I had a toy globe when I was about five years old or so. It wasn’t my favorite toy since I it was hard to play with. It was only about the size of a large grapefruit, but it was heavy and its thick plastic covering made it difficult to hold. I didn’t have a very strong grip when I was little, so the ball used to slip out of my hands and roll away from me all the time. I played with it anyway because I was fascinated with its many different colors, especially the pale blue of the oceans.
My most vivid memory of the globe was when my great-aunt stayed at my family’s house for a week. I had been throwing the ball around in the hallway when it slipped away from me yet again. It rolled toward my great-aunt, who picked it up. As I came closer to her to get my toy back, I saw that she was pointing at something on it and that she was smiling. I asked her for the ball back, but she didn’t understand what I was saying. Still smiling, she held the globe out to me to show me what she was pointing at. In Vietnamese, she told me that the pink-colored country that her finger was on was where she came from. She turned the globe around and pointed at a pastel green blob. She told me that this was where I was born and where we were at that very moment. She tried to explain to me the great distance between the two places and how far she traveled to get here. She gave me my globe back and I thanked her in my broken Vietnamese. This was my most vivid memory of the globe and my last memory of my great-aunt. When I think about her, I can only remember her story of where she came from. This, and how sad I felt that I couldn’t tell her that I was happy for her since I couldn’t speak Vietnamese.
My mom always complains about how I only speak English at home and how separated I am from my heritage. When she nags me, I think about my great-aunt and how I was never able to speak to her. Even though I was only five years old at the time, I still wonder what I could have said to her and I think about her smile. She made me worry about what I am missing out on because I could only speak English. I think about missed opportunities in getting to know people better and how my limitations in speaking different languages may be holding me back. My great-aunt and the globe made me believe in the importance of language and communication.
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