In 1989-90, before I joined the Census Bureau, my younger son John and I spent several weeks in the Netherlands around the time of the Van Gogh retrospective. John quickly made friends with students he met in the pubs. The two of us spent much time with one of these fellows, a curator with a private collection housed in Amsterdam. Our curator friend arranged a visit for us to his place of work, the home of the famous Rembrandt painting of Jan Six.
Jan Six —>
Around this time, Simon Schama had published a long piece in The New Yorker, concerning the Rembrandt Research Project and the paintings the RRP deemed authentic works(including the Six portrait). One evening, John’s friend and I had a heated discussion about the authenticity of the Polish Rider, purported to be an authentic Rembrandt, which hangs in the Frick in NYC, but discredited by the RRP.
After we returned to the States, John went back to Amsterdam and lived for several months with his friend, the art curator.
Later, John became nomadic, using skills learned in restaurant work to support himself as he moved from pillar to post, finally spending the last six months of his European sojourn in Spain living near his older brother, stationed in Rota with the Navy.
While in Spain, John reported that he
1/ “ran with the bulls” and
2/ owing to the sprinkler system had been run out of a Madrid park at 5AM which thoroughly doused all the students sleeping the grounds.
3/ Most importantly, he learned how to speak Spanish, a skill that continues to serve him well. Today, he works with English as a second language (ESL) children in a rural Virginia school system.
My daughter was the most proficient student of languages, studying Latin, German, and Spanish. Today, she is a linguist and teaches special needs high school kids (ADHD and others) how to speak, read, and write in English.
By the time he reached high school age, my oldest son Richard had moved to southwestern Virginia to live with his dad in a part of Virginia where nothing but Appalachian English was spoken for many years. Although he studied Spanish in high school and lived in Spain for a total of 10 years, Richard is not as proficient in speaking Spanish as his siblings.
My youngest son John goofed off in high school, but managed to graduate and even put a few years of college under his belt before he took off to “see the world.” Although he pulled “Cs” in Spanish classes, he learned foreign languages in foreign countries.
Today, all of my children and several of my grandchildren have traveled to, or lived in Spain and several of my grandchildren speak Spanish.