Monday, November 18, 2013

Catarina Speaks

9:33 PM

Catarina Speaks

I was ten years old when we arrived in the United States, knowing only a little English. The words I did know, I had difficulty pronouncing. Fortunately, my cousins were there to help. They taught me key phrases such as “Could you repeat that?”
My first few months in America were difficult because I couldn’t speak English very well. One thing I did do well, though, was art, because you didn’t have to speak English to be a good artist.
At school I met a girl named Molena. Her family had also moved to the United States from South America. She had been a baby at the time, so she spoke English perfectly. We quickly became friends, and I even shared with her my discomfort about speaking English.
“Hey, I can help you with English,” Molena offered
one day in art class. I asked, “Why would you do that?”
“I’d like to help you, Catarina. Maybe you can teach me to paint like you do. You’re really good, you know!”
“Thanks,” I said shyly.
Then I thought, why not? I could teach Molena what I knew about art in exchange for a few English lessons. It wouldn’t hurt!

Bit by bit, I learned English. Molena was very helpful, teaching me phrases that meant something entirely different from what I thought they should mean. One day Molena said, “You’re pulling my leg!” I wasn’t anywhere near her leg, and I said so quite loudly. She laughed and explained that the expression means that I was fooling her. I was glad to have Molena as a teacher, because her gentle corrections reminded me that I should feel no humiliation about making mistakes.
Later that week, our fifth grade class decided to perform a play about Robin Hood. Molena decided to try out for the part of Maid Marian.
“What about you?” she asked me hopefully.
“I probably won’t try out for anything,” I said.
“You should,” she said.
“Yeah, right!” I said.
There was no way I was going to audition for a part. I knew English, but I still felt timid when I spoke, especially in front of an entire audience. With Molena’s help, my English was getting better, yet I just wasn’t ready to try it out in public.

 “They need people to make the sets and props,” I said. “I’m going to help with that.”
“You should try out for some part,” Molena coaxed.
“You’d be great. I know you would!”
That was why I liked Molena. She always thought the best of everyone. Still, she didn’t change my mind. I was going to utilize my artistic talents and be happy with helping out in that way. I didn’t have to be a star. I could work on the fringes and still play a big part.
Molena got the role of Maid Marian. She had to do a lot of moving around while saying her lines. She was a terrific actress!
I often helped Molena practice her lines. She had trouble remembering them sometimes, but she worked hard. By the time she memorized all her lines, I had learned them, too.
Meanwhile, I helped design and make the sets for the show. We painted gigantic backdrops, one of the forest and one of the town. All the other kids who worked on the sets had parts in the play. I was the only one who didn’t, but I didn’t mind.
However, my grandmother had different expectations. When I told my family about the play, she asked me why I didn’t have a speaking part. “Why are you hesitating? You should be in the play,” she insisted.
“I’m just not ready,” I said. “I don’t think I speak English well enough yet to have a speaking part.”
“You speak English just fine,” she said. “I think perhaps your English is not what is inhibiting you.”
For the remainder of the day, I thought about what my grandmother had said.
During the first dress rehearsal, everything went smoothly, but for the first time, I felt depressed that I hadn’t tried out for a part in the play. Not only did I hate to disappoint my grandmother, but also I wanted to be part of the cast. Oh well, I thought. It was too late for that. As the cast rehearsed, I worked backstage. I made sure all the props were ready and all the sets were changed when they should be. The play was bound to be a huge success!

Early the next morning, the phone rang. It was Molena, and she sounded terrible. She told me that she had the flu and wouldn’t be able to be in the play.
“You know the lines, Catarina,” she said weakly. 
“You can be Maid Marian. I know you can do it. I told the teacher this morning that you knew all my lines, and she’s expecting you to do it.”
Still, I doubted that I could play the part of Maid Marian. I started to protest, but Molena was so sick she had already hung up. I put my head in my hands and sighed loudly.
“Big sighs from such a little lady,” my grandmother said quietly.
I explained what had happened. Then I said, “I’d like to play the part of Maid Marian, but I’m still worried about my English.”
“Your English is perfect!” she said. “It’s your courage that’s not so good.”
I laughed and gave her a big hug. Then I picked up my books and walked out the door. I knew what I had to do.
We only had two more rehearsals before the performance, so I’d just have to do my best. The rehearsals went better than I had thought possible. I knew the lines so well that I didn’t falter once. Moving around on stage was more challenging, but I finally got that, too.
When the day of the play arrived, butterflies flew around in my stomach. All I could think of were my lines, which I rehearsed all day long in my head. I also tried to remember what my grandmother had said about courage.
Finally, before I could say “Robin Hood,” I was on the stage. I was ACTING! Robin Hood said something, and I said something in return. I forgot about my worries and just acted. I was actually having fun. When the play was over, everyone applauded. They clapped for all the actors—even me.

After the play, my grandmother wore a pleased grin on her face. She said, “I knew you could do it. Your English was perfect, and so was your courage.” Then she gave me a big hug. As we were leaving the auditorium, my teacher called
me back. She said, “I knew you would do a great job, Catarina, and you did.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m glad I did it.”
“You’ve come a long way this year,” my teacher said.
She looked at my grandmother and added, “You should be very proud of your granddaughter.”
I glanced at my grandmother, and she was smiling so much that she could hardly speak. As for me, I remembered her smile for years to come.
Catarina Speaks by Claire Daniel

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