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I was born 3 days after Pearl Harbor so I was an infant/toddler during World War II. My mother worked in Pratt& Whitney testing aircraft engines for "the boys" and I was often left in the care of my great grandparents.

My great grandparents were named Lorentson (first names Gram and Gramp, of course). Actually, my beloved great grandmother's name was Selma. And my first language was Swedish.

All those long days while my mother worked in the factory, my grandparents and I chattered away to each other in their primary language, Swedish. My great grandmother nurtured me in a way my mother never did, because she didn't know how to be nurturing. Except when I was sick.

Anyway, my first language was Swedish. My mother, when she found out, forbade my grandparents from speaking with me in Swedish and insisted on English only. In those benighted days, it was thought a child should speak only one language lest its brain become confused.

So I spent the next 15 years or so forgetting that I had ever had a first language until in college my friends and I went to see "The Seventh Seal". Much to my astonishment, I understood what the actors were saying and even could translate when the subtitles weren't entirely correct.

When I got home I called my mother long distance and asked her about it. She told me the story, saying that she had had no experience with children (not even babysitting) before raising me, and so she just read child-rearing books and believed what they said. "Don't pick up the baby when she cries, etc." [How typical of my mother, to try to learn a life skill by reading a book.] Some of that antiquated advice referred to language.

Of course, now we know that "language learning" is a skill in its own right, and the earlier developed in life, the better. Some people are never able to learn a second language because they do not have the second language learning module in their skill set. (How's that for technobabble?)

Anyway, I've learned several languages since then, to speak at various levels of fluency. My spelling/writing of those langagues is shaky, but I can converse in most of them, if you let me wave my arms around and point. If I hear one of them spoken (French, Hindi, Italian, Swedish the main ones), there is a "rush" as I start remembering the texture and words and song of the language. I see in my mind's eye the faces of the people I've known who were native speakers and talking with me. It's like being transported in time and space to the time when....

Taks mika to my great grandparents, for being such great grandparents. Gram, I love you still, after all these decades you've been gone. Maybe someday we'll be born together in the same generation, same family even. I'd like that.

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