Monday, February 12th, 2018

So, Who Is Rich?

Let me tell you about my Mexico neighbors. You many have seen photos on Facebook of my husband and me celebrating—always celebrating with them.

They are Mexican Indians—Chichimecan. If they want to laugh they have me try to pronounce words in Nhuatl, their indigenous language. (When they are not laughing at or correcting my Spanish.)

There is the mom, Mari-Luz. She is the core and heart of this family. She is the magnet that holds. She has four daughters. Patricia is the oldest. Next is Lorena, Cristina, then Pilar. Pilar’s father fell out of the back of a truck going to work when Pilar was not even a year old. The four daughters and their mom have made a life that works for them.

Mari-Luz has six grandkids. All eleven people live together next door to us with various spouses or relatives joining in depending on circumstance. They have a cinderblock complex of rooms that descend down the side of the valley that we live on. A long common courtyard paved with cement and rocks is the living room for everyone.

We have known them for thirteen years. We care for one another.We are included. Pilar works for us. How do I put this? She came with the house we bought. We didn’t understand this and it was quite awkward for awhile.  We have seen her grow from her late teens into being a mom. She was a fire woman (bombera) for years and started a youth fire brigade. Her family calls her Capitan for good reason. I have many stories to share about our times with this family, our Mexican family.

But I want to talk about the riches of their lives regardless of humble means and abode. These are riches I admire and am lucky to share in.

They eat together everyday at 3PM which is the primary meal of the day. The mom usually cooks. They gather. They gossip. They argue. They enjoy the food. They all go back to work. Each works supporting well to do Americans.

These five women are funny as hell. They quip and are keen. We all know one anothers’ foibles and point them out to one another and laugh.

They have unquestioned mandatory annual rituals and celebrations during the year. Eleven grown-ups, six kids all with birthdays as well as special days like First Communion or a fifteenth birthday. If you toss in Catholic holy days (I just counted fifteen) they celebrate often. Neighbors are included in this welcoming home. Yesterday was the birthday of Estrella who turned 8 years old. When I left there were 46 people eating a full meal with plenty of fruit and cake and candy for all. Elaborate is the word I would use.

They collaborate for the common good in order to save money to pay for many of these special occasions. And they plan better than most companies do. Estrella won’t have another birthday party until she is thirteen in order to save money for a large event in a special hall for her first communion. Everyone pitches in and are assigned tasks—food, decorations, clothes,etc.

They will not break up, this five person female  family. The sisters have turned down marriages and opportunities in order to stay with the mom—happily. No martyrdom. Even married, they can’t break the magnetic field of mom.

I will stop here and will write more  another time. They can take family for granted. It is central and not dispersed as most US families are. They have fun parties together and that fun outweighs the normal goofiness in families (yes, they have plenty. Don’t go romantic on me)They have great pride in being strong women and are Feminists without effort. They know their worth.

This is the kind of family I grew-up in and I was at home in immediately. I was invited to a baby shower the first week in our Mexican house and thought I had been transported back to my childhood with my aunts and cousins. My mom and her four sisters all lived within two blocks of one another in Gary, Indiana in a barely middle class neighborhood. I ate wherever I happened to be playing. All four aunts and thirteen cousins were graduates of the same high school. We were embedded in the same culture. We were held.

The next generation of my dear neighbors may move on and out. The oldest grandchild lives 15 minutes away with her husband and baby. She is the first to pull slightly away from the mom magnet, but she is at every gathering. Education is the dilemma. It weakened my extended family as college relationships turned into marriage and jobs pulled people apart geographically. My brother and I were the first cousins to go to college. I was the first to move away. I left my mom magnet. I moved from Indiana to Maine. The individual won over the collective. Very infrequently she would sigh about going to a family baby shower alone. This move from tightly clustered with family to standing alone is a kind of immigration that gets no attention. I have often felt displaced as I moved into worlds so different from my first family.

So, who is rich?




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