The school looked a lot like the preschool Lulu had attended the year before in Baltimore. Brightly colored paint on the walls. Miniature tables and chairs. A hallway lined with hooks and smiling photos of preschoolers over each denoting whose backpack should hang where.
There was one noticeable difference, however. Nothing was in English. Paintings of colors were labeled: Verde, Rosso, Giallo. The lunch menu read: Risotto con parmigiano, prosciutto cotto, carote juliene. Everything was in Italian. Of course, it was. We had moved to Italy and this was Lulu’s new preschool.
For the first few months, Lulu seemed like a little lost lamb arriving every morning to her lively classroom filled with animated children — yelling and squealing in a language she didn’t understand. She clinged to me as I dropped her off. Sometimes in the morning, she would ask if she could stay at home. One day, Maestra Chiara said that Lulu had pushed a friend, “Probably, because she didn’t know how else to communicate.”
I tried to work at home with Lulu on Italian phrases. “Speak the language, I speak!” Lulu would yell at me, frustrated.
Scotty and I worried.
Finally, about five months into the school year, I noticed Lulu was talking more and more after school about her friends she had played with. “Letizia and Allegra and I ….” The sentences would begin. I came early to school one afternoon and saw Lulu and Allegra playing with each other and Lulu was saying a few words in Italian.
In the spring, Allegra’s mother asked if I would register Lulu for swim lessons so the girls could go together. I agreed. The girls chattered together in the backseat on the drives to and from the pool and also during the lessons. Now, I could witness firsthand how much progress Lulu was making. With swimming. With the language. With her friendships.
By the time, in early July, that Maria Bianca Bianchini preschool held its end of the year dinner, Lulu sang as loudly as any other of her native speaking Italian classmates during their corny song about morning in a garden full of bugs. As the sunset on the Tuscan countryside, Scotty and I watched our 4-year-old run and dance and play outside with her new friends. No, make that her old friends. She’s been with them for the whole school year and in kid-years, that’s a long time.
What a difference a year can make.
P.S. So much can happen in a year! Look back on a year of your life. What changes occurred? Good? Bad? What about this next coming “school year.” Would love to hear from you!