Monday, March 1, 2010

A Metate and A Prayer (Ch. 22)

Two months in Matamoros felt like an eternity for Mauricia with the sweltering heat. Selling gordas on the corner was profitable but at the same time gruesome as she felt her clothes were melting off her body from the suns scorching rays. Francisco took two jobs assisting with farm animals and another shoveling coal. Mauricia kept the children close by her as they slept and played under a tent she built beside her stand. Teresa helped with the younger children and kept herself entertained by organizing her mother's condiments.

Mauricia prepared the gordas swiftly and effortlessly like flowing water in a river. She became accustomed to the heat and the goal of crossing over the family was not far behind in her mind. She felt a determination that burned inside of her just as the sweat steamed off her skin. She did not find it difficult to cook as she assisted her mother at an early age preparing Gordas in Pinos. "Mama, mama, here are the plates." Teresa placed the pile next to her mother's feet. "Gracias, mi reina." Mauricia lovingly told Teresa.

A small child ran up to Mauricia's stand, "Doña Mauricia, my mother said you received a package, come by and pick it up." "Thank you Daniel, tell your mother I will come by two o'clock the lunch hour is almost over." Mauricia continued to pat the maza, heat her gorda's and take orders from a bustling crowd of men who finished their morning shift. Within time all is still and quiet as everyone had been served and by this time the sun was intolerable. Mauricia ordered, "Teresa, pack up the condiments and I will put the other items up." Mauricia meticulously organized her items and walked a block to her living quarters. "Ay Mauricia, let me help you." her neighbor Linda runs up to get a hold of Maria del Carmen from Mauricia's already occupied hands with other items.

"Daniel said you had something for me? I wonder who it is from." Mauricia asked. Linda eagerly said, "I wonder too, open it now! Mauricia opened the box and saw a letter on top. She opened the letter and saw it was from Cipriana. Mauricia clutched the letter to her chest and said, "Oh, thank you God, my Ciprianita! I was afraid she did not get my letter about our move."

Mauricia read the letter, "My Dearest Mauricia, I hope God finds you and your family well and with health. I cannot complain, if I live to see another day that is enough of a blessing for me. I received your letter about your problems and your move. Mauricia please take care of yourself and remember you are the rock that sustains the children. They need you to be strong regardless of whatever is going on around you. Pray to God for patience and strength. I pray for you everyday and love you as if you were my own daughter. I hope that woman, Ana, will not do any more harm to you and Francisco. I will light a candle everyday for you both to enlighten your paths with God's help."

The letter continued by saying, "Everyone is well and sends you their love. In the box you will find a letter from your brother Carlos and two items I want to pass on to you. One item I cherish with all my life and it is my Nuestro Padre Jesus de Pinos shrine and photo. You will notice two small medals on it and there is a story behind this. When the Revolution was at its highest peak we were scared to leave our houses for fear of being killed. Our men would leave to work but at times some did not come back home. One day after Benjamin came out of work and was walking home a herd of Revolutionaries came and rounded up any man they found walking the streets and took them to the main square. One of Benjamin's friends lived close enough to get to his house and pass the word down the houses that Benjamin and others were taken into custody. By the time word came to me I panicked. I had just given birth to Eduardo and did not know what to do. The only thing that came to my mind was I needed to get Benjamin back. I left Eduardo with my cousin and ran to my altar. I lit all my candles and prayed to God that Benjamin not be harmed. I looked at my Nuestro Padre Jesus and told him "You need to grant me a miracle!" I carried him over to my room and wrapped him up in Eduardo's cloth diapers and put him a drawer. I told him, "I'm sorry, I have to do this but I am desperate and I will not take you out until Benjamin comes home. I have all faith in you and leave this in your hands." I ran out of the house in hopes of finding Benjamin and willing to plead for his life. I walked a couple of blocks down from the house and could hear the sounds of gunshots as they were killing each one of the men. I hurried myself as I was making my way up a steep hill and I saw a shadow coming towards me from the other side. It was Benjamin! We ran to each other and I asked if he was okay. I asked him how was he able to get away. Mauricia you know Benjamin was a funny man. I guess we can say that God blessed him with that gift. He told me when it was his turn to be questioned in line one of the revolutionaries tapped his face with his rifle and asked "And you? What is your name and who do you live with?" Benjamin said, "My name is Benjamin and I live amongst the living, sir!" His comment caught the man off guard and he let out a boisterous laugh and told him, "Your funny! Now leave before I change my mind. Run now!" Benjamin ran as fast as he could and that is where we found each other on top of the hill. Nuestro Señor has granted me two miracles one with Benjamin and one by sparing me from harm by walking alone in the streets that day. I think you need Nuestro Padre de Jesus now more than this old woman.

Mauricia looked over the patron saint of Pinos and admired him and placed him on her dresser. She picked up the letter and continued to read:

The other item in this box I took from Gertrudes' house. She passed away six months ago and died alone. I went to pay my respects and many things were being thrown out of the house and I saw this item. I immediately recognized your mother's metate (mealing stone) and remember it fondly. I used to joke with your mother about it's broken leg and she did not care as long as it still worked. I should know about this metate as I was with her when she picked it out and it was still in the same red bag your mother carried it in. I thought this is the only thing of your mother that is left and who better to have it than you. I hope to see you one day. With all my love, Cipriana."

Mauricia sighed and rubbed her hands over the metate as tears streamed down her face. "This is the closest thing I have of my mother. I remember her making gordas on this early in the mornings and carrying it on her back. I cannot believe this. I feel like a part of my mother is back with me." Mauricia looked up and smiled at Linda and said, "This was my mother's."

Wiping away her tears Mauricia hurried to open Carlos' letter. "Dearest Sister, It has been a long time since we have communicated and I hope this letter reaches you to learn the following changes in my life. I finished my term with the military as I promised you. I felt at this time in my life it was time for me to get married. I know I had no one in mind at the time but I set out on horse to Guadalajara to find a wife."

Mauricia puts her hand over her mouth as she says, "Ah! He is insane! He makes it sound so easy." She continued reading: "As I arrived in Guadalajara I came across a small town to stop for the night. The next day I walked around to find something to eat and I saw her across the street. She was petite, fair skinned, long dark hair, and beautiful. I never felt this way in my life. She took my breath away. When I went in one of the restaurants I asked the waiter about her. He hunched over to me and said, "Do not bother. She is the Mayor's daughter and she has no time for you."

"I hurried to eat my breakfast and thought this is the best time to meet her than never. I had no one to speak on my behalf for introductions. I paid my tab and determined I walked across the street. I introduced myself, she smiled, and said her name was Beatrice. I asked her questions about the town and the surrounding areas. Mauricia, I'm glad to say she was not stupid. I was afraid she was only beautiful but nothing else. Beatrice told me about the history and their agriculture as we sat underneath a tree. Time stood still for us at this point. She did not hesitate to answer or ask questions. I can tell she took a liking to me too. That was enough for me. I asked her, "Beatrice, when can we talk again? I have no time to spare and am looking for a wife." She was taken aback by my comment, and said she was not sure her family would approve. Beatrice said she was impressed by my perseverance and respect towards her. I was not pushy or obnoxious like the other men in her town. Let me tell you sister, we met six more times before we knew we were in love."

"Her father was not fond of me and made it clear he would not approve our relationship. Beatrice was heartbroken but I told her I would offer her the world if she would be my wife. I have two arms, legs, a heart and brain. God has blessed me with this and more and was willing to work hard to make her happy. I decided to do what was best for us both, before nightfall on our last visit I told her to get her belongings and run away with me. The next day we met again and this time she had her things thrown out of her bedroom window and as the sun set Beatrice and I left. We were married in the next town two days later. We are happy and looking for a place to settle down. Please write me back as I have not heard from you in some time. Your loving brother, Carlos."

"I cannot believe this man! He had some nerve, but now he seems to be happy. Good for him." Mauricia puts both letters up in a safe place in her one bedroom shack. Linda could not believe what she had heard and told her, "I will see you tomorrow, I need to finish making dinner, I don't think I need to hear any gossip today after your letters."

Mauricia beamed at her metate and knew she would happily put it to use at her stand. A short time later Francisco entered hot and sweaty from work. "I'm starving, what is there to eat?" he asked.
Mauricia pulled out his plate she had prepared and placed it in front of him as she told him about her package. Teresa and Leopoldo patted the metate as Maria de Jesus lay asleep on the bed. Francisco laughed and said he was content to see her happy for once. It had been a while since he had seen her smile.

"I have something to tell you Mauricia and it cannot wait. My cousin wrote me a letter that Ana found out we left San Luis and my mother told her we were here." Stunned Mauricia asked, "What!? Is she crazy? Why? Now we have to leave soon!"

"Mauricia! I had to tell my mother in case of an emergency. She did not tell Ana with any bad intentions. She accidently told her our location because Ana was accusing me of fleeing to avoid paying her the children's maintenance. My mother responded by telling her we were running away from no one and she knew we were staying in Matamoros. Ana then said, "okay, maybe I should try my luck across the border too." That is why my mother told my cousin to warn us."

Mauricia asked, "Where are the children?" Francisco said, "My mother found out she left them in the care of a family friend and told her she was seeking a better future for her children across the border."

Mauricia pounded on the table, "She is a liar! She has no intentions for your children other than laying around with men for favors and making our lives hell! She is not a mother to those children. Francisco, we need to go before she finds us again." Francisco looked at Mauricia and extended his hand and placed it over hers, "I know, that is why we are working through this week and we will start our journey across the border Sunday."

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