UC extension, in how to speak Portuguese. The classes were always full of young adults planning to travel to Brazil or engaged in a romance with a Brazilian. I was the only one who ever said, “I want to learn Portuguese so that if I ever get to have grandchildren I will be able to communicate with them.”
I’ve been diligent with trying to keep up what I learned, which was a pretty good ability to read and to grasp basic grammar. I made less progress with understanding and expressing myself in the spoken word. And now my time is just about up! A baby is coming! In July! The baby will be born in São Paulo. I’ve been invited to be present. Where is the crash course that will get me up to speed?! I guess I might just have to learn to speak Portuguese alongside my grandchild.
I am thrilled at the prospect of becoming a grandma, and also surprised that the moment is actually coming. I selected the books for spring 2019 discussion before I received the big news. Now I think that the choice of a guiding question was a fortuitous one. What makes a family? The three books in the series invite us to reflect on how families are formed, how families may be shaped by culture and tradition, how families express their care for one another when close at hand or far apart, how families change and adapt to new circumstances and times, and what happens when family members feel betrayed by one another. The grandma plays an especially important role in the February book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See.
Lisa See is a best-selling author who has written memoir, historical fiction, mystery books, and even an opera libretto. She lives in Los Angeles and has curated exhibits at the Autry Museum and the Chinese American Museum. She designed a walking tour of L.A.’s Chinatown and wrote the companion guidebook for Angels Walk L.A. to celebrate the opening of the MTA’s Chinatown station. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was published in 2017 and should be easily available via whatever strategy you usually acquire books. I look forward to discussing it with you (and maybe drinking some tea together) on Monday, February 25, at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary at RHUMC.
Até logo! (which is Portuguese for “See you soon!”)