Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Duarte Stories: Dreaming of Smooth Walls

My late grandmother, Catalina Vasquez, moved from her home in Tiunadepa, Mexico to a much poorer village, Turicachi when she was eight years old.  Those of my family who have traveled there know that the homes are rough with floors of dirt or cracked concrete.  The adobe walls have holes in them and even if you spend the night in the finest (and only) hotel in the larger neighboring town, you very much risk freezing in the wintertime.  Here my grandmother grew and learned, and was taught by arrogant inhabitants of that town that she would never have anything better than the home woven straw mat she called her bed. 

But Catalina was a fighter.  She had a dream that one day, she would live in a fine, beautiful house.  It would even have the unthinkable luxury of smooth walls.  No one believed she could do it.  No one supported her hopes and dreams.  When her sister died at 42 leaving her with five extra children to add to her own large brood she found herself in considerable financial distress.  Her older brother kept her from starving and she labored without ceasing until she was able to move her family to a filthy, fly ridden town that bordered the great United States of America.  There she continued to work, cleaning people's homes and coming home sometimes in the dead of night half frozen.  She endured abuse from her clients and sometimes they stiffed her in their payment.  But still she pressed onward.

Making a very long and weary story short, she brought her eight children and her late sister's five children to the United States and settled in a very modest home in southwest Tucson, Arizona.  I am told that the first night she spent there, as she laid beside her husband, she began to weep.  He asked what the matter was and she responded "I am living in a house with smooth walls!" 

My friends, when life gets us down and we feel that things can't get any worse, let's have some perspective.  Reach your hand to your bedroom wall and exclaim with gratitude in your heart, "I am living in a house with smooth walls!"

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