I know that I have a tendency to love to criticize things that I believe need to be changed, while downplaying the importance of those happy little moments in life that make me feel at home at Casa Vides. Therefore, I am going to try to make a concerted effort to at least once a month (hopefully more often) just share those little things that make me laugh like crazy, smile with energy, or just shake my head in amusement. In no particular order, here are some things that I experienced this past week:
- “Ya se puede casar“- The senoras in the house absolutely love talking about marriage. Many of them got married between the ages of 14 and 16 and their marriages dominated their lives until their husbands passed away (here I am mostly talking about Social Security guests, women whose husbands worked legally in the US and filed SS and whose wives can now access that when they hit the right age, but who must physically come to the US for one month every 6 months to receive the benefits). This quote came after one of the new SS guests arrived and tried my banana bread for the first time (disclaimer: the guests literally fight over my banana bread they love it so much! I’m so glad I have an excuse to make it so often!). She took one bite of the muffin and turned to me and said “Ya se puede casar” meaning, “now you can get married.” After laughing really hard I finally asked her to explain exactly what she meant, and she told me, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, that I have great talent with cooking and that’s enough to win over any man. While I may not want a marriage that based in traditional gender roles (at all!), I loved this opportunity to really talk about cultural differences with the guests. I ended up debating with the woman about marriage, why I was not already married or even dating anyone, and it felt just like talking to my own grandparents in many ways. It felt just like a family when the older generations pass on their ideals to the younger generations. And I feel very fortunate to be invited into this family!
- “I used to exercise a lot too, until I got married!” This conversation happened with another senora. I have done a good job of trying to run 3 or 4 times a week for the past 2 weeks. One day after I got back, feeling really good about myself for having run that night, this guest asked me if I did any other exercise once I went upstairs to my room. I looked at her like how-dare-you-say-I’m-not-doing-enough-when-I’m-finally-getting-the-spirit-to-run-some-days, but she just smiled and said she used to exercise a lot too when she was younger. But then she got married so she didn’t need to anymore. I think I can reasonably draw some conclusions that we exercise for different reasons, my primary one being to stay at a healthy weight and body condition, whereas hers was to attract a husband, but it was really fun to draw that connection from her youth to mine. She may be a poor elderly woman from Mexico while I am a middle class young woman from the US, but we’ve all shared similar experiences, and can laugh and bond over them.
- “Alanna, it’s raining! And your clothes are outside!!!” I had been trying to wash my clothes since Sunday morning, but every time that I went to try to use the washing machine a guest was always using it. I checked back multiple times on Sunday, and Monday morning, and early Monday afternoon. Finally, right before my shift started at 2 yesterday the washing machine had finally opened up. I joyfully put my clothes in, hoping that some space on the clotheslines outside would open up in the meantime. No such luck. The load finished and literally every single clothespin was being used and the every bit of the 6 lines was taken! I waited around for 45 minutes, just having my clothes sit outside in the vain attempt that someone would notice and take their dry clothes down, while I did my other duties of being on shift like cutting the moldly parts off the squash and peppers in the fridge. I finally realized I just need to get over my dislike of confrontation and just ask someone to take their clothes down. Luckily that went fine, and the woman instantly stopped everything she was doing to move her clothes (unnecessary, but I think she felt bad because she kept beating me to the washing machine and joking about winning, so she knew I had been waiting 2 days to wash my clothes). Finally, I felt that the battle to have clean clothes was won. And then the rain clouds came… I knew they were coming, but it’s not like I could have moved my clothes. While I could have hung a few things around my room, I had way too many clean clothes to put them all inside so I just decided to wait it out. So they would get wet again. Well then they could dry again. At least they would be well positioned to dry as soon as the rain stopped. However, I think the guests weren’t able to approach the same problem with my level of calmness. I had no less than 6 different guests run up to me throughout the time it was raining (about 30 minutes) to tell me that it was raining and my clothes were going to get wet. Their urgency to help me, and inability to comprehend my position on the whole thing, was both flattering and hilarious (though it did make me self-conscious that I was missing something in why it would be a bad idea). I think the part that I found the funniest was that a teenage boy in the house informed me 3 different times about it, never ceasing in his urgency to tell me. While he does like to joke (he told me I am his true love last night in an attempt for me to not make him go upstairs at 9:30 like the new rule said he had to), he was dead serious every time. I really wonder what I get overly serious about that the guests laugh at me more. I know it happens a lot, I just can’t always understand the reason why.
- “If you don’t make it as a university professor, you should open up a bakery!” Another guy involved around Annunciation House likes my banana bread as much as the guests do. I always text him when I’m making some and so far he has always stopped by for at least one muffin. Last week I cooked them on my day off so that I (and he) could eat as many as we wanted to without feeling guilty about not sharing more with the guests (as I usually don’t let myself eat very many when I cook them for the house). While we were happily filling ourselves with way too many muffins (especially me) he informed me that I’m really good at baking (as I’ve also made many different homemade cookies, pancakes, etc. while I’ve been here), and that I should really consider running a bakery, you know, if the becoming a university professor thing doesn’t work out. My immediate response: No, I would get way too fat! Though I think I could be quite happy.
- Finding a microwavable lasagna in the bodega. And loving it. So maybe you think this doesn’t belong on this list, but believe me, it totally does! I am currently on my 2 day (once a week volunteers get one day off and once a month we get two days off, hence my being on my 2 day) so I was trying to figure out what food to pack to bring over to Casa T, the place volunteers can stay on their days off to have a chance to remove yourself from the house and the work to truly get a break. I came across a microwavable lasagna that was supposed to be healthy and yummy (um, not so sure about how both of those can be true of a microwaveable meal), and decided to try it because I was already hungry and still had to walk 20 minutes to get to Casa T. And it was delicious.
Sometimes it’s those small moments in life that can just really warm your heart and make you feel like you are in the right place and part of a true loving family.