Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just when you think you're a mature adult...

you find yourself riding a tricycle.  Every.  Day.  Because you should never do anything in the presence of a toddler unless you are willing to do it over and over and over.  And over.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Me llamo Teresa.

I always liked my name, growing up, because I was the only Teresa I knew. I felt sorry for the dime-a-dozen Jessicas and Jennifers and Melissas and Elizabeths, who had to go by first-name-plus-last-initial. Melissa Bee! Jenny Ess! I would have been “Teresa Pee!” so I was grateful to have avoided that.

Now, in our sparsely populated Oaxaca neighborhood, there are two other Teresas—a teenager and a middle aged woman; I fit right into the chronology. The woman who runs our little local store is named Teresa. My husband’s great-grandmother—the oldest person I have met in real life—is named Teresa. The antagonist of a currently popular telenovela is named Teresa (so I’m plagued with people breathily quoting, “Eres mala, Teresa” at me at every turn). We’re a peso a dozen, and I’m okay with that. Having spent so much of my life wanting to be different, to stand out, I’ve ended up in a place where I stand out by default, and work hard at blending in. Having a quintessential Mexican name only helps.

Oddly, a lot of the popular baby names in Mexico right now are names that were popular in the U.S. in the late seventies and early eighties, so my son is the little blue-eyed boy with the old-fashioned Spanish name (people always say, “My great-grandfather was named Isaias!”), surrounded by brown-eyed kids named Rebecca and Alison and Elizabeth and Alexander.

Anyway, it’s strange how things come around. In a different country and thirty-some years later, another wave of Jennifer Arrs and Melissa Els--that is, Jennifer Err-ay and Melissa El-ay. The name that I once appreciated for its difference, I now appreciate for its sameness.

And the one thing I didn’t used to like about my name was the supposed meaning: “helper at the harvest.” Lame, I thought, because my friends would go around saying how their names meant “beloved of God” or “beautiful flower” or “of noble birth.” Now I’m all about the idea of being a helper at the harvest, both literally and metaphorically. I can only hope that the abundance of adult Teresas running around Mexico means we’re due for a massive harvest that will require lots of helpers. A bumper crop of something wonderful for Alison Oh and Rebecca El-ay and Alexander Ah, and Isaias.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


At the neighbors’ house, a sheet is draped over the window frame in lieu of glass. A dense constellation of tiny holes in the tin roof pierces the dimness inside with needles of bright afternoon light. The floor is packed dirt.

There’s a huge, creepy Christ Child doll in a white nightgown balanced on a corner shelf, and on the back wall, an uneven line of baby photos. (A long line—Doña Blanca has six kids. She can’t be much older than I am, and you can see that she was once a pretty young woman, but she looks about fifty, and worn out; her husband looks about twenty and works when he feels like it).

The youngest of the six, Edwin and Jesus and Darian, are jumping on their bed and laughing; Isaias is laughing and trying to jump, he’s almost got it figured out.  I wonder how long it will take before he figures out the differences between this house and ours, and what he'll make of them.

The first time the kids came over to our house, they looked around wide-eyed, and Edwin said, “Your house is really nice, and you have EVERYTHING.” We don’t have a couch, my desk is a piece of sheetrock atop some wooden fruit crates, our floor is brick over sand, our kitchen table and chairs are of the hideous plastic variety (complete with beer logos), there’s no running water in the kitchen, no hot water anywhere unless you heat it one the stove. And so on. Mostly, I'm able to keep it in perspective.

Ibis had a job offer this week. Had he accepted it, he’d be making three times what he’s making now. But we’d never see him: six days a week, he would be in a town four hours away. He didn’t take it. We’ll survive with makeshift furniture, together.

My teaching job ends next week, until August. June and July will be tricky—but we’ll have the garden, and the chickens. There’ll be omelets, and salads, and fresh salsa. If it comes down to it, we can eat the rooster. (God, it feels wonderfully Laura Ingalls Wilder to say that: “Don’t worry, Pa. There’re the chickens,” she said stoutly. “By Jove, you’re right, Half Pint. And the garden!”)

There’ll be enough left over to invite Jesus and Edwin and Dari for lunch now and then.

We have everything.