Chapter 32

Yawn! What time is it? I guess I fell asleep after all. I look for my watch and I’m immediately reminded I don’t have one any more. I smell food cooking in the kitchen, but it’s not the normal breakfast smells I’m used to.  Maybe it’s lunch time. Man, I gotta pee.

I get up and walk down the hallway and see the door to Herminio’s room is open and the boys are not in there. The bathroom door is open, so I go through it and outside again and head for the outhouse.

I don’t think I would ever get used to going to the bathroom in an outhouse. It’s not very sanitary. I know it’s not dirty or anything, but it looks old, and for some reason old things don’t look particularly clean, especially if you have to put your naked butt on them. At least the toilet seat is plastic and not wood. Think about it; this is just a big hole in the ground with a little house type-thing on top. Anything could be down there. What if something jumped up and grabbed my—I’m done. That’s it. I’m not going to the bathroom again until I get back home.

I enter the front door still shivering from the heebie-jeebies and go straight to where the smells are coming from. I wonder what they’re cooking.

Adriana is in the kitchen with Grandma, and Aunt Josie is coming back from the barn with a pail of something.

The blanket and pillow are gone from the sofa, and in their place are some pants, a shirt, socks and underwear.

Underwear? Really? Whose were they? This is so unnatural. I mean, it’s like they were wrapping somebody else’s package yesterday, and today they will get up close and personal with mine. Yech! It’s almost like they’ll be . . .  comparing or something. Another disturbing mental image comes in the form of the Fruit of the Loom guys, with clipboards, taking a tour of my crotch. The Apple guy is giving me the white glove test while the Grapes guy pokes his nose around giving me a sniff test. I can’t believe this; I’m an only child and I still get hand-me-downs.

I look at myself in the mirror. My face is growing some fuzz, only it looks more like dirt rather than real stubble. Strange clothes, my skin’s a little darker. I feel like a stranger at a one person party.

 

 

I’m the last one at the table, and they all waited for me. Nice spread. Milk, fruit juice, coffee, and some kind of scrambled eggs thing with sausage, and peppers, and fried potatoes, and cheese, and salsa, tortillas of course—no toast.

We all sit around the table and everyone wants to say grace. Grandma won. Wow, the first time I ever heard grace in Spanish. Now that I think about it, I haven’t heard grace all that much in English. I especially never heard my name in it before. My dad’s was in there too.

The second it’s over, everyone is all smiles again and food gets passed around. Several conversations begin at the same time. It’s like a horse race and the gates have just opened. I don’t know what to say, or who is talking to whom. Everyone else acts like this is a normal daily occurrence. I usually eat alone.

“Pancho, because you don’t have any transport home, Tio Jose will drive you to Tepic. Many of buses in Tepic,” Aunt Adriana says. “You can take one to the border. From there you call your mother. Okie dokie?”  Everyone laughs.

I nod, but I don’t have any money for a bus so I don’t know how—“Jose will help you get the ticket. I will pack for you some food.”

That sounds great, but I don’t know my way around Mexico. I might as well be on the moon. I look around and again I don’t know what to feel. Guest, family, stranger. This is so different than what I expected to find when I came down here

I kinda hate to go. I’d like to ride a horse again and chase a bull around the hills. I was just getting the hang of it when we got back home.

Grandma has been looking around the table, listening in on the conversations, but not talking much. She gets up and quietly disappears into the kitchen. I should start to say my goodbyes. I stand and look to my aunts. They smile and Aunt Josie looks at her mother who is coming back into the room, tears in her eyes. Josie can’t hold hers back either—this isn’t awkward!

My little grandma hugs me again and squeezes all the air out of me. She tries to hand me some money, but how can I take it from her?  She wraps my fingers around a small bundle of paper bills—pesos. I have no idea how much this is in American. Is it a lot? Can she afford it? She looks me in the eyes and takes in my face, like it’s for the last time. In her other hand she is holding out some kind of necklace. “For me?” She nods. It’s a silver Saint Christopher’s medallion on a silver chain. She puts it over my head and tucks it inside my shirt. She says some stuff in Spanish, and Tia Josie says,”St. Christopher will watch over you and protect you on your travels home.” I grab up the little woman and hug her like she had hugged me. She certainly feels like a grandma.

We finally let go, her face has regained Its color. She‘s still crying, but she looks much better. This is a very emotional place.  Lots of hugs and kisses. It feels more like I’m leaving my family’s house after growing up here, and not like I just met them yesterday.

Jose and I go outside and get in his car. I look back and see all the women are crying. Grandma says something to Aunt Josie and she runs into the house. Little Clarita is all smiles and waves—and shoeless.

Jose starts up the car, and Josie runs back outside and over to me, handing me a brown paper bag. Food. Nice. “Gracias Tia Josie.” She kisses me again, for like the hundredth time. She’s a very sensitive woman. “Vaya con Dios mi amor,” Grandma says. I don’t need any translation. Everybody waves and says goodbye in their own way at the same time; a fugue of Mexican blessings.

As we pull away I turn around and watch them standing, waving, crying. I will be missed. How can they love me so much? They hardly even know me. The road makes a sharp right bend, and they are out of sight. My family. They are Mexican. I am Mexican? Yeah, I’m Mexican.

 

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Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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