Mothers’ Day

The grandparents are giving the parents a free evening—we are going to keep the two year old and four year old for the night. We mess up, and in a big way, however, as we keep them up way past their bedtime.  

Winnie the Pooh has engaged us more than the children,  and, finally, the four year old turns his back on the movie and begins to wail for his mother. The grandmother holds him and is gentle with him, but he does not want consolation. “My mommy has disappointed me!” he cries—and then he falls asleep. He knows that she will be back, even if later than he would like, and he can take that assurance to the bank—or at least into the sweet dreams of a four year old.

Across town, another mother prepares for bed. Her child is sixteen, and she hasn’t seen him for four years, as he lives in a small hut in rural Veracruz, Mexico, and she works as a maid in a six-bedroom, four-bath home in Brownsville. Some weeks ago, I asked her how her boy was, and her eyes shone as she explained that he was finishing up high school. She then said, “You know, I saw him two years ago!” and I asked how could that be? She told me that she had slipped down to a spot on the Rio Grande that looks out toward Mexico, and that her son and his grandfather stood on the other side of the river. “We couldn’t stay long,” she said, “because the border patrol is close by there, and there are bandits on the other side of the river, but we waved at each other. It was nice.”

My friend Gene, the extraordinary observer of life along the border, was wandering downtown for his midnight walk. It was a night lit up by a full moon, and he was enthralled with its beauty. He crossed into downtown and came upon the handful of prostitutes who hang out on one of the corners. He greeted them in his amiable way, and said, “¡Mira! ¡La luna es bella! (look at the beautiful moon),” to which one of them, after a quick glance to the heavens, nodded, and said, “Si, pero no se presta para pañales (yeah, but it doesn’t pay for the diapers).”

Early this morning, on this American celebration of mothers’ day (the Mexican celebration is on May 10th), I could hear, in the distance, the joyful call of a trumpet, as groups wandered the neighborhood serenading those mothers who live amongst us—faithful, humble, practical. Good women from whom I have so much to learn.

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