Spanish – Italian Lessons


“So, Mommy, did you know that farfalina is Spanish for butterfly?”

“Um, what? No, that can’t be right.”

I have a horrible know-it-all habit. Whenever my kids tell me something new they’ve learned that isn’t totally accurate I feel compelled to say, “Actually…” and then I correct them.

“Actually, mariposa is Spanish for butterfly. I thought I remembered that from high school Spanish. I mean, give me a second and let me look it up but, no, yeah, no, farfalina is Italian.”

I am not sure why I have to be right all…the…time…

“Yeah, kiddo, I’m looking at my phone now. Farfalina is like the word farfalle, you know, the bow-tie pasta that looks like butterflies? Who told you it was Spanish?”

“Our neighbor.”

“But she’s Italian! She learns Italian words all the time. Why would she say it was Spanish? Spanish and Italian are both based in Latin and they are similar languages, but in this case they are different. I even had a student named Mariposa in Texas, who was Mexican-American and I had asked her about her name.”

My eight-year-old tried to defend her by saying, “Well, maybe I remembered it wrong.”

I finally stop talking and let him wander off to brush his teeth. In the quiet I realize something.

“Well, maybe I remembered it wrong.”

That’s what it is.

That is why I keep badgering him, why I can’t stop being right. That’s what I am afraid of, not that he remembered something wrong, but that I have started to remember things wrong.

A few years ago I had an MRI of my brain. We were looking for dark spots that might indicate a tumor, or perhaps Multiple Sclerosis. I had been losing words mid-speech, writing sentences that didn’t make sense and assuming I had read something correctly when I hadn’t. I felt drunk when I hadn’t had a drop. I tasted salt when there was none. I nearly scalded the boys because when I tested their bath water I couldn’t feel how scorching hot it was. I could no longer assume that any part of my brain was allowing me to process or understand the world correctly.

We didn’t find anything wrong.

I was later diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which mostly means that the doctors don’t quite know what is going on. Without understanding the mechanisms of it, many of us get a sensation called “fibro fog” which pulls a mist around our minds and makes it hard to function. I don’t get this sensation as often as I used to, though for a while it was such a part of daily life that I felt I might have Alzheimer’s. It only happens once in a while now, but when you can’t read to your kindergartener without transposing a bunch of words, it is still quite disconcerting.

With regards to my cognitive function, everything I’ve learned (or thought I learned) since I first started having symptoms is suspect. I often think I’ve filed new information in the correct part of my brain only to realize later on that I haven’t. When I find I might be wrong, I scramble like mad to check my facts by searching my memory and the internet. I do detective work to reassure myself that I didn’t screw it up.

So going on and on about the many ways I was absolutely certain that mariposa was the Spanish word for butterfly and farfalina was Italian felt necessary. It felt good to be able to track so many neural pathways that brought me to the same conclusion – I was right. It felt so good to know that I haven’t totally lost my mind, at least not yet.


I know this isn’t a good thing to be doing to my kids, whatever reason I might have for doing so. And now the boys do the same thing to me. I’ll make a comment about how pretty the full moon is and I get…

Actually, it isn’t full yet. It won’t be for another day.”

Or I’ll compliment one of them on a drawing I assume is just a bird and get…

Actually, this is a Peregrine Falcon. Couldn’t you tell by the talons and how he’s swooping down with lines behind him like he’s really fast?”

It drives me crazy! I can’t say anything without being corrected for being inaccurate. My know-it-all karma has given me back know-it-all kids. Fibromyalgia or no fibromyalgia I have got to slow down this impulse to inform and correct before it gets even more out of hand.

But, actually, did you know that the Spanish word for fibromyalgia is just fibromialgia? And that the Italian is exactly the same? And that a lilac-colored farfalina is its symbol?

Maybe I can’t be stopped.

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