A day in the life…
It’s dark still. V has gone for work already. I feel around in the blackness for my headlamp. Only six in the morning but I get out of bed and wander outside, I have to pee again. It’s cold outside, the stars are still bright and there is a faint glow present behind the mountains to the east. A rooster crows, punctuating the many bird songs. I like this time of day the most.
Shortly after climbing back into my warm bed, one child wakes up. He’s hungry. We head to the kitchen, close the blanket that covers the door and find food. I light a candle and start a pot of water for coffee. Dawn is breaking. I sip my steaming cup and put the finishing touches on a small felted turtle as I watch the sky brighten. Slowly the rest of the kids emerge and the day has officially begun.
I carry a bucket of yesterday’s dishes out to the new sink on the porch. Last week it would have been out the gate and down the path to the pila. I wash, dry and put away. Help the baby out of her pants and onto the potty chair. Not once but twice during this task. Everything is interrupted here. I set a bigger pot of water on the stove to boil meaty cow bones for the dog who has just had puppies, and start preparing what will be lunch and dinner. “Mexican Alasagna” they call it, a huge baking dish layered with corn tortillas, potatoes, cheese, fresh tomato sauce, seasoned ground beef and onions. I like to add green chiles but there aren’t any today. While that is in the oven, I prepare the salsa. No manzana chiles in my kitchen either, so I put on my boots and walk out to the avocados where several chile plants grow. I find what I need, watching carefully for snakes and head back to the house. The hem of my dress is wet from the morning dew and delicious smells are beginning to fill the kitchen. It’s just after nine am.
I make quesadillas for four, five if you count the belly baby. Squeeze fresh lemonade for the day and clear away the breakfast dishes. I feed the dogs, including the mama with the pups. One dead one this morning. Always a bummer, but that’s the circle of life… Trekking through the tall, wet grass, I feed the chickens and bunny. I take careful steps carrying buckets of water and feed down the slippery slope. I’ve fallen here more times than I can count, and now it’s getting hard to see the hidden stones beyond my bulging belly. I collect two eggs and notice that the purple beans have started growing in the garden, along with many other small sprouts. The sun is beginning to climb now, and I’m late for the laundry! With afternoon thunderstorms almost a guarantee, it’s best to wash early or they wont dry.
Twelve buckets of water I scoop from the pila to fill the old style agitator washing machine. While it cycles, I wander down the hill again to burn the garbage. Back up the hill to wash the breakfast dishes. Midway through I’m needed for the potty chair again. I remember to drink water…
Outside again. I hand rinse and wring three full baskets of laundry. Diapers, towells, dresses, jeans, socks… Up and down the hill again, hanging them up to dry in the sun. I fill three clotheslines and part of the fence. It’s hot now. My belly is soaked. I move many small pots with pumpkin and squash sprouts to the top of the bunny house where they can soak up more of this Mexican highland sun. Six different varieties plus a few herbs and cucumbers that the kids started. After I set the last pot, I watch the cloud shadows play across the green canopy on the mountain across the valley as I catch my breath and feel my heart slow. I walk back up the path to the house for some of that fresh lemonade.
Batman, Elsa and a stark naked soil urchin greet me. I cut up apples, tunas, a pomegranate, grapefruit and a peach and pour glasses of lemonade. I hear the water start filling in the pila. It’s eleven thirty now, middle day here.
Noon time and the garden is calling. I split several heads of garlic we bought in the city yesterday, gather the new strawberry plants, gloves and pick ax and walk back down the path. I bend and squat, move rocks and dirt, and make neat rows of garlic just outside the outdoor kitchen. I bury six strawberry plants right where they will be easy for small hands to harvest. Another row of garlic behind the strawberries. I’m sweating but a cold wind is picking up now. When I finish, I notice that the mountain fog is rolling in. I stash the tools, smile at my garden and call the kids in from the dirt pile for lunch. They come running in, hungry from their projects, and completely filthy. The sunlight begins to dim and the chill in the air tells us all it’s time to find sweaters. The temperature shifts quickly here, and sometimes I become intensly aware that I am in the heart of a high mountain range. Exhausted, with a full belly, I set another pot of water on the stove to boil purple sweet potatoes. It’s just after one o’clock.
The kids go back out to play, this time wearing sweaters but still no shoes. I clear the table and think this would be a great time to sneak in a shower. I look out past the pila and notice half of my clean laundry laying in a pile on the ground. The line finally snapped. We actually bought a new clothesline while we were shopping yesterday, but returning home late in the day, had not yet hung it up. Trying not to let this small setback phase me, I ate a piece of well hidden dark chocolate and headed back outside with the basket to save the laundry. Still wet but thankful for this years grass landing instead of last years dirt, I double hung it on the other line and said a prayer that it would hold. I trudged back up the hill breathless. I wanted to sit down but the baby was half out of her pants, which were stuck on her shoes, trying to make it to the potty chair. As she sat down I saw that she had filled it with a deep layer of sand and dirt and rocks, but it was too late. Now I had to find a place to empty the potty chair-turned-litter box. With several hours still before V would return, I decided that nap/movie time would be the best possible option. I make popcorn in yet another big pot on the stove, put Dora on the laptop and lay down with the baby while she falls asleep. The house is quiet. My hips are throbbing and I can feel my belly baby doing somersaults. As I feel myself startinng to drift off, my bladder becomes a trampoline and I need to pee. I set a tiny pot of water on the stove to boil for tea. It looks like it’s raining behind the mountain now…
While the raspberry-nettle tea is brewing I finally shower. In the steaming hot water and cool mountain breeze, I take in the view. Bright tropical green against slate gray thunderheads. Rays of sun. Avocados and corn that stretch on as far as I can see. I notice that the dry diapers have come off the line and are blowing across the yard. I open my favorite jar of rose body scrub. I hear rumbling thunder in the distance and breathe deeply. Rose water and tropical mountain air. Stone tiles beneath my feet and the sound of so many birds…… I dress quickly and quietly sit down with my pot of tea and honey. Another prayer that this moment lasts. Right now, everything is perfect. Nourish. Replenish. Rejuvenate.
The little bears can smell honey and come running as soon as I crack open the jar. I give them each a spoon and send them outside to collect the diapers and other dry clothes. I sip tea by the window and start working on a felted fish. Baby kicks and I wonder if I can make a drop spindle and spin enough usable yarn to make a pair of booties… I might like to try it. But not now. The baby is awake so I put away my project and bring a steaming plate of rainbow sweet potatoes and popcorn. Tea and lemonade. It’s a feast and it is good.
Four-thirty pm. The witching hour. V arrives home with a giant mexican flag and a very tall beer. The kids go haywire. He announces that there is a dinner at his sisters house and drinks the beer while the kids fight over who gets to hold the flag. I am probably supposed to be getting the kids ready to go, but wash the large bucket full of dishes instead. At the end of a long day, a large social gathering in a foreign language just does not sound appealing. The “caldo de cameron” (shrimp soup) tempts me though, and I make myself ready to go while letting him handle the kids. My back hurts. I wish that I could clock out for a while when papa returns after being gone since before anyone woke up, but that’s not reality. I am 24/7. Always. I bring the dry clothes in off the line, it never did rain today. I comb hair, buckle shoes and pack a diaper bag. It’s a little after six pm now and we are out the door. I’m glad that I got that shower today after all.
Excellent food and good company. My children became part of the pack playing outside while I ate three bowls of seafood soup with lime and chile, without interruptions for once. It doesn’t always turn out so well, but I’m glad I took a chance this time and accepted the last minute invitation. It was long after dark when we finally said goodbye. We drove through the dark avocado orchard to the main road and turned towards town to drop off my mother-in-law. I rarely see our village at night. There are still giant cooking pots boiling over fires on some corners serving carnitas. Groups of people gathering around tienditas, in which chaotic displays of merchandise are being lit by bare bulbs hanging from wires. There are stray dogs begging in front of the panderia (bakery), men talking and smoking on corners and workers sorting the days avocado harvest into wooden crates to be loaded on to a semi truck. There are only a few street lights and everything is layered in secret shadows. I am glad I am riding in a vehicle that is recognized and belongs here. The energy feels like a closed circle, guarded, with danger just below the surface. It is an interesting and very different view than I am used to. I take it in and appreciate the contrast.
It is nearing eleven pm by the time we arrive home. I carry the baby through the darkness, careful foot steps illuminated only by the kids light up sneakers. Thick cloud cover blocks out the moon and stars, dogs bark in the distance. I help everyone get ready for bed and am so ready for sleep. Tomorrow comes early.