The richest poor woman in Mexico
February 16, 2017
Rich? Poor? By which stick do we measure? It is no secret I chose to play house in a small village in the mountains of Jalisco because I can do so and live well on my bare minimum pension. I live quietly, unobtrusively. By diligently shuffling pesos into my bottom drawer savings bank, similar to under the mattress, I can spend a week now and then on the beach. I am rich.
Sometimes I lose sight of how wealthy I am. The other day I was walking down Calle Del Pulpo, the street where I used to live in Mazatlan, turned the corner and Jorge jumped up from his chair. We both lit up like Christmas trees and threw our arms around each other.
What makes this a worthy event is that I would have told you Jorge meant nothing to me. When I lived here I saw the man nearly every day. Jorge washes cars for a living, probably runs errands for people at the Solamar Hotel, where he parks his own car, where his black Lab, Rocky, sleeps and waits for handouts. Rocky is always sleek and well-fed. I’m not so sure about the care and feeding of his owner. Jorge always greeted me, often with a kiss, a cultural politeness.
We had not seen one another for nearly a year. Obviously, we had forged a bond of sorts. A bond of recognition, connectedness, respect? A bond. That is true wealth.
Moving on down my street I headed straight for Reuben and Sylvia’s Loncheria, ate quesadillas de marlin, the best in all Mexico. Again, hugs, greetings of delight.
After lunch I sat in the courtyard behind my former apartment with Ted, Teresa, Vern and Laurie. Ted and Teresa I’ve known for almost three years, neighbors. Vern and Laurie and I had made an immediate connection when I turned my apartment over to them, let them know its secrets, where it turned cranky and where it ran smoothly.
For me, it is a comfort to see a home I have loved made beautiful for its new people. I had a part in making that happen and it pleases me well. See what I mean. Maybe it is subtle, but I am rich.
I still feel selfishly sad that Denise and Don didn’t get to spend the week with me. Denise says to make every vacation a trip, not a tumble. Don calls it his “pre-flight to Mazatlan.” He doesn’t recommend it; the flight is short, bumpy and with a hard landing. Don is recovering nicely from his fall downstairs on the very day he was to fly here.
Words are magic to me. This morning I experienced what I have come to call the “shuffle off to Buffalo” pass. I went to Pueblo Bonito to see if I needed reservations on Valentine’s Day for Cilantro’s Restaurante. The man at the front information desk shuffled me off to the Concierge, Denisse, who shuffled me off to whomever I could find at the restaurant (early in the day). Carlos sent me back to Denisse, who after several phone calls, said, “Come back in an hour when the manager is in.”
The “shuffle” comes from an ingrained politeness. Nobody wants to say they don’t know and leave you hanging. Such politeness might send you up the street when the place you seek is across the street. We do the same thing — we nod and smile that we understand, when in actuality, we haven’t a clue what was just said.
I notice I began using the phrase “my people.” “When my people are here … or “let’s go to the flower market and get room bouquets for my people,” or, “I’ll go there when I can go with my people.”
The bond we small-towners have, the bond of that shared experience of school, a “survival” of experiences, that bond is tighter than glue. The Class of ’63, Harlem High, meets again, a smaller group this year. My people are here. We are wealthy.
Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.