All those years ago now, I stood before this door,
clutching your address and my suitcase.
I had traveled nearly 5000 miles to arrive here.
Alone for the first time in my life.
To learn another language, to understand another culture.
I was trembling.
It was all I could do to ring your doorbell.
I found you on the other side of the door.
So much younger than I am now.
With three little ones and a fourth
very obviously on the way.
And I knew immediately that I was not alone after all.
You took a chance, and welcomed a complete stranger from another land
into your home.
Into your family: the immediate and the extended.
You accepted me; included me in everything; supported me; took care of me.
You worked hard to understand my struggles with your language.
And gently forced me to talk to you even when I wanted to hide.
How did it happen? We turned my six-month stay with you
into more than twenty years of unconditional love.
And now here I am yet again at your door, in your home.
But this time as a Fulbright Scholar, with my own little girl
who, being four, has none of my teenage fears.
None of my underconfidence.
None of my inhibitions.
I marvel, as she seeks you out to speak to you,
in almost perfect Spanish.
She runs into the bedroom looking for your youngest (the baby…who is older now than I was then).
The same bedroom into which your little ones ran, looking for me.
She thrills to be with you. She senses how much you adore her.
On the train she cries, Mommy, I want to go back!
Don’t worry, my darling. I have been going back for twenty years.
Back to my other home.
It occurs to me that perhaps the reason I came to this
then-unknown place so long ago was to give her this experience now.
I am nothing more than an intermediary between this family—this country—and this child.
No matter. It is the noblest of purposes.
I started too late. I speak your language well.
But not well enough to tell you these things
in the way I want to.
I do not have the words…
But my daughter will.
Jeanie Bukowski – Fulbright Senior Scholar to Spain
Sevilla, June 2007