The chanates (grackles or crows, whichever) were making their usual spring ruckus in the tops of the trees while I was making oatmeal muffins, when Mom came in and said, “I thought you were in here frying bacon, then I figured you probably don’t eat bacon.” I registered the racket from the park across the street and laughed, “Of course I eat bacon, but not often, and alas, not today.” Mom and I drank tea and ate hot oatmeal muffins before heading over to the park to take a look around.
While I filled her in on the general agenda for my one and only skip day of her trip to TRC, she identified plants by their names in English for me and (I’m guessing) tried to take in the familiar, the unfamiliar and the long unseen. The morning was leisurely, and eventually, the chanates flew off to scavenge the day.
About midmorning, Mom and I trundled ourselves into Jose’s cab and went downtown to the Museo Arocena with a plan to have an early-ish lunch at the Copa de Leche, an old diner-style restaurant downtown that I’ve been going to ever since I first moved here almost fourteen years ago.
Writing about a museum visit leaves something to be desired, but I will say that we talked about Mexican history (Oh, how I wished for Mr. Miranda, our History of Mexico teacher!), were fascinated by the Arocena House with its hand-pieced parquet wood floors and stained glass windows. We oohed and ahhed over the “portable” desks with all the accessories from the early 20th century that make a desktop computer with screen look positively featherweight. Almost as an after-thought (we were getting pretty hungry at this point), we remembered the Jorge Marin sculpture exhibit, where we lost ourselves again in considerations less historic and more spiritual, philosophical and Newtonian [Please go to Marin’s website http://jorgemarin.org/ where you can find a gallery of his work]. We even made a cursory tour of the bookstore with mental notes for a return visit if needed.
We beat the lunch rush to the Copa at around 12:30 or so, but we were both pretty famished (we had missed almuerzo which is usually around 10 or 11 am, and lunch proper isn’t until 2 or 3 in the afternoon). We ate, talked and browsed the pamphlets we’d picked up at the museum. The bolillos [French-style bread rolls] with salsa instead of chips was a hit, and lunch (chile relleno for Mom, and huevos a la Mexicana for me) was delicious.
When we finished, I had the bright idea to walk down to the Mercado Juarez, where I promptly wound up walking us in circles until we ended up back at the museum. We took a stroll around the Plaza de Armas — lately armed at catty corners by big Mexican Marine Hummers full of young men in fatigues carrying big guns – grabbed a cab and headed back to my place.
Because a trip to the Comarca Lagunera is incomplete without a trip to Chepo nieve, on Sunday I decided we should head over to the Alameda where there’s an authentic Chepo franchise (for the uninitiated, the “original” Chepo is in Lerdo, a couple towns over) as well as the pulga, a public library, and a 7-11 where the restaurant Chihua’s used to be. We ate our lime, coconut with strawberry chepos on a bench in the square and watched people, listened to a student banda de Guerra (war band – drum and bugle) practice. The morning was exactly perfect, sunny but not hot, with a breeze, but not windy.
We spent another chunk of time in the library. It’s really a pretty little library. Cluttered around the edges, but the stacks are orderly, even if many of the volumes are outdated, threadbare and scant. There is even a media center with five or six (ancient but functional) computers for free Internet use by patrons. The stained glass window in the library designed and produced by a local artisan and a local glass company took our attention for several minutes as we deciphered what the window depicted.
Finally, we decided to head over to a little restaurant a colleague had told me about on the opposite corner of the Alameda. At El Sureño, surrounded by colorful paper maiche, clay and wood masks from all over the world, we enjoyed a lunch inspired by foods common to the southern part of Mexico. But not before our waiter plied us with a long list of various tequilas and mezcal. We demurred, asking for limeade with mineral water. Even I couldn’t fathom tequila on a late Sunday morning. While we considered the menu, we enjoyed black bean dip and a couple of kinds of salsa with our totopos. Once we had asked one hundred and one questions about the menu, we settled on tamales in banana leaf and a kind of empanada stuffed with fried squash flower, all drenched in cream and cheese. I don’t think either of us was especially in love with the empanada (the cream was a little sour and unexpected — it might grow on you with practice), but the tamal was MUAH! Absolutely amazing. Something about the flavor the banana leaf adds to the cornmeal changes the nature of the tamal completely. Our lunch that day was long, slow and delightful and bracketed by the library, a few gift purchases in the pulga, and the waiter who was pushing Sunday, late morning booze, and the intriguing masks all around us.
The rest of the week we spent at school. The first morning, I pointed in the general direction of things of interest on campus, walked Mom over to the elementary office and went about my business. By the end of the day, she’d been “roped into” (I don’t think this was a particularly challenging roping job) substituting for a second grade teacher on Wednesday, and wound up as an emergency substitute on Tuesday, as well. We came home at the end of that first day and Mom told me all about the first graders she had worked (played?) with, trying to remember names and picking out personalities when she couldn’t remember names. All week my seniors and sophomores hassled me, “Where’s your mom?” they asked with a slight whine (a la first grade) in their voice. “We want to meet her.” Naturally, when they finally got to meet her, on Thursday, I think, most didn’t know what on earth to do with her. I had to laugh. One student needed no introduction and hugged her when he saw her in the hallway, intuiting that she’s family by extension.
In the afternoons after school we mostly crashed and burned and then made dinner, but we also did a few other things, like visit the pottery shop where I’ve been going all these years for super cool, genuine Mexican things (like ceramic, hand-painted house number tiles). Mom got most of her loot there (a ceramic lizard, her house number with frame, a time pig for the youngest grandbaby, a ceramic plaque reading “Casa de la Abuela” – serendipity is everywhere), and I was pleased to see the señor owner who had been absent last year. One afternoon after class Mom had the dubious honor of hearing me rehearse an Art Festival song with the band made up of other faculty members, far more skilled than I. Mom was duly impressed. Luckily, I have pretty decent day job that I actually like.
When I went with Mom to the airport on Saturday morning, I pointed out the places she needed to know and talked her through what came after we checked her in. And then I left her there and made the mad dash back to my house where I made all the calls to all the people who needed to know that she was safely deposited at the airport and would soon be back within reach. And then, I had a little siesta. ~LD
P.S. I am terrible about taking photos; even if I carry the camera around with me, I forget to capture moments. I hope these will give you an idea in spite of me. ~LD