The dawn of August

blooms
Out in the yard, a’blooming.

AUGUST DAWNED chill and gray. I like the chill part.

The first day of any month brings chores. I pay my Megacable bill online. I do my monthly car checks — air, water, oil, etc. And sometimes the first of the month falls atop other chores unconnected to the first of the month. That was the case today because I had to drive downtown early — to avoid heavy traffic — and check my post-office box, which I do every second Saturday. Only one item in the box, which is about par.

Often there is nothing, which I prefer.

I very rarely get mail these days from above the border, and 99.9 percent of the mail in the PO box comes from above the Rio Bravo, invariably pension stuff.

And since it’s Saturday during the rainy season, Abel the Deadpan Yardman came to cut the grass, something he’s doing at this moment as I write to you.

August is the month when the incessant rain becomes obvious in the yard, which gets very beefed up, so to speak, greenery thick and abundant. It looks nice.

We’ll be having beans, rice and sausage for lunch today, and this afternoon we’ll drive to another small burg abutting our lake to look for some religious thing to attach to my mother-in-law’s tombstone in the not-distant town of Taretan.

My child bride and some of her sisters had the tombstone renovated recently because it was in bad shape. She died over half a century ago at the age of 31.

Memories of days gone by

Eronga
Town of Erongaricuaro.

NINETEEN YEARS ago, I received the first and last visit from family members above the Rio Bravo. My mother and sister. I picked them up one evening at the Guadalajara airport and, as we drove to a downtown hotel, my sister asked:

Are most of the people who live here Mexican?

She was 59 at the time and had never been to a foreign country. It was her first and last trip outside the United States. She’s 78 now and, I imagine, will never leave her homeland again. She prefers the craziness of California.

After one night in the Guadalajara hotel, we took a bus to the neighboring state’s capital where I was renting a house. A couple of days later, we boarded another bus to the mountaintop town where I live now and stayed in a hotel for four nights.

We were tourists.

And during that time on the mountaintop — before I moved here, mind you — we took a taxi to a small town on the edge of our large lake, a town with the mouthful of a name Erongaricuaro, also known simply as Eronga because it’s easier to say.

We walked around a bit, but it began to rain, so we returned to the main plaza to catch another cab, but no cab was to be found. We sat on a bench and waited … and waited … and waited. No cab appeared. It was about to get dark.

A chicken bus pulled up, one of those ancient, smoke-belching, retired school buses that were common in these parts back then. They have since disappeared, replaced by smaller, nicer, more modern forms of local transportation.

We climbed aboard the chicken bus and returned to our hotel on the mountaintop.

Two days later, we went back to the state capital for another night, and then we bused to Guadalajara again for their flight back to Atlanta. Neither ever returned, but they did come that once. My daughter has yet to visit.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Eronga, parked the Honda on the small plaza, bought ice cream and sat on a plaza bench, the same steel bench on which I sat with my sister and mother 19 years ago. Facing across the street, I snapped the above photo.

I think about the visit of my mother and sister every time I sit on the plaza of Erongaricuaro, which I do now and then because it’s not that far from the Hacienda. But on that late, rainy afternoon 19 years ago, it seemed to the three of us that we were in the middle of nowhere. And then there was that ride on the chicken bus.

My mother is long dead. My sister lives, I think, in Arcata, California, and my daughter lives in Athens, Georgia. I have no other Gringo relatives.

But I’ll always have Eronga.

The Mexican relatives

1

WHILE MY surviving Gringa relatives — all two of them — above the Rio Bravo have vanished, lamentably, into the shadows of the past, I have no lack of family that I’ve married into.

I took this shot downtown earlier this week. One of the newer relatives is that smaller example in the middle. Her name is Paula Romina, and she’s very nice, not quite 2 years old.

Paula Romina thinks my child bride hung the moon.

And so do I. That’s not my child bride holding Paula Romina, however. That’s her mama, Margarita.

2

This young woman is named Alma, which is  Spanish for soul. She is the widow of our nephew who died two years ago at 32 from cancer. We took the nephew to the state capital for chemo treatments almost weekly for a year, but it did not work out.

They are good people. Buena gente.* A picnic is scheduled this afternoon, and the main dish will be roasted chicken.

* * * *

* With a couple of exceptions.

The nearby capital city

WHEN I MOVED to Mexico 19 years ago next month, this is the city in which I initially lived — above a garage.

Unlike most folks who relocate below the Rio Bravo, I did almost no research beforehand. What investigating I did was almost entirely hunting online for a language school that was not too far from Mexico City.

I had a girlfriend of sorts in Mexico City but, not being a masochist, I did not want to live in the chaotic national capital.

Here is the language school I found. If I had decided on a different language school, I would have moved to a different city, and everything that’s happened since would have happened differently.

I stayed in the capital city for just eight months before moving to my mountaintop town of about 80,000 souls that’s located 50 kilometers to the southwest up a modern, four-lane highway.

Having the big city nearby makes living in my hardscrabble backwater considerably more bearable. We drive down there once a week for shopping, a good meal and the occasional odds & ends.

Our dentist is there, and our internist too.

My child bride did post-graduate study in Madrid in the mid-1990s. She often would get irritated at Spaniards who believed Mexico consisted entirely of dirt roads and burros.

As you can see from this video I found yesterday on YouTube, we are far from being just dirt roads and burros. We do have dirt roads and burros, but we are much more than that.

In many respects, living here is better than living above the Rio Bravo.