Tuesday, 9 June 2009

When I was about eight years old my mom bought a grammar book. It was yellow, and it smelled funny, but I read it and read it until I had it completely memorized, as if it had been the greatest novel of all times. Being a book about grammar, it contained countless examples of how to apply the rules of grammar, what else?, in the Spanish language, or Castillian, as we say in Argentina. One of the examples had a sentence that more or less read, “Juan was grateful to his alma matter.” I had no idea who Juan was grateful to, or what was he grateful to. You’d think that as a compulsive dictionary reader, I would have looked up the definition in the dictionary. But I never did. I don’t remember when I learned the meaning of the word, but today I certainly felt the meaning of that concept, being grateful for my alma matter. In my case, it’s BYU, or Brigham Young University.
Today my eight year old son started his first official soccer summer camp there. The camp is from 9 am to 8 pm. Needless to say, a very happy and exhausted little boy is softly snoring in the next room.
My friend G.’s son also is in the same camp, and even though the camp is for 10-15 years-old, they let our younger boys sign up. They look so small compared to their fellow campers, but boy do they work hard! When we arrived for the orientation (I was lugging three other kids besides my soccer boy), Friend hadn’t arrived yet. So instead of sitting by me to wait for his friend, Gorgeous Boy went up to some boys who were shooting some penalty kicks and asked them if he could play with them. Of course they said yes, and he played until Friend joined the little group.
When orientation started, the two little boys in the front listened to their coach in attention.
I could not make myself leave him there, and I know G was feeling the same thing. But I figured by then Gorgeous was already embarrassed enough by his overprotective mom and his three little siblings who were showing off in front of everyone, so I left. My heart literally stayed behind.
I had no time to dwell on the fact that my precious son was left alone on campus because I had to prepare to attend my first Writers’ Workshop, right there at BYU too. I arrived early–by mistake. I thought the workshop started 1/2 earlier than it actually did; it must be a mechanism I have developed unconsciously so that I’ll be on time. I didn’t know a single person, and it was “Mingle” time. I was petrified. People were talking about their deals, and editors calling them for an opinion about this and that, and I felt myself getting smaller and smaller. Then, I remembered my brave son, walking up with his head held high and introducing himself to other people. So I lifted my head, squared my shoulders, and I said “Hi” to the lady sitting beside me. For the “Mingle,” different authors were sitting in a room, and people just sat in the provided chairs in front of the authors and asked questions. Guess what? I always sat in the front row and participated of the discussion.
So now, it’s finally writing time, and by my laptop I see a BYU Workshop brochure. I remember receiving that first brochure from BYU when I was about 16. I was in Rosario, and I read and reread the brochure in the fancy paper so many times I memorized it. BYU might as well have been in the moon. It was unreachable, impossible. But guess what? Three years later, on a sunny Spring day, I arrived in Provo, UT with my tiny suitcase and a big smile on my face. Three more years passed and I had my bachelor’s degree. Now my dream of becoming an author seems impossible, but I know I can do impossible things thanks to the Lord who’s always been by my side, as well as so many angels in the form of family, friends, and today, my son.

PS: The boys walked by themselves all the way from the soccer fields to the Cannon Center (cafeteria). Those familiar with campus know how far that is. I’m hyperventilating just by thinking about those two little boys alone on campus!!! Gorgeous said, “We used the tunnel to go across the street. And then, we only served ourselves what we wanted to eat, and when we finished, we went for more. After eating we still had time, so we took turns reading Friend’s book. Tomorrow I’m taking my own. We were running and playing in our free time. I love BYU!”
I’m going to go collapse now… my baby … sobbing…

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Yamile Saied Mendez

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American, Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult author.

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