San Miguel de Allende
Back in San Miguel, I've been dreading running into Pueblita, the very poor flower lady, who has known Steve & Maki for years. Steve always made a ritual of buying flowers from her, usually a little ragged bouquet of purple and white strawflowers. He bought from her without fail. Our dashboard usually held the crumbling remains of one of Pueblita's little floral offerings.
For years she peddled her flowers in the tall stone portals of the Instituto Allende, one of San Miguel's art schools. More recently she has sat with her buckets on the stairs of Espino's, one of the little supermercados that cater to gringo tastes. Always smiling, always glad to see Steve again, Pueblita always inquires after Steve's mother, Maki. "Y la senora?"
Today, the day before Steve would have turned 62, I encounter her on my shopping trip to buy necessities for my journey home and for tomorrow's birthday picnic in Steve's honor. Her face seems to me virtually unchanged since Steve introduced us in the '70's. It has always been lined, her hair has always had grey streaks, she has always had a smile on her broad face.
She recognizes me as I greet her and pick out some small bright yellow daisies with brown woolly centers. Pueblita asks if Esteban didn't come this year? I pull one of Steve's memento cards out of my purse and tell her that he died, handing her un recuerdo. She looks sad and asks when he died? After I answer, sure enough, she asks after Maki, with affection apparent in her look.
Saying good-bye, I take my bundle of cheerful yellow flowers crudely wrapped in newspaper and walk home crying behind my sunglasses. Safely inside the house, I sob, putting the bright yellow flowers in a deep royal blue glass vase. For me, this is the saddest ritual yet, buying birthday flowers for Steve from Pueblita.
As it happens, in the early evening my young housemate, Delphine, ten, buys her mother white cala lilies and, for me, purple and white straw flowers. The white lilies add volume and style to Steve's simple daisy bouquet. I will put my straw flowers on the dash of ES for my journey home.
Dear Maki, Today I took Xuxa to French Park, and those silly white garzas that gobble and hoot were nested in the tall trees. The jacarandas are blooming, and today I celebrate Steve's birth 62 years ago and our coming together to have and raise our wonderful Churpa. We have a lot to be grateful for, and I thank you. Love, Tina