the outcome of an event
As the oldest, it was clearer to Mago, more than to Carlos and me, that the distance between us and our parents was destroying our relationship more than any of us could have imagined. And the
consequences would be great.
a cushion-like device that reduces shock due to an impact
But back then, as our little mother, Mago’s job was to take care of us and to shelter us from the reality that only she could fully grasp. I had her as a
buffer, but she had no one but herself.
leave one's country of residence for a new one
Back then, I didn’t know that Guerrero was the Mexican state with the most people
emigrating due to the scarcity of jobs.
make sense of; assign a meaning to
Four years after my father left for the United States, and two years after my mother left, the construction of our house finally began. Back then, I
interpreted this to mean one thing—Papi and Mami would soon be back!
one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen
But because it would cut down on the final costs, it was the only
option my parents had.
a substance used as a bond in masonry or for covering a wall
At night we couldn’t sleep from being so sore, but every day we put all of our energy into building our house, and when our fingers hurt too much, or our knees wanted to buckle under the weight of the buckets of wet
mortar we carried to the bricklayers, we would tell ourselves that the faster we worked, the faster we would have a family again.
an emotion of great sadness associated with loss
Then we headed to school, where all we did was look out the window and sigh the hours away, leaning our
sorrow on our elbows.
a defense of some offensive behavior
Look at Maria Felix. It’s been nine years, and every time Elida asks her when she’s finally coming back, she gives her
excuses as to why she can’t yet. But that’s all they are.
an unshakable belief in something without need for proof
While my aunt and I waited by the dirt road for a taxi, I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandmother’s
conviction that my parents were not coming back.
the remains of something that has been destroyed
I know now what she had wanted me to see back then: the banks of the canal lined with trash and
debris floating in the water, the crumbling adobe houses, the shacks made of sticks, the children with worm-pregnant bellies running around with bare feet, the piles of drying horse dung littering the dirt road, the flea-bitten stray dogs lying under the shade of trees, flies hovering above them.
lacking in sophistication or worldliness
But what I saw back then I saw through the eyes of a child—a child who had never been anywhere, a child who was still
innocent enough to see past the things later in life she could not.
easily broken or damaged or destroyed
The house looked as
fragile as the skeleton of the dead sparrow Mago and I once found in the vacant lot, which Mago said had been spit out by a snake.
lowest support of a structure
“It’s taken Papi four years to build a
foundation and half a wall. How long do you think it will take him to build the rest?”
hang, as of something threatening, dark, or menacing
As much as I loved her, there were two possibilities
hovering in the horizon that would separate me from her. Either my parents would return soon or she would marry and leave to have children of her own. Either way, I would lose her.
create social or emotional ties
After having already lost both my parents, how could I bear to get
attached to someone I would lose as well?
refuse to recognize or acknowledge
When she took off her sunglasses and I saw those eyes that were also Abuelita Chinta’s eyes, I could no longer
deny that she was my mother.
unable to act or decide quickly or firmly
I hesitantly wrapped my arms around her waist, feeling as if this were a dream and she would disappear any minute.
an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty
In August 1982, two months after my mother had returned from El Otro Lado, the peso was devalued for the second time that year due to the national debt
a state of misfortune or affliction
After two years of earning dollars, it was difficult for her to readjust to the
hardships brought on by Mexico's unstable economy.
leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch
Out of all of us, Mago was the only one who harbored any hope that Papi would not
a personal or social separation
My mother’s broken promise—that she’d be gone only a year—had caused a
rift between them, so Mago’s loyalty to my father remained strong.
the time interval during which something or somebody is away
He had been gone for so long that in his
absence he had become bigger than life in Mago’s eyes.
have a desire for something or someone who is not present
I didn’t have a single memory of him and Mami together—of all of us together—and I felt cheated out of the family I
yearned to have.
marked by strong resentment or cynicism
And now he had returned to us a different version of my mother, one who was
bitter, heartbroken, and weighed down by the knowledge that she had four children to support and was on her own.
the state of having little or no money and possessions
But La Quinta Castrejon sat there amidst the
poverty, teasing us, reminding us of what we couldn’t have.
a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for misfortunes of others
She wanted all of us to come so the guests at La Quinta Castrejon could see she had four mouths to feed and take
pity on her and buy from her.
I didn’t look at Mami because I knew she was angry, at me, at the man, at the mother with her five children, at Papi for putting her in that situation, at herself for leaving El Otro Lado in a moment of
continue to live through hardship or adversity
“He left me there on my own, and I knew no one, but I should have stayed. There were jobs. Maybe not great jobs, but at least we weren’t starving. And here in Mexico, with the cost of everything going higher and higher, how are we to
run away quickly
I know now that she wasn't
fleeing the rain. She was running away from the glittering pool and its blue tiles, from the memory of my father and her wading in the water, arms intertwined, from the pain of knowing that even though he had held onto her in the pool of La Quinta Castrejon, he eventually had let go of her, in a place just as beautiful and frightening.
incongruity between what might be expected and what occurs
irony was that in her worst nightmares she had pictured my father leaving her for a golden-haired, blue-eyed gringa.
make into a citizen
Or was it the fact that this woman was a
naturalized U.S. citizen and could speak English, unlike my mother, who as hard as she tried, couldn't seem to make sense of the strange words that rolled off the tongues of Americans?
a special advantage or benefit not enjoyed by all
Did my father see that woman and her American
privileges as a way to a bigger future, a future that my mother, with her limitations, couldn’t give him?
look down on with disdain
scorn her for coming back worse off than when she left.
a shelter from danger or hardship
An innocent bystander had tried to defend my mother when he saw my father bullying her on the sidewalk in front of Tia Maria Felix’s apartment, where my mother had sought
enlarge beyond bounds or the truth
Whether Mami was
exaggerating or not, we couldn’t be sure, but either way we became fiercely loyal to her.
feelings of allegiance
Yet it wasn’t long before we discovered that our
loyalty and our love wouldn’t be enough.
showing no care or concern in attitude or action
Mami was distant with us,
indifferent in many ways.
a prominent attribute or aspect of something
“You look just like him,” she said to me. I glanced at the Man Behind the Glass, and for the first time, I was not happy about having his
features. I didn’t want Mami to look at me like that, a look full of pain, anger, hatred.
lose freshness, vigor, or vitality
While Mago and I sat around his cot, watching him
wither away, all I could think of was the empty road where my mother had vanished.
not capable of being split
From then on, Carlos and Tio Crece became
inseparable. As crazy as Tio Crece was, he was the only male role model Carlos had, and he figured a crazy uncle was better than nothing.