Our waiter’s eyes avert our table. He seems to think we are an occupational hazard. In the middle of the square, towering above is a brick clock tower. The long arm pointed at ten, the short at three. We had just sat down for dinner. The glow from the surrounding lanterns illuminates the signs on nearby Spanish shops. A charcuterie. A gelato shop. A café. An occasional squeal of delight can be heard from the children playing underfoot. Several dogs are nestled sleepily under their owners’ chairs.
The conversation turns back to our order. “What would you like?” he asks his mother-in-law in Spanish. She is a kindhearted Ecuadorian woman, and is more comfortable speaking in Spanish. “Nachos,” piped in the grandson sitting across the table in Norwegian. He is most comfortable speaking in Norwegian, though he speaks Spanish well and is quickly acquiring a host of English words. The conversation flitted back and forth between Spanish, Norwegian, and occasionally English.
English is my first and primary language, though in this square and at this table, this sets me apart. Three of my fellow diners’ first language is Norwegian, and for two it is Spanish. I partake in the Spanish, thoroughly enjoying the practice. I try with all my might to soak in the Norwegian. Though most of it escapes my grasp. This simple moment is the stuff of dreams. The stars and the lantern light are the backdrop for a multigenerational, multilingual weeknight dinner. Though an evening dinner amongst friends and family is not unusual, this dinner felt extraordinary.