- This is the introductory article for a new regular feature column inspired by the September 15th Open Circle presentation of stories that manifest “Mexican Grace.” El Ojo del Lago is looking for more anecdotes that relate the many encounters, initiated by expats or locals that exemplify the unique forms of mutual giving and receiving that define the Mexican Grace that brought us to this unique paradise—and that keep us here.
Queen for a Day
By Loretta Downs
The woman’s voice on the phone was bubbling with excitement. “I want to take you to lunch in Chapala. The restaurant is all the way at end of the malecon and they have a two-seat pedicab parked on the sidewalk by the Beer Garden to take us to the restaurant. It’s so much fun to ride in. You’ll love it!” she said with delight. It was an irresistible invitation. We made a date.
Rosemary Dineen was the first friend I made in Ajijic. We met in 2012 when I stood up at Open Circle, in the days when first-timers were few enough to stand and introduce themselves. I said, “I’m from Chicago. I’m writing about end-of-life issues. If anyone wants to talk to me about death, please let me know.” From the middle of a row across the aisle Rosemary, in a colorful sombrero and Mexican shawl, waved her painted cane in the air and enthusiastically shouted, “I do!”
As it happens so often in Lakeside, we immediately became fast friends. She was a ferociously independent person who, like me, prefers to be in control of her outcomes. She had arrived in Lakeside from Boulder, CO, three years earlier, close to 80 years old and suffering from COPD. When we met it was difficult for her to walk many yards, and impossible to make it on foot to that restaurant.
We got out of the cab, as excited about our adventure as two kids entering Disneyland. There was no pedicab in sight. My eyes scoured the street and the long path lined with restaurants looking for wheels. None were there. Rosemary’s excitement quickly deflated, knowing that she could not walk the distance, and earnestly wanting to give me a new experience.
“I wanted you to have a ride on the bike,” she said sadly.
“It must still be in the restaurant,” I assured her. “I’ll bring it to you!”
She parked herself on the first bench along the lake, where the Chapala sign now stands, while I scurried the distance to the restaurant, full of hope. A waiter greeted me as I crossed the threshold, smiling. “Where is the bicycle?” I blurted in English, and again in Spanish, “Donde esta la bicicleta?”
“No funciona,” he replied, “not working.” My heart sank and my mind started to twist toward complaining. I caught myself, and shifted to positivity. “Sir,” I said, “my friend has invited me here for lunch. She is old and not well. She cannot walk from the street to the restaurant. Is there any way to help her?”
His dark eyes widened. I could see him thinking, pondering a solution to my problem, wanting to help us. In a minute his face lit up. He waved to another waiter, rattled off some sentences too fast for me to catch, and soon the two of them had picked up a large equipale chair, turned to me and asked, “Where is your friend.”
We navigated out the door, the massive chair floating in the air incongruously. I could see Rosemary where I’d left her, sitting under her wide-brimmed hat with her cane resting along the bench, and a tall, young, blond man sitting beside her. It was no surprise that my talkative friend had found someone to keep her company.
As we got closer it was evident they were engaged in an entertaining conversation. She looked up and saw the two waiters with the chair between them and wrinkled her forehead. The man laughed. He hugged her, saying as he stood up, “It was good to meet you. I’ll remember our conversation. Thank you very much.” Extending his hand, he helped her stand up.
“Your chariot, Madame,” I said. The waiters set the chair down and smiled broadly. They helped her into the regal equipal. I have to admit to being unconfident about the two slim, young Mexican men being able to walk however many yards it was, carrying a person taller than they were, in an awkward seat hoisted a few feet off the ground. They did it smoothly, with gentle care and fervent grace.
“I always thought you were regal. Now we have proof,” I said as I clicked pictures, laughing and crying over the sweetness of the moment, as the earnest young men fulfilled her wish to treat me to a special experience, even if the ride did not have wheels.
Success was celebrated by margaritas—and big tips showed our gratitude. Rosemary was Queen for a Day—a day I will never forget.