By Victoria A. Schmidt
I had an abrupt education on the lifestyle of some of the less fortunate families in our neighborhood in one of our first homes in Mexico. Our bedroom window looked out over the top of the wall, which separated our property from our neighbors, and we couldn’t help witnessing this family as they went through their daily routines.
The mother started out her day very early—often before daybreak. I imagined she was the first to rise, as many moms do, to get the family ready for their day. She would be outside watering the potted plants (I think she was raising them to sell.) Or she was washing clothes in an outdoor sink, by hand. She would scrub those clothes on a washboard, rinse, and wring and hang them on the line to dry.
We couldn’t see their house, only the edge of the building where there was an outdoor sink. As time passed, I began to realize, that she did her dishes in that outdoor sink, and still later, I realized that she was cooking outside as well. The edge of the house that I could see I had always imagined as a bodega. But later I came to the stark realization that the “bodega” was in actuality their home. I think it may have been a one-room structure.
Our window didn’t afford us a view of the access to this property, but I believe I discovered it one day when I found a cluttered footpath that lead in the general direction of their property.
I know they had at least one child, probably two. I know one was a girl, as I was delighted in hearing a back-yard birthday party complete with giggles, laughter and singing. All were young girls having a deliciously silly time.
The father almost always came home after midnight. Whether he worked that late or not, I cannot say, but his ancient pick-up truck always rattled in past midnight.
I thought about this family often. In the USA, I did not see this level of poverty in my zoned, trimmed, and secured suburban neighborhood. I was not privy to the daily insights of the lives of those who had so little. But here in Mexico our homes were back-to-back, and as I did my own laundry, I thought about the mother scrubbing her fingers raw on the rippled washboard. When I cooked, I found myself thinking about her cooking outdoors, and as I washed my dirty dishes inside my spacious kitchen in my thoroughly modern home, I thought about her washing her dishes in the sink outside. When our maid cleaned twice each week, I thought of the mother in our back yard that worked so hard at her house before she left for her job. Was she someone’s maid? Did she clean a house like mine? Where did my own maid live? What was her home like?
When I would think about these things, I would experience mixed feelings. I would feel blessed for all that I had, awe at the grace with which this family led their life, guilt at how unfair life can be, helpless in my inability to lend assistance, and shame at the disparities in our lives and grateful for the education given me. We have since moved to a different home at Lakeside, but I carry the lessons I learned from this family with me every day. I think of them in these times of COVID where lockdowns, and no school made their limited income more limited. And as the weather grows colder at night, I think of them shivering through the night.
May 2021 be kinder to all of us.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com
Column: Editor’s Page
Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. She is a graduate of Moorhead State University, Minnesota and graduated Cum Laude with a BA degree in Radio, Television and Film. At 23 she was hired at multi-national media corporation, where she worked 10 years as their Director for Operations and Finance. She then ran her own business consulting company. She has won multiple community service awards. Writing has been a passion of Victoria’s since Junior High. She has been active in the writing and publishing business for over 40 years and has been a columnist for the Ojo del Lago since 2008.