Feelings lost in translation

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I came home one weekend like I usually do from college; sleep deprived, in the mood for some homemade grub and dreading the amount of homework ahead of me. And as usual my mother had some sort of task for me to take care of while I was home.

This time it was the continuation of something that I had started several weeks ago. She had lost her job the previous summer and was in search of a new one. After exploring online job sites, she found a receptionist position at a nearby hospital. She attempted to create a profile on the site and submit a resume, but with little success.

That’s where I came in. I’ve been translating documents, parent-teacher conversations and now websites for my mother since I can remember. Before me, my older siblings assumed this role.

My mother’s been in the United States for what will be 30 years this October. She married my father, a Mexican-American who returned to Mexico every summer to visit his family, in August of 1979 and received her visa later that year.

With a sixth grade education and little job experience when she left San Miguel El Alto, Jalisco, my mother came to Summit, Illinois, to be a homemaker. Her main duty was raising six kids, but eventually she entered the American workforce and did a variety of things, including operating a mall carousel and translating at a public welfare office. There she learned basic computer skills and improved her English.

She pretends to not understand English when telemarketers call, but will yell at us when we let an English curse word slip out in front of her. Conversationally, my mother’s English has gotten much better over the years, but reading and writing are still difficult for her.

We sat down at the computer and she gave me her attention for about five minutes, but then got up to check some food on the stove and wash some dishes, and then there was the laundry. I started to fill out some of the information for her profile, but soon got frustrated because she fell into the usual routine of relying on me completely. I called for her and tried to explain that we should go over all the questions and information together, but she expected me to know what to do and just do it.

I walked away from the computer and the situation and my mother was angry. It reminded me of times when I was younger and wished that she would be like other mothers who didn’t need to have everything explained to her and didn’t question why I wanted to go to sleepovers or eat pizza instead of tacos.

I will never completely understand what she was feeling when I walked away from the computer. I know that there was immense frustration, not only towards me, her daughter, but because she is in a country that she can never completely call her own, trying to master a language in which her name, Obdulia, does not sound the same.

I will likely be helping her with something else when I go home this weekend. Hopefully I don’t have to explain phrases like LOL and LMAO again like I did a few weeks ago when she was baffled by my younger sister’s Myspace conversations.

3 Responses to Feelings lost in translation

  1. Here paying a small but heartfelt tribute to this exceptional and loving “MAESTRO” who made and still is making significant contributions to the Hispanic communities. He is a great philosopher who gained renown and distinction for his work in teaching to mainly poor minority children as well as parents and community members
    He has made the best positive impact a good teacher can make. MR. Ferrer my respects for you and thank you for all your hard work and for always having as a main goal “to help other people regardless who they were.”
    Sincerely

    Rosa Garza y familia

  2. And such strong cigarettes! It’s like the incense the Aztecs used in their rituals.

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