Forgotten Words

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2003

By Natalia M. Thompson, Illustrated by Natalie Chin

It was a sultry day in August. Sofia lay on her bed, her eyes closed. She heard Isabela, her sister, playing with her cousins downstairs. Cousin Diego’s radio drowned out baby Ana’s wailing.

Quietly, Sofia tiptoed out of the room. She darted down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out the back door, unnoticed. Out on the lawn, Sofia ran as fast as she could. The wind rippled through her black curtain of hair as she ran. Sofia ran down the noisy street, past the clear brook, and into the woods. As Sofia threw herself onto the pine-needle-covered ground, she felt the quietness of the woods settle around her.

This was Sofia’s quiet place, her thinking spot. It was her secret place to escape the noise and chaos of her home. This was where Sofia came when she felt angry or confused. Sofia thought in the quiet shade of the tall trees. She felt protected.

Tilting her head back, Sofia gazed up at the bright sky through the pines. Why had she done this, why? Why had she forgotten her Spanish? Sofia longed for the days when the melodic language flowed freely off her tongue. The days when she communicated in Spanish with ease with her grandma, easily switching languages back and forth with her parents.

Sofia still remembered her classmates’ harsh words . . . “Spanish is the poor people’s talk.” Her face burning, Sofia vowed to herself never to speak a word of Spanish again. That was back in Iowa, where her parents had worked in a factory from dawn to dusk.

Forgotten Words girl looking at the sky

Why had she done this, why? Why had she forgotten her Spanish?

Then one night, the phone rang. It was Sofia’s Uncle Manuel, who lived in Minnesota. Tio Manuel had urged Sofia’s Papi to move north, where there were better jobs with better pay.

So the family had moved. Now Sofia’s family lived in a small house in a suburb of Minneapolis with Tio Manuel’s family, Sofia’s aunts, and her grandma. Papi and Mama both had full-time jobs. Sofia would be entering the seventh grade in the fall, Enrique kindergarten, and little Isabela pre-school.

Sofia’s life was so different in the United States than it had been in Mexico City, where her family had lived until she was four. Although Sofia hadn’t been back to Mexico since, she was determined to return. She missed her friends and family in Mexico.

Sofia stood up. Shaking off the dirt, she began making her way home, slowly but steadily Sofia knew she would never change her ways to be popular again. She knew that her mistake would make her stronger than before, more ready to face new challenges. Sofia would never be the same. Easing the back door open, Sofia knew she would relearn her Spanish. Whatever it would take, she could do it.

Forgotten Words Natalia M. Thompson

Natalia M. Thompson, 11
Madison, Wisconsin

Forgotten Words Natalie Chin

Natalie Chin, 11
Bellevue, Washington

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