It was about 3:30pm when we arrived at the park. We had so much fun there yesterday that we had to come back for more. The intense mountain sun again soaked through to our skin as we slowly made our way to the playground. I pushed Délice in a stroller with one hand and held a bag of sandbox toys in the other. I occasionally called for Ayo not to run too far away from maman. He was thoroughly enjoying the freedom of meandering and shouted with sheer glee as he made a new discovery: a new rock or a big stick. After the buzz of the weekend, the park was still and peaceful, with runners and dog owners silently whizzing past us. Between the unrestrained toddler squeals and his mother beckoning him to come back as he ran for the cars on a nearby street, we definitely made our presence known.
As we reached the playground area, catchy music drowned out our noise pollution and quickly caught our attention. A man in his late thirties sat alone on a bench, playing a mini guitar, singing as he strummed in a striking male Edith Piaf voice. It took me about two seconds to realize that he was singing in impeccable French. I decided to park our stroller in his vicinity and let Ayo play there with the sand toys so we could enjoy his music. It was such a beautiful picture. About 20 children swung on swings, raced down slides and ran around the park on this warm day to gorgeous French vintage music. My mind imagined the scene immortalized in a black and white photo but yet the weather was too beautiful to let it linger in black and white. I snapped a quick photo of my own to record the moment. Mine was a little less idyllic. It was one of Ayo dumping sand upon himself. I couldn’t keep snapping because I didn’t want to be so obvious that I was actually trying to take a photo of guitar-man.
Ayo eventually made his way to a slide and I told him to move away from the bottom of the slide so that other kids could come down: “Il faut que tu bouges de là, sinon tu vas te faire écraser par les plus grands, poussin! ” That is when I heard a young girl say: “Qu’est-ce que vous avez dit?” By her use of French, it was pretty clear to me that her daddy was the one playing guitar for the glorious benefit of all the rest of us.
It didn’t take long for her father to overhear me yelling across the playground to Ayo in his native language. Guitar-man eventually walked over to Ayo, who had his eyes on that ‘toddler-size guitar’. “Vous êtes française?” he asked me as I burped Délice over my shoulder. Am I French. Shoot – how hate that question! I muttered my ‘yes but no but yes’ answer. In his confusion, he turned to Ayo and had a mini conversation in French. He asked him if he liked the music. Ayo nodded. Guitar-man asked if he should play another song. Ayo nodded and squealed and clapped. And he asked him a few more questions, which resulted in timid responses yet perfect comprehension from my almost 23 month old.
Given the minority language feelings I shared in one recent blog post, my heart jumped for joy to be able to witness this little exchange. Here we were, in the middle of America and Ayo thought absolutely nothing of it, that he understood and could respond to a random Frenchman talking to him in the park.
Times like these remind me why we are on this multilingual journey.
Times like these remind me that the effort is not in vain.
This month’s carnival is hosted by Olga Mecking over at The European Mama. Head over there to read fascinating blog posts written by a wide range of multilingual parents on the theme of ‘Multilingual Stories and Anecdotes’!