At last I sit here at the computer in my overtaken office, at last a free moment to "blog". School starts for the boys on Tuesday - M began preschool on Friday. They seem anxious to start, to get the beginning over with. How funny that in these last days of summer vacation, we're all enjoying morning walks with Sassy, afternoon bike rides, and noontime swims in our community pool, all as if we have weeks left before our days will firm up with the school schedule. In hindsight, I'm sorry that the boys spent as long as they did in summer school. It's my sincerest hope that they'll do well in enough this coming year to skip summer school. That really took a huge bite out of the break. Next year I hope we do more than we did.
Hurricane Katrina occupies my thoughts - I flip on CNN, MSNBC, or BBC whenever I get a chance - I'm praying for our citizens who've lost so much. I'm sorry I don't live in a place where I can volunteer because giving money seems so...empty. But, it's what I can do.
I also plan on working for the Democratic party next election - I don't think our domestic infrastructure can take another four years of the Republican party. If Katrina hasn't revealed who's been hurt by the current conservative government, I don't know what can. How well-hidden the growing, impoverished class has been! How low on the totem-pole of W's priorities they've been sitting - the abandonment breaks my heart even further. I feel like shouting, "The Emporer has no clothes!"
My grandparents just left our house - an impromptu lunch. Earlier this morning my grandmother called me, letting me know she'd bring by KFC chicken, that she wanted to give J a little something for his upcoming 12th birthday. Mama Nana and Papa Úl looked good considering their advanced age (late 80's) and recent health troubles - Papa probably shouldn't be driving but he is and he won't consider giving it up. I'm pretty certain it will take a driving test to get him off the road. I hope one will be required soon enough. On the other hand, I know how terrible it would be for him to lose that independence. So...until then, there will be more impromptu lunches.
While Mama Nana was here, we talked about Katrina, about the lagging response times, moving on to immigration. Papa Úl, a long-time Democrat, a WWII vet, a son of Mexican-born parents, railed against Arnie, laughing at the rants about the flow of Mexican citizens into the U.S., "His father was a Nazi! Who is he to talk about Mexican people working in California?! My God!" A note...don't bother arguing with Papa Úl, you will get a smile and swift shake of his head and hand at you, followed up by more digging in with his position. In other words, there is no arguing with my grandfather. Today, I agreed. I even threw in that Arnie himself was rumored to have been a Nazi Youth member. Just to liven up the conversation. My grandmother said that was a true fact. D looked at me and said on the sly, "He couldn't possibly have been..."
I shot a look at D and with my eyes, told him to never mind.
Because my grandmother was once an immigrant, because her sisters, her children, her mother, and many friends emmigrated from Mexico, her perspective is always interesting and the images she evokes of her own youth are wonderful. She believes there shouldn't be the problem there is because Mexico is capable of being a stronger force in the world than it is. She blames the Mexican government and illusory, stubborn beliefs.
"Life here in the U.S. is not what they dream about," she said, "it's harder here than in Mexico. Those left behind have plenty of dollars in their wallets but the family is divided. What happiness is that?" She painted a picture of meadows, hills, and skinny dogs. "We were happy," she remembered. "The struggle here to survive isn't worth the loss."
Perhaps. I'm reminded of a winter holiday I spent in Mexico City with my mother and sister, spending a few weeks in a great-aunt's multi-story apartment. I can still feel the cold tile floor, I can still remember my imaginings over the recent death of another tenant in the same building who rolled out of his window and fell three stories down into the courtyard to his death. "He fell asleep in the wrong place," according to my elderly aunt, Tía Margarita, who told the story in a highly judgmental fashion, blaming the man for his own demise (the story was told as a warming to us to not venture near the large, open windows with no railing).
I recall in particular an amazing day trip to a nearby national park, ten of us crammed into an ancient sedan, our favorite cousin, Juanito, driving (Juanito had had a stroke and we weren't 100% sure of just how much he could see out of his bad eye - some suspected he was mostly blind but that wasn't enough for the family to intervene because he was great at bribing the highway police and everyone rather risked a car accident than getting delayed by a speeding ticket). People sat on laps, sitting on still someone's else's lap, no joke, laughing and chatting the hour drive. My mother prayed that we wouldn't get hit - she laughed and chatted, too, but in a clearly distracted manner. We did get there, had a great picnic and an exhausting, beautiful hike. The day had been blissfully fun. Throughout the holiday we ate from street-side vendors (really one shouldn't do it) and played cards with the kids our age (we taught them "Pig" - according to my mother, for years after the trip the kids played the card game and always played thinking of us). The funny thing is that my sister and I didn't speak Spanish. We learned a little down there and must have learned enough to communicate because in my mind, I can almost believe we all spoke the same language. I know we didn't. What happened was that children can "talk" to one another in special ways.
My memory of Mexico is one of joy mixed in with hardship - life wasn't easy, money didn't come easily, but you always had family to celebrate with. I can see that living in the United States robbed the transplanted immigrants of that particular enjoyment of life. My extended family here...doesn't have that unique joy. It's this loss of joy my grandmother spoke of.
Today, the temperature has risen to 90 or so, maybe more than that. The heat reminds me of being in that stuffy car - I think of the heat in the drowned, wrecked Delta. I hope for a quick return of joy.