Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lunch with a Different Flavor

Today’s lunch was a departure from “let’s make a salad together,” as I enter the home stretch toward retirement and say some final goodbyes. Instead I was invited to the home of the cleaning people from El Salvador for lunch with 3 generations of their family.

The big news is that Sandra, the 20-year-old daughter, and her baby’s father recently bought the house you see above in a quiet and relatively safe neighborhood not too far from my office. The mortgage payment is $2500 a month. But they split it between the 8 adults who live in the house and it seems not so impossible. Add in the 4 children who also live there and that makes a total of 12.

The house is actually in excellent shape. What first struck me was the colorful front yard. Only when I looked a littler closer did I realize that most of the flowers are artificial. That’s OK. It gives the house a cheery look.

The idea inside is that a family lives in a bedroom. So far there are 4 bedrooms. But they have big plans to excavate the crawl space and add more rooms in the basement.

As we stood out front, a neighbor drove by in search of someone to move azaleas in her yard. Sandra is the only one in the entire house who speaks English, so she brokers all deals for yard work. These people are a lesson in industriousness. Everyone works at least one permanent job.

Lunch was two blocks down the street at her mom Morena’s house. Her brother Santiago, the boy who still struggles in school, was home with a badly sprained ankle, relishing a week off from school.

Sandra’s daughter Michelle and her aunt Nayele (who is actually younger than she is) played with their cousin Jason. (That is, until they all were exhausted and took a nap in the picture below.) But the dominant sound was from the big screen TV which played the Spanish equivalent of MTV.

Morena is one of the best cooks around. She had made rice with vegetables and chicken. Sandra had made chicken salad in avocado halves. I brought Chilean baked meat empanadas, which they seemed somewhat suspicious of since they are not a staple in their diet. Of course there were hot tortillas and hot peppers for whatever we chose to put them on.

Lunch was really about a feeling of acceptance in their family. I have helped them with a number of maintenance problems and school issues along the way. They call me “Senora Barbara.”

I made sure they had my address and telephone number before I left. I am just sure that we will stay in touch as they gradually grow their roots further into US soil. Eventually everyone will be legal. Meanwhile they will be enjoying a lifestyle that would never have been possible for these people with limited education in El Salvador. They embody the American dream that every immigrant who comes here must have.

Adios but hasta la proxima vez!


Blogger Kristin said...

I have so enjoyed hearing about your lunches, each has sounded so unique and wonderful.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Barbara's excellent luncheon adventures. You could write a whole blog just about them! And to many many more!

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What excellent adventures you are having as you exit this phase of your life. You mean so much to so many people. It will be interesting to see what strands you weave into your next phase.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

Maybe you could do a video lunch blog on food TV!

12:25 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

You must be leaving behind quite a legacy. So many of your co-workers have included you in their lives.

You must be putting on a few lb's- what with all of these fabulous lunches.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

This family's story is so touching and they are lucky to have you befriend you and vice versa. It is a unique relatonship that not many would cultivate as you have. I hope you continue the friendship.

6:20 PM  

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