This post was inspired by the novel Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement, the story of one girl, her mother and friends, surviving in rural Mexico. It is a choppy story, reflecting the life lived by these women, so far from the Mexico advertised in the United States. Join From Left to Write on February 18th as we discuss Prayers for the Stolen. As a member I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
There were two girls on the other side of the gate who appeared to be about my age. We stood and looked at each other for a few minutes, smiling and waving. My grandmother appeared behind me and suggested that I come back inside, it was time for dinner. Not at all hungry, I wanted to go out and play with these girls. She waved them on but I held firm, I wanted to be on the other side. At five my Spanish was limited to hello, thank you, please, and a few food items. I tried them all, certainly saying something as interesting as "me gusta el taco", the girls giggled, and said something back, which, having no idea what they were saying, made me giggle. Soon enough all three of us were laughing; Mimi went to find the cook.
Every year my grandparents left in mid January. Knowing I wouldn't see them for weeks, I spent the night before they left at their house, helping pack and leaving little notes in their luggage, the black and white patterned Samsonite with the bright orange lining. A week earlier my grandfather had brought them down from the attic so that, even though she took the exact same clothes each year, Mimi could start the packing and organizing required for a month away from home.
Three weeks later Dad and I went to the grocery store for milk, eggs, bacon, bread and these truly sweet sticky buns my grandfather liked, stocking the refrigerator for their return. The next morning we were on a plane, to be greeted four hours later in sunshine by my grandfather, relaxed and tan, driving the old orange Volkswagen thing that I thought was the most exciting car ever made. Dad took over and drove us home, Bopaw in the front seat smoking a cigarette and filling us in on what had happened in the year that we had been away. Mom and I rode in the back, my hair flying, her screams muffled by the roar of the open air car as it raced along the malecon.
Mona was still alive, and still horribly unpleasant. She patrolled the beautiful jardin, never beyond the fence for fear that she would bite someone. Only Paulino went in, to feed her, and take care of the flowers. The roosters next door had not made it to a stockpot yet and were still the very early morning wake up call for the entire block. Julia was making pork roast tonight, in honor of Dad's arrival, and papas fritas for me. The Testerman's were coming tomorrow for dinner, Mimi was having a party for their Kansas City friends on Saturday.
We bounced along the cobblestones and up the steep hills in town, Mom alternating between screeching in terror and joy as we passed her favorite shops: cute pink sandals outside Letty's competing for attention with a burro who wandered into our path. When we rounded the corner and stopped at the end of the road I could smell the papas fritas; Mimi's face inside the gate settled it, I was home, at least for a short time.
One week to sleep in the mosquito netting, to bury myself in the sand at El Dorado, to drink fresh squeezed orange juice every morning and to beg my Dad to carry me back up the hill after a trip down to Bing's for pineapple ice cream. One week to spend with the four people I loved the most in the world, in the place I waited all year to be, Mexico.
And then, at the end, as I knew would happen each year, I said goodbye to my parents and got on a plane with my grandparents for the trip home. Mom and Dad just at the start of their Mexican time, a month of friends and parties and sunburns in front of them, while I was headed to snow and school and heartache, leaving my parents never easy, and my leaving was never easy for Dad. Waking the next morning to the sticky rolls we bought just a week earlier made him closer, even though I knew he was very far away.
My grandmother returned with Julia who talked to the girls for a minute and then turned to Mimi and me. In the end they allowed me outside, but only for a few minutes, long enough to take a picture and let me run to the end of the street and back. At five I had not yet learned that I wasn't supposed to be friends with the people who stood on the other side of the gate.