Thursday, March 6, 2014

The X Man Cometh

Of my three kids, the X Man is the only one who has actually been to the US. Of course he was only about a year old and he was only there a couple weeks but at least he's been there. I think of all of us, he is the one that I am most interested in observing during the transition. For one thing, he is 10 years old and he is very, very curious. He was born in Italy (in a beautiful little walled town with a castle overlooking it named Soave, famous for it's crisp white wines which pair perfectly with seafood) and had gone to the Italian school his whole life until this year. Sometime about two or three years ago he started asking a lot of questions about the American school and about the US in general. Eventually he started asking if he could go to the American school on base which kind of surprised me because he knew nobody there. All of his friends were in the Italian school, he played on the local town soccer (calcio) team and his request came out of the blue. But, realizing that this would be our last year here one way or the other, we decided to start him in the American school this year. He had just finished fourth grade in the Italian school and I worried that they would hold him back a year but they left it up to me and I cautiously decided on the 5th grade. To my surprise he adjusted quickly. I had talked to his teacher near the beginning of the year to make sure she knew that he was coming from the Italian school so to please let me know if she thought he was having trouble. I was pleased when she told me she never would have known that he had never been to an American school before, that he was one of her best students. For his part, he LOVED the American school immediately. After the first week he declared that he liked it much, much better than the Italian school so I guess that's a good sign.

The thing about the X Man that has occurred to me is that his entire scope of understanding about the US is limited to the little base we have here. He has no concept of how big and unending everything in the US is. For example, in the past couple weeks he has asked me questions like "Will there be a PX in the US where I can still buy my toys?" and "Is there going to be a Burger King in the US so I can still get my burgers?". When I tell him there will be 100 places wherever we go to get a burger even better than Burger King, his eyes get really wide and he goes quiet...then he says he doesn't believe me because there could never be a burger better than Burger King.


He has so much to learn.

I have to say though, one thing I have worried about for a few years now is that he will lose his "Italian-ness". He is completely fluent in Italian and if/when he loses it, it will break my heart. I'm guessing there won't be a lot of people in South Carolina who speak Italian. His best friend next door is Italian and we're hoping maybe we can do Skype with him and his family occasionally but I'm not very hopeful that Xavier will retain the language as well as he speaks it now. I'll speak it with him as much as I can but my Italian is very far from perfect (I often say that I speak it just well enough to cause an international incident).  I have actually noticed over the past couple years that his attention and interests have slowly but surely drifted away from the stuff he grew up with and more towards all things Americana so I shouldn't be surprised that he's looking forward to living in the US. About a year ago he told me that he actually prefers the American-style fast food pizza joint on base (Anthony's Pizza) to Italian pizza. I probably should have realized at that point that we'd already lost him...

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