Jesse came home from Cubs Camp (where, he proudly reported, he is no longer a Cub but has graduated to full-fledged Lion) a couple of days ago with a rather unusual request.
He needed a list of French words.
The reason? He'd bonded with three other young Lions who speak only French. "They're really nice, and they love dodgeball, but we can't really talk to each other," Jesse explained. "I mean, I have NO idea what they're saying."
So we drummed up a list of the basics: hello, goodbye, how are you?, what's your name?, let's be friends, and, of course, bread with chocolate.
Instead of tuning into the newest episode of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, Jesse actually spent an hour going over the words and phrases, lisping his way through them. We practiced again on the way to camp the next morning. He couldn't quite get the hang of 'au revoir," but his 'bonjour' was flawless.
After camp, when I queried Jess about his conversation with his young European buddies, he beamed. "When I said 'pain chocolat' they rubbed their tummies and said yummy!" he told me. "And now we understand each other perfectly!"
It was one of those moments that reminded me of how easily children bridge what we grownups often think of as huge chasms.
A smile, the toss of a ball, a mangled phrase or two and a shared love for sweets.
Perhaps that all it really takes.