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Mothertongue

Zwolle – Schiphol

“It’s like it is on the road. Red means wait.” I glance sideways with a mix of embarrassment and tenderness. Jaap loves speaking the language he spoke with his mother, any opportunity he gets. “Two minutes late we are,” he translates the Dutch intercom for the Asian boy across. Effortlessly he falls back into his Kiwi accent, warm memories of his mother and our early days bubble up in my chest, thirty years ago it must be. He stubbornly continues to speak English the entire way, to me as well, so as not to exclude the boy. In getting out I see Jaap has tears in his eyes, the familiar motions of his mouth awoke something in him too. I squeeze his hand. We understand each other.