She came to the Visitor Education Center with her granddaughter for my two o'clock presentation, arriving early enough to introduce themselves. The grandmother was visiting from Israel and knew only a few words in English which were used up within the first greeting. Her granddaughter wanted me to know that she'd brought her at the older woman's request -- but she wanted my permission to translate during my talk and didn't want to seem rude. I have no idea how this elder had learned about me or my work, and probably never will, given the language barrier.
I assured her that this would not be a problem, and quickly forgot about it and immediately walked away to greet the day's audience.
It wasn't until the end of the talk -- in the usual exchange of greetings and comments that normally follows -- that I noticed them again lingering at the rear of the theater.
The grandmother was smiling broadly, and the younger woman told me that after the first few moments there was a tug at her arm and finger to lips in the universal gesture of "be still!" She did not want or need translation, but apparently simply wanted to experience the room and whatever it was that was being said and felt. She was obviously pleased, and warm hugs were exchanged before their taking leave.
That was a week ago.
Yesterday as folks gathered for the two o'clock ranger talk, both turned up again, this time with another relative in tow. This woman described herself as an historian, but with what institution of learning she might be associated with never became clear. There was no the time to delve any deeper.
"My grandmother is returning to Israel in two days and wanted to return to hear you again before leaving."
What in the world this 90 year-old -- whose only language was Yiddish -- could gain from a repeat performance is a mystery.
Tomorrow she will board her plane for the long flight home, and I'll never learn anything more about her.
... that is -- unless her granddaughter stops in again at some future time and there will be some answer that might shed some light ... .
I've spoken about that magical thing that happens during these presentations, and I'm reminded that I've never quite found the answer to just what that is; and whether it's related to what I do, or, what I am? Whatever it is is surely not dependent upon language. Interesting?