This is a regular feature column inspired by the September 15, 2019 Open Circle presentation of stories that manifest “Mexican Grace.”
El Ojo is looking for more anecdotes that relate the many encounters, initiated by expats or locals, that exemplify the special forms of mutual giving and receiving that define the Mexican Grace that brought us to this unique paradise–and that keep us here.
Photos are welcome.
By Lillian Norma
Today I cleaned my whole house. As I cleaned, I thought of Rosa. Oh, if Rosa could see me now! In all probability, we would argue. How I miss and long for my Rosa and our arguments
Rosa is our maid. She just fell into my lap. Or rather, I literally fell into hers. Our house included everything but kitchen items. Because my partner and I love to entertain, I walked to Walmart to purchase a couple of sets of dinnerware, pots and pans, and the like. “And the like” became two extra bags of doodads.
At the checkout, I knew walking home with four heavy bags was out of the question. Luckily, the bus stop was close by. As I edged and squeezed myself down the aisle of an overcrowded bus, my eye caught a woman motioning me to an aisle seat. Just as I sat, the bus lurched, throwing me sideways and into her lap.
“!Lo siento, lo siento!” I exclaimed.
“No importa, señora, no importa,” she said with a smile.
How often I would be hearing those three words in the coming years! “No importa, señora,” she repeated, hanging onto a bag that had fallen with me. I indicated I could manage but she refused to relinquish it. Thus began our first argument. She had the bag. I didn’t. She won.
We tried communicating with my limited Spanish and her limited English. From Walmart to mi casa, we learned she was a maid and I needed one. Cleaning our spacious house was an onerous job so I succumbed to our friends’ suggestions to hire a local and add to the economy of este lugar.
As my house was cerca I rose to get off the bus. She smiled that big smile of hers. “Tengo un cliente in Mirasol. Voy con usted.” She “wrestled” the other heavy bag out of my hand and led the way.
I tried to retrieve it but she smiled and shook her head. “I’ll take one, señora, por favor.” Her grip tightened as she walked away, motioning me to follow. She had won. Again.
She walked through each room of my house, nodding her approval. Within ten minutes, I had a maid and she had secured another job. Our new “contract” had her returning the following el miercoles. Miercoles is a favorite Spanish word of mine and it grew even more special each week that Rosa came to work for us.
Routines were established. Each miercoles, she opened the street door, walked up the sidewalk, allowing her eyes to glance inside the living room window. We would see her and came to welcome that glance of hers. It was part of who and what Rosa was to us.
My partner brewed extra coffee every miercoles. “A cup for Rosa,” he’d say. They exchanged “Buenos días, señor ¿como esta?” and “Buenos días, Rosa. How are you?” Their smiles warmed my heart.
Our exchange was, “Buenos días, Rosa, y ¿como estás? Tu familia está bien?” She politely corrected me by responding, “Sí, y ¿usted familia?” She won again!
A trust soon formed in this unique relationship. We left Rosa alone and went to the Wednesday market. Her music would blast so she seldom heard us return. We traipsed our dirty shoes across her newly cleaned floors. My chorus of “lo sientos” preceded her “No importa, señora, no importa.”
Every week we walked on her wet floors. Oh yes, they were her floors! “No importa,” rang in the air as her mop ridded any evidence of our disrespect for her labors. Later, she acquiesced and ate lunch with us, as she was far too polite to beg off to complete su trabajo.
Over the years Rosa became as much of a friend to me as a maid. We valued each other’s friendship and our working relationship changed. Cada miercoles señor greeted her with her cup of coffee. After our usual buenos días exchanges, I led her from room to room telling her what not to do. “Rosa, no es necesario, hoy.” Her look said, “Pero, señora, es mi trabajo.”
“Quizás proxima semana. No need to clean ‘esa habitación porque nadie lo está usando.”
“Pero, es mi trabajo,” she insisted. A shake of my head indicated it was a waste of time arguing. She would shake her head and walk off.
Each week I invented some reason not to clean something. She soon began to regard me with some suspicion. Rosa would never “disobey” me, but she got me back one way or the other. To prove “pero es mi trabajo, señora”, she did something completely different. The dust-free fans explained why the step ladder was out when we returned from the market.
One day we could not find her. She was under the dining room table “getting rid of possible spiders, señora,” she said with a sly grin. Another day we found her with a plastic bag on each foot as she walked along the kitchen counter cleaning the top of the cupboards. She won every “argument” on this no es necesario, hoy, topic. Week after week we played this game. I invented ways for her not to work so much and she invented ways to do it anyway.
Then came COVID-19. No one went out. No one came in. Self-isolation. Social distancing. El miercoles, I sent Rosa a text, “Lo siento, pero no venga a casa hoy y próxima semana, Rosa.” I sensed her anguish. I knew she was losing some of her jobs as people were advised to return home. My next text was a request for “su dirección, por favor, and I will drop off your pay.” She was worth every peso.
“Graciás, señora, usted mi ángel de la guarda,” was her response. My response? “Por nada, Rosa, graciás a usted.”
So, today I cleaned my house. No one opened the street door. No one glanced in my living room window. No music was blasting. No mysterious job got done behind my back. No Rosa. No nada.
Rosa, please come back so we can argue again. You know you will win!
I miss my Rosa.