Despite the language barrier, Mom always came away from visits with Maria with information about her friend’s family. How many children and grandchildren she had, along with their ages and birth dates.
That they could communicate at all amazed me, but they seemed happy to share what they could. Both Mom and Maria had vegetable gardens so they also shared seeds, sprouts, and bragging rights for the tallest tomato plant. Mom asked me to pick-up a Spanish Dictionary since they were both determined to learn the others language. A true friendship, I surmised.
I made a mental note to get better acquainted with Maria’s grown children. I’d nodded and waved as Maria’s children arrived and departed her driveway across the street. But I assumed their English was little better than my Spanish so I hadn’t made a real attempt to be cordial.
I was so angry I could hardly speak as Mom related her experience of the previous day. Mom told me that Maria’s son had picked her up and taken Mom to Mexico to join Maria’s family in the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
“I can’t believe it,” I nearly shouted at Mom. “! You left the United States, Mom. You entered a foreign country with total strangers!”
Clearly, Mom had no concept that she had left her home country and entered another, I knew that. Maria and her son knew that. But I couldn’t believe that Mom understood what she’d done. Maria’s family should have known better. As I turned and stormed for the front door–a knock interrupted my charge for Maria’s house.
Maria’s teenage granddaughter stood in front of me with a large baking dish covered in aluminum foil. “My Nana sent tamales for you, too.” She smiled as she pushed a foil covered baking-dish toward me.
“You speak English?” I felt foolish as soon as I’d asked the question. Of course she spoke English. She attended school in the United States.Maria’s granddaughter smiled and nodded, insisting I take the steaming baking dish while I shook my head. I was still angry and needed to speak to her grandmother right away.
“Yes, yes. My dad brought Tamales for your Mom yesterday, but we finished the chili ones today and Conchas too. My Nana wanted you and your mother to have both.”
“But–” my thoughts rushed ahead. “Your dad…uh…Maria’s son brought tamales for Mom yesterday?” I took a deep breath and peeked beneath the foiled pan, green chili tamales and Mexican Sweet bread. “You didn’t go to Mexico for Cinco de Mayo?” –I was almost afraid to know the answer to that question.
When Mom and I were alone, I asked her again about the story she had told me– and compared it to the knowledge I’d gotten from Maria’s daughter. Mom feigned forgetfulness and supposed she hadn’t gone to Mexico at all.