I fell in love with the Spanish language when I was in the fifth grade, and I started taking classes when I was 11. I was at a used-book sale at Barnett Elementary School and saw a Spanish textbook. I opened it and started looking through it and was transfixed by a picture of the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. What went through my 10-year-old brain was, “I must go there and see that and meet those people. To do that, I need to learn this language.” I bought the book, but of course made no progress with it at all.
(And when I did finally get to Spain nearly 20 years later, I went to the Alhambra. It was a beautiful day in May. The smell of roses and oranges hung in the air. The sound of water was everywhere from fountains and channels cut into the handrails of the stone staircases. Kittens followed me around looking for just one more bite of the ham sandwich I’d shared with them. Then, without really knowing where I was, I turned a corner and there it was, with sunlight pouring down on it – the Court of the Lions. Just like in the picture so long ago. I stood there and burst into tears.)