Even before Sofía was born, I knew that I wanted her middle name to be Magdalena. Before I even explained why, my esposo sensed that it had some kind of importance for me and agreed immediately. (Ah…what a great quality to have in an esposo, no?) Sofía has an Abuela, but I had an Oma and I spent a lot of time with my Oma when I was growing up. I’m convinced that she is the reason why we grew up with more than one first language. (Well, that’s simple-she lived with us and didn’t really speak English!)
I didn’t really come to understand the greatness of my grandmother until I was an adult. I grew up hearing stories of her experiences, but appreciation set in much later. During the war, for various complicated reasons, fluctuations of borders, and explosives egos, my mother and her German, blond blue-eyed, catholic familia were put into a German concentration camp.
At one point, my Oma’s nephew was placed in a line to be shipped off to some other camp. She “stole” him out of that line and saved him and when what she had done was discovered, she was severely beaten as a punishment. Evidently, not even that was a deterrent to my Oma, as some time later (Exactly how long, I can’t remember as my memory is a bit fuzzy from my jetlag.) my grandmother escaped with her three-year-old daughter and her young nephew carrying them both to freedom. That escape was planned for months if not years; my grandmother plotted and learned the routes and contacts she would need to meet along the way. Freedom didn’t come overnight either, but really took weeks and it wouldn’t be until months later that they stopped running from country to country and the Red Cross arranged for the three of them to live in a small room of a farm house in the middle of Nowhere, Germany. And this is what that house looks like today.
People ask me all the time about Sofía’s middle name. I usually tear up and say she is named after my grandmother and walk away. If you’ve ever asked me…..now you know why! J
This post is part of the Septiembre Blogging Carnaval on Bilingualism. You can visit the entire Carnaval here!