General Non-Fiction posted May 16, 2017


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Learning the Mexican life

My Friend Marge


I was aware that a family of Mexicans had recently moved into the old house on my father's farm, but it didn't mean a lot to me. Every summer my dad hired Mexicans to pick cherries; they stayed for two or three weeks, or as long as the harvest would last. Most were immigrants who spoke little or no English, so I never got to know any of them too well. That changed the summer I turned ten.

The day after the new family arrived, I sat in the shade of our snowball bush reading comics while I enjoyed few moments of peace. With eleven siblings, a little quiet wasn't easy to find. As I recall, it was a hot day with fat, fluffy clouds that hung motionless in the air, like white, cream filled cats asleep on a carpet of blue.

I heard a sound behind me, and thinking it was my younger sister, I spun around to tell her to play somewhere else. Instead, a young Mexican girl stood there. My sudden move made her stop, still as a startled fawn. She clasped her hands behind her back, and her bare toes curled in the warm sand. It surprised me to see her there because the Mexicans usually kept to themselves. They seldom, if ever, came over by our house. The girl raised her head and smiled at me through a tangle of long black hair. I assumed she couldn't speak our language, so I shrugged, held my hands palm up and said, "Sorry, I can't speak Spanish." To my astonishment, she answered in perfect English without a trace of an accent.

"Hello, my name is Marge. Mom said she saw a girl about my age when we came in last night. Do you think we could talk and maybe be friends?"

"Sure," I replied. "But why don't you speak Spanish like most of your people do?"

Marge laughed. "I do speak Spanish too, but I was born and raised in Erie, Michigan. However, my mom and dad migrated from Mexico. My mother can't speak English at all, and dad knows just enough to get by in this country. He works in a glass factory and decided to spend his vacations picking fruit to make extra money. Someone told us your dad was a good man to work for, so here we are."

Marge and I soon became best of friends. I met her sister, Anne, and brothers Johnny, Adolph, and Raymond. She introduced me to her mother who did know a few words of English. Every time I got near the woman, she laughed and started shoving hot, spicy Mexican food at me.

"Eat, you too skinny, eat, eat, eat."

I remember Marge's mother as one of the jolliest people I have ever known. I learned to love her as the years went by, and she got me hooked on Mexican food forever.

Marge and I, her siblings, and my brothers and sisters sat around a campfire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows almost every night. We swam in a nearby lake and sometimes went to drive in movies on Saturday nights. Fun and hard work made the summers go by fast. When the Guzman family left to return home each year, I felt half sick for a while.

One year Marge invited me to stay with them, so I could attend a Mexican fiesta with her family. It was one of the best times of my life as well as a learning experience. I helped Mrs. Guzman make enchiladas, tamales, and tacos for the festival feast. Later, we donned authentic Spanish outfits to ride in the parade, where the Guzman family laughingly introduced me as the blue-eyed Mexican. Marge, Anne, and I sold food at the carnival and flirted with all the handsome young men. It was a blast.

Sadly, time kept moving on, and we all grew up to go our separate ways. I learned so much about the Mexican culture, plus their way of life from Marge and her family. Before Marge came into my life, I looked at the Mexicans simply as hired help, necessary for the running of dad's farm, but not people I wanted to know. Perhaps, I was a bit of a snob back then, but Marge changed my way of looking at other races and their customs. I will never forget the lessons she taught me.







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The picture is of Marge, in the center, with my younger sister, Beverly, and I sitting beside her. We are sitting on the running board of my father's 1950 flat-bed truck that he used to take cherries to market. I recently received a cell-phone number for Marge from a friend of theirs. We are in contact again.
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