|Espi circa 30's|
Esperanza (Espi for short) was born in La Barca, Jalisco, Mexico and grew up in a small town named San Gregorio Michoacán. I had the privilege of traveling there many years ago and saw the place she grew up, where painful memories where forged upon her. Her father was still alive, a tall gentle man with fair skin, and color eyes who called me "handsome." Espi's mother's died when she was two years old and left a newborn girl. The baby girl died a month later. She also had a brother two years older (he accidentally poisoned himself and died as an adult). Her father Chano married a woman who resembles the evil step-mother of Cinderella, but perhaps she was worse. Her step-mother was abusive. She treated her with contempt and made her do all the chores. At the very delicate age of seven she was cooking, washing clothes by hand and taking care of the house while her step-mother enjoyed the comforts of life. On one occasion she burned herself cooking but no one took care of her. Another time she was chopping squash to feed the hogs and she cut her left thumb which was barely hanging on. She wrapped it with a piece of cloth and continued working. To this day her deformed left thumb is a painful memory of her past. Espi was humiliated, mistreated and had no way out. She didn't go to school and so she grew illiterate not out of her choosing but because her step-mother wanted her to do all the chores. Her half-sisters and brothers did go to school. Her half sisters and brothers weren't kind to her either.
|Espi's family, she is in the back next to her son.|
But Espi grew up. She waited for her prince to come. She eventually met a man who she would marry. A man who would not treat her any better. He often went on escapades and adventures, would send some money, but never enough to raise four boys and four girls. They often went hungry and at times only ate tortillas with salt. During cold nights, coats were used to cover their bodies as they did not have enough blankets to cover them all. Some of her children, including my wife, had to start working at an early age (my wife started working at the age of 13) to bring income to the family. Espi's husband demands never diminished. He often asked to be bathed by her and demanded respect from the children as he himself mistreated them as well. But Espi had no way out. She had no formal education, no formal work, even though she did work at home cross stitching, washing, ironing people's laundry while still caring for eight children. There were many nights she worried about her kids. Add to all of this, the fact that she suffered from a genetic condition that did not help her. I am not at liberty to discuss what it is for this has affected her self-esteem more than anything. That should say enough.
|Crescenciano "Chano" as I met him|
In spite of this, Espi sent her eight children to school, educated them by teaching them good manners and raised them. Almost all of them pursued formal careers, some like my wife who is a nurse, are still active in them. In the late 80's my wife, the second born, came to the United States seeking the streets where dollars were found (this was literally told to her). To her disappointment, it wasn't as it was told to her. A determined woman as she is (Her story will be told someday as well), she worked hard to bring her mom to the United States. She did, not only her, but all of her siblings who now live here as well. Espi's life has changed. She lives a better life now. It hasn't been easy either and it doesn't end with "she lived happily ever after." Yet, her story which hasn't been told, something that she would hate to do, has inspired me and taught me so much. Let me share some of those things I admire and continue to learn from her.
Relentless. She never gave up. There were many sleepless nights for her. Lonely nights. Nights of weeping but she never let go of what she valued: her children and God. They carried her forward. She also learned how to read and write on her own.
Love. She loves her children. All of them. I often admire how they show affection to each other even as all of them are now passed their 40's. They all love their mom as well.
Forgiveness. If anyone has a "right" to be bitter at life or at people it is Espi. Yet, she has never done so. She has a forgiving heart. I mentioned the time that we went to the town she grew up. Her step-mother was also there. My mother-in-law did not treat her the way she had been treated by her. It blew me away when she actually gave her money. She forgave her for all her wrong doings. She forgave her husband as well. I have never heard her saying anything that would show her angry or bitter. I know she forgave them.
Selflessness. If there is anyone who has been more caring and giving it is Espi. Even as she is passed her 70's she, as the matriarch of the family, helps her children. It is much more difficult now as many physical ailments that are perhaps the result of her hard life are affecting her (in fact, today she had surgery in her back to fix a pinching cyst that was causing her so much pain).
Thankfulness. She is very thankful to God for how He was watched over her and her children. When she begins to complain, she often corrects herself and realizes that she has more to be thankful than not and that there are those who are less fortunate than her.
Usefulness. As Espi has aged, and her body fails to be as strong as she was, it keeps her from what she calls being "useful". She does not value idleness. To be useful is to remain alive for her. And so as she ages, this will be her struggle.
But she can rest assured that she has left a legacy that no one can take from her. Something she has no care for. All she desires is for her children to live successfully and peacefully. She desires a place to call home. A place where she can tender her garden, serve her family and continue to be useful. A place to enjoy what God in his mercy has allowed her to have even if it doesn't end "happily ever after."
Yes, Espi, your story is real not a fairy tale. Yet, paradoxically, it is better than a fairy tale. It will live in the hearts of your children and those of us who have heard it. You have given us this honor.
A far better place awaits you. I know. Certainly I know!