Saturday, September 23, 2006

coming home in a box

September 17, 2006

I rush down the path, past the filthy river, past the woman turning back to examine me, past the landslide that killed his wife’s parents. I’d never been to the house of three of my best students—who, when I once asked what they wanted to do after school, responded in unison, Our path leads to the US—but now I’m arriving to share my regrets for their older brother.

The house is set back in the milpa, barely visible now that the stalks reach well past seven feet high. It’s new, painted white cinder block with high ceilings and a front porch. Everyone knows that all houses like this were paid for with the sweat of an illegal immigrant, with the American dollars sent home by a family member.

Since he left—eight years ago—there’s been a whole in his mother’s heart. For years the pain was eased with the money he sent back to pay for the food, the gas, the schooling of the kids. But now, after the accident on Thursday, she wonders where the money will come from. What will the family do? The whole in her heart is deepening, widening, settling in for a lifetime. They’ve requested that his body be sent home, that it be buried near his family, and so that they can visit his grave. The cost will no doubt be another worry, another bother. His 10-year-old daughter giggles when she sees me and gives me a kiss. She doesn’t remember him, nor her mother, nor her younger brother and sister who were born in the US. Later, I notice her staring at his photo as if examining him for the first time, trying to know him before having to bury him.

I sit with his mother on the front porch in plastic chairs and watch the rain, looking in the corn stalks for the right thing to say, for the answers to an economic problem that tears families apart. A problem that makes their children strangers, that makes them dependent on remittances, that makes them wait on their front porch for the body of their son, their brother, the uncle, their father, not knowing when or whether or not it will arrive. In a place that lost 46 people under a year ago because of Huricane Stan, there is more suffering, more pain. The sacrifice of the new house, the filling meal we eat for lunch, the education of the family’s teenagers I’m friends with—all of it is deep. I wonder whether it’s worth it, I wonder if they see it. I wonder what the teenagers would say now about their futures.


At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Brooke,

These last two blog writings have convinced me beyond all doubt that you must put these wonderfully descriptive verbal drawings into a book. If I had been endowed with dimples, I surely would be putting them to good use also as I read of your heart-felt experiences.


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