A Balloon In Cactus
The Biggest Mistake I Ever
Made In Mexico
By Marge Van Ostrand
might think the biggest mistake I ever made in Mexico was packing up
and driving north to Taos to escape the cinder bearing, stinging hot
winds from Chiapas. But you’d be wrong.
Or you might think the biggest mistake
I ever made in Mexico was buying a beautiful Spanish-style home in Ajijic
and hardly living in it. But you’d be wrong.
You might even think the biggest mistake
I ever made in Mexico has something to do with a man. But again, you’d
The biggest mistake I ever made was to
contribute to the modernization of Mexico. That can happen when you
fail to think ahead.
It all stared one December when I was
in Los Angeles seeing my kids and doing a little Christmas shopping.
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice for (housekeeper) Josefina
to have a nice, new iron? She could then finish laundry chores earlier
and have some time for herself.”
I was wrong.
The moment she unwrapped her gift, a lightweight,
shiny chrome and plastic steam iron, I realized I had made a mistake.
What had I been thinking? I liked things as they were and always had
been. Why would I have moved to Mexico where the pace was slow only
to try to hurry it up? Obviously, I am no rocket scientist.
Josefina was elated to receive it, and
“oooh’d” and “aaahhhhhh’d” over
the teflon bottom even more than she had when her pet Chihuahua gave
birth to itty bitty puppies. (The iron had a teflon bottom, not the
Josefina’s friend took one look
at the glossy new Sunbeam and wanted one just like it. That was the
beginning of the end. I had become a murderer by participating in the
killing off of yet another beautiful Mexican tradition.
Gone would be the slam slam of the flat
iron as it was raised off the fabric, then vigorously pounded down again,
its handle too hot to touch without the protection of a cloth folded
over many times. No cloth is necessary to pick up a steam iron; the
handle never gets hot.
Gone would be the hissy “ssssssssssss”
sound as Josefina applied just the right amount of spit to her practiced
finger, which then touched the flat bottom of the three pound iron,
assuring her that it was just hot enough. That’s not necessary
with a steam iron. It tells you when it’s ready. Efficient, not
Gone would be the sight of Josefina’s
set of “Mrs. Potts Irons” (which once sold at about 28 cents
for a set of three with one detachable handle). Two would be heating
on the stove while the third was in use. When that iron got cool, it
would be replaced with one that was hot. No more would a series of historic
irons be lined up by size, the smallest for under collars and around
buttons and seams, to the largest, for flat surfaces like pillow cases,
sheets and aprons.
You only need one steam iron. Practical,
Never again would I know the smell of
a starched white shirt being scorched as Josefina’s youngest tried
to help his busy mother by pressing his own school clothes. New steam
irons cannot singe; they turn off automatically before that can happen.
Effective, but boring.
Live and learn, they say. Next time I
get the urge to fool with a Mexican tradition, I’ll lie down till