I see my younger daughter’s eyes glaze over as her daddy and I tell one more round of “remember that time in Mexico….” Used to be, she’d chime in with her own recuerdos. Now that she’s a teenager, her memories seem to be pushed back into the closet of her mind, stored like winter clothes no longer needed, but pulled out when the chill comes to the air once again. She is living in America after years in Mexico. I am still living in Mexico, at least in my dreams.
For as long as I can remember, my dream was to live in Mexico. There was never a solid reason why; it was just something I had in my heart and guarded until the right time. When I met my husband, things suddenly made sense. He took me to visit there, and I was in love—with him and Mexico. My mom jokingly told me I was dropped by gypsies, and that’s where my urge to travel came from.
My husband, mi media naranja, and I relive Mexico like it was yesterday, for it feels that way. We lived through hard times, no doubt, but we have made it—back on top after years of struggling and separation. And, yes, we do remember vividly all the battles we fought to be together and make a life that matters. As he says, “When the children are gone, what will we have? We have to build our lives, not around them, but as an example to them.” My hombre is a smart one.
I remember when I took our young daughter, Ysabela, to Mexico for the first time. We drove from Virginia to Merida, then on to Seye. To home. My father-in-law came with us to “protect” and smooth the way. I suspected he just wanted to go home and relive his old times with his friends. He did help, especially when we crossed the frontera. Everyone was crammed into a blue Suburban bought for four thousand dollars. We received many funny looks—a gringa with her hija, suegro, seven huge cats and a guard dog bigger than most had ever seen in the pueblos. Amigo was his name, and he was magnificent. Part chow, part German shepherd, he had a cinnamon Chow physique with the black muzzle of the shepherd. In his eyes, I could see an almost-human intelligence. Once we got to the village, he was my guardaespalda. Nobody dared come near me when he was close. One wrong move and I know he would have gone for the throat. Somehow, the malvados knew it too.
I was excited to see Mexico through Ysabela’s eyes. All she knew of Mexico was from our stories. The first day of our new life was full of wonder—for us, especially Ysabela—and for the gente in the village. Apparently we were the first gringas to be there in a long time. They were accustomed to the church missionaries visiting and leaving soon, but we were different. I moved the pets in and secured the house while I watched Bela out the living room window. I lost sight of her, so I went outside. She had been playing in the park across the narrow street. All I could see at first was a mosh pit of Mexican children. I finally caught sight of her in the very center of it all. Girls were touching her hair and looking at her like a doll on the shelf at Wal-Mart. Bela has always had the black hair and eyes of her daddy, but pale skin like me. The first few weeks were difficult for her, I know. You would have never known it just by watching her, though. Full of herself at just seven years old, she expected to be liked and accepted. Eventually she was. She learned Spanish the easy way—she was surrounded by it and consumed by the desire to make herself understood. In three months, the bad kids no longer could insult her and sit back and laugh. She could defend herself quite nicely—or not so nicely. While she learned the language and soaked up the culture, she would tell me some of the kids called her “inglesa.” I told her she’s americana. That’s different. Many of the children were simply curious; others were hostile and envious. In their eyes, Ysabela had it all. She brought toys with her, of course, and everyone wanted in the house to see and report to their mamas. There was much chisme about who we “really” were.
To be continued….