Last year, Mary Tucker’s family set off to help out in a Mexican orphanage in an adventure that was intended to make them nicer people’. As can sometimes happen with such altruistic endeavors, all did not go according to plan, it went better.
Part 3 in which, although things were looking a little grim last time, Mary is starting to find her Groove...
When the day’s workshop ended, Rachel, Adrienne and Alex approached the three musicians to invite them to meet that night at a restaurant. Steve’s reaction was immediate and directed towards his two friends, “We have to practice.”
“We can go have a beer,” one of the friends protested. The friends won the argument and the group met, albeit without Steve. He only made it as far as the front door of the restaurant when he was forced to return to his room, suddenly feeling the effects of a lunch that included raw vegetables, surely tainted with some microbe.
The next day we met back at the auditorium where Amelia surprised me during one of our conversations. It turned out that while I was watching Steve conduct his workshop, all the while critiquing his style and making mental lists of ways he could improve, Amelia had been doing the same thing, except it was my family, not Steve, she scrutinized. The conversation started after Laura, once again, complained to her mother about the boys’ behavior while they were with us. Laura stood at her mother’s side as Amelia stated her observations and concerns in such a completely straightforward and inoffensive manner that it would have made any human resource director proud.
Her initial comments left me struggling for a translation that fit the situation. The boys have too much “confianza” with you and your family she said. “Confianza” sounds like confidence, but I knew that could not be what she was talking about. The boys have too much confidence with us? That didn’t make sense.
When I asked the meaning of “confianza” she started blabbing, which is what Spanish sounds to me about half the time. She blabbed a lot and then held her stomach and doubled over as though in pain. Her pantomime left me nonplussed, but I finally understood a couple of examples she used and translated the rest with pure conjecture. She felt that we let the kids get too close to us and we did not require enough discipline of them. I thought back to a scene that occurred earlier.
One of the younger boys, while kneeling in his auditorium chair, had reached over and pulled all of Kirt’s gray hair until it was standing straight up on his head. Kirt, seemingly entranced with the workshop, stared straight ahead without so much as blinking. The boy finally slapped all the hair back down flat on Kirt’s head. That, I was beginning to understand, was too much “confianza”.
I began to wonder what we looked like to Amelia and Laura. Their daily life was such a grind. Amelia cooked three hundred and forty-five or more meals each week, washed and hung to dry all the boys’ laundry and, until recently, was the only source of housecleaning for the entire orphanage. Her daughters helped when they were available, a tutor visited occasionally, and I had noticed a gardener at the facility. But, basically, Amelia was raising twenty-four children on her own.
To manage such a daunting feat she developed a routine and required the boys to behave and help. They quickly responded to anything she asked, running to the market for food, helping carry heavy loads and bringing dirty dishes to the kitchen. Amelia’s system worked until, well, maybe until we showed up with our indulgent attitudes, ignorant of her rules and schedules.
I finally felt confident in my ability to translate her comments. We were Disney Dads.
“Do you mind me telling you this?” she asked.
“No,” I answered. “It’s good. We want to help, not be a problem. I want you to be able to tell me these things.” She smiled and I smiled. I think we may have hugged. Then I returned to the auditorium, my mind full of Amelia and Mexico.
Mary Tucker has recently transitioned from Mom and wife to Empty Nester. Don’t expect the transition to drag out, however! With her 2 daughters off to school, Mary is re-directing her abundant creative energies to writing, real estate, and finding ways to make a difference. It’s never a dull moment around this enthusiastic, energetic 50-something!
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