Posted by: Brenda Kula | January 24, 2008

Conversations In My Head

Img_1933_2_2 Sometimes I am digging out in the dirt, weeding gardens and creating new ones. And conversations crop up in my memory, edging their way into my consciousness. People have always told their tales to me. I am truly interested in what they have to say. Sometimes they just need to spill out their secrets. The stories knock about my head like dusty old artifacts in an attic.

Pablo the painter, in his broken English, told me of his childhood in Mexico. At age 13, he was beaten by his womanizing father. Pablo would see him out with a woman. Tell his mother. And get beaten for telling. He went to school and bonded with other similarly abused children. One day they decided to embark upon a journey to America. The small group of boys, the youngest being nine years old, approached a woman they knew to be traveling the 13-14 hour trip to the border. They asked if they could ride along with her. She was quite reluctant, knowing full well the gravity of doing so. But their stories were so compelling, their visible scars so heartrending, that she relented. She told them if they were caught near the border, to tell the authorities that she had merely picked them up an hour or so before. Once at the border, the boys were so excited by the sight of water, that they jumped right in. The border authorities caught them. They were sent back.

Several times Pablo made the journey to America. In his early twenties he came to stay. He is married to a nurse. They are raising three young children. They have bought a home in the country. The American dream. He tells me that he has difficulty feeling emotions he feels he should have when his children celebrate birthdays, etc. I can tell he is pained by what he sees as this lack of feeling. I see sadness in his dark eyes. Someday he will understand.   

Pedro the plumber asked me many questions about being a Meals On Wheels volunteer last Friday. Finally, as he laid on the floor working underneath my kitchen sink, I asked him why he seemed so interested. It was obvious he was not asking questions to pass the time of day. He said he and "his boys" wanted to present a better image to the community. They thought that perhaps by volunteering, they might achieve this.

I asked him what "they" did. He explained that they are young men who jack up those cars that have the ability to move up and down as if by magic. They engage in contests to see who has built the best rare car. He thought citizens in our town might think badly of them. I did not quite understand, but I suppose it has something to do with their heritage. He explained that he was too embarrassed to call the organization and ask the questions he was asking me. I told him I’d answer any questions he might have. Then he went on to tell me that he and his brother had recently bought their parents a house. He seemed so young for such a responsibility. He told me this with pride, and I felt proud for him.

It was an unexpected, surprising story I heard from Pedro. It makes me realize you can never judge a book by its cover. 

I recall snippets of conversations etched with sorrow and regret. I am in my garden planting nature’s beauty for all of the faces lingering in my head. I take these varied stories representing people’s lives, and quilt them into the fabric of my own life. And carry them along with me in my own journey. Come springtime, flowers will poke their heads up from the earth, reminding me yet again why I listen. 


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