September 28, 2012 by palamow
BITS and PIECES # 3
Hello to all from Luquillo!
Here is my third attempt at ‘appetizing bloggery – I feel reasonably comfortable burdening you all with a ‘semi-regular’, loosely formatted posting – a few words of introduction followed by a short story or even (gasp!) an occasional opinion piece – I hope you find that arrangement appealing as well – if not – please let me know, and I’ll attempt to do better!
Lately, the news media seems to have featured an inordinate amount of ‘sound and fury’ pieces about illegal immigration from our neighbor south of the border, and the consequential ‘border incidents’ involved in these frequent incursions – reading about them brought to the forefront of my aging, febrile mind a poignant ‘border incident’ from fifty years past, in which I was very personally involved…
Here it is for your thoughtful appraisal (and hopefully your entertainment as well)…
According to the driver, we were about an hour from Mexicali and the US border at Calexico. The battered, dusty third class bus had brought us almost a thousand miles from Mexico City in three days, with countless stops along the way. My body ached from constant bouncing on the bus’s uncompromisingly hard wooden benches as we transited the back roads from village to village. I was jostled awake as we neared the border and, as I cleared my thoughts, the little girl on the bench across from me began singing to her mother. Her clear sweet song was compelling – I wondered idly what she was singing about. I asked Bill, my traveling companion, who spoke fluent Spanish to translate for me. He listened for a moment and then told me that the young girl – her name was Graciéla, was fantasizing about a doll she would have some day after she and her mother had settled in Mexicali — her father had died in a mining accident leaving mother and child with just enough money to take the bus to Mexicali where they had relatives. Graciela’s plaintive song described in great detail how her ‘dolly’ would look, how she would be dressed and even her name ‘Marisa’.
Her mother listened patiently until the song was finished, and then told Graciéla that she would have to be very patient, they would not be able to afford a ‘dolly’ until she found a job and a place of their own to live, and had saved-up some money. Graciéla absorbed this news stoically and snuggled up in her mother’s lap for the remainder of the trip.
I looked them over carefully, noting their clean but somewhat threadbare clothes, the mother’s careworn face, and Graciéla’s sparkling black eyes set in a beautiful, round olive-skinned face — I was captivated by her and her lovely song.
When we arrived at Mexicali’s bus terminal, I asked Bill to speak to Graciela’s mother, asking her politely to wait briefly with him in the bus terminal — she looked skeptical, but agreed when he said his ‘amigo’ would explain when he returned in a few moments. I ran from the terminal to the border crossing in a flash — crossing into Calexico, I asked the first person I met where I could find a toy store. A few blocks away, I was told — I ran the distance and breathlessly entered the store. I told the clerk I wanted to look at ‘dollys’ – she led me to a shelf with an assortment of them. I looked them over carefully, and then selected one with black hair and black, shining eyes, dressed almost as her song had described! I was sure that Graciéla would accept as her ‘Marisa’. I quickly paid the clerk with most of what money I had left and, ran from the store with ‘Marisa’ under my arm — moments later I was back across the border and back in the bus station — I ran to Graciéla and wordlessly offered her the doll – her dark eyes lit up in amazement — she gently took the doll from my hands and hugged it to her chest, crooning softly to her ‘Marisa’. Her mother turned away to mask her tears, and then turning back to me took my hand and kissed it murmuring “gracias senor, muchas gracias por su maravilloso regalo” — then she took her daughter’s hand and they strode quickly toward the exit – just before they reached the door, Graciéla turned and blew me a kiss…
As Bill and I crossed the border a few minutes later to continue our journey home to Los Angeles, my heart was full with gratitude for this God-given opportunity – a ‘gift of giving’ to a little girl I had only just met, and would certainly never see again.
The warmth of this precious memory remains with me yet – locked in my heart for half a century now, but ready to be instantly rekindled whenever I am a bit sad and need a little lift…
© 2012 Alan Mowbray Jr.