Saturday, November 30, 2013


The broom vendor just walked down our street, with a heavy clutch of handmade brooms and feather dusters flung over his shoulder.  He calls out in a low gravelly voice: escobas, plumeros. Street vendors are a disappearing lot. Occasionally, I still hear the whistle of the knife sharpener. I once stopped him with the idea of sharpening all the carving knives and scissors in the house. He wanted a fortune! When he heard my accent, he must have thought, Ah-ha, here’s a wealthy foreigner. It’s been years since I've seen the bread man on his tricycle. I wonder if families have stopped buying fresh bread every morning.

Two days ago was Thanksgiving. Not a holiday here and it means nothing to my Chilean family. Maybe it’s my fault for not having installed a family tradition early on, but it’s difficult when it’s a work and a school day, and summer is almost upon us. No yellow and orange fall leaves, no roaring fireplaces, no nippy air.  I invited my son who lives here for lunch, but he was having a busy week at work. I sent both boys email greetings. The one in New York responded. Years ago, a group of American families would get together for a picnic on the following weekend. But, as our families grew, it became difficult to accommodate everyone. Thanksgiving is mainly just a nostalgic memory for me now.

Traditions are important, the mortar that holds a culture together and makes it unique. But, I’ve made my life in another land and must know when to let go. I can’t revive my family Thanksgivings of the past. All those who sat around our table when I was young are gone. The memories remain but they will not continue on with my sons. I accept that fact.

Everything in life is always evolving, changing. That’s the nature of it. That’s why I try to pay attention – to the passing broom man, the intense purple of the blooms on our jacaranda tree, the voluminous billowing clouds over the cordillera, the expression on the face of the young bride whose wedding we attended today. And  each day I give thanks for it all.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

As I sat at the computer yesterday, a "Hi" popped up in my chat box. My son in New York. It was a simple conversation with no earthshaking news, but, yet such a comfort to feel him close. Forty years ago in Chile we didn't even own a telephone for me to chat with my parents. There was a waiting list of several years to be able to purchase a telephone line. In our attic I have boxes full of the weekly letters my parents and I wrote over the years on crinkly, thin air mail paper. They were invaluable when I was working on my memoir (as yet to see the light of day).

Last night the news showed Pope Francis kissing an Italian man suffering from a deforming genetic skin disease called neurofibromatosis. Later a reporter interviewed the man. I thought how courageous to show himself to the world. He told how the Pope's blessing and embrace had changed him. Today, as I walked in a crowded entrance to the metro station, a man with the same condition passed me, though less severe. I felt immediate compassion for him and wondered if he had seen the interview with the afflicted Italian. Would people now look at him in a new light without turning away?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Well, yesterday started off well enough. I filled out all the forms, sat for my photo (first one with grey locks), proved I still have adequate reflexes and eyesight and, within an hour, my driver's license was renewed for another six years. I was impressed by the smooth workings of our municipal offices. If only, there was a way to weed out drivers who think red lights aren't meant for them.

Checking my watch, I decided there was still time to go downtown to the electoral services office. I called first to check what papers to take and which metro station was closest. When I located the address, I felt a warning stab in my guts. No one around what should have been a busy office. Then I saw it. A large piece of brown paper posted on the front of the building painted with the words: SERVEL EN PARO. On strike. I couldn't believe it. When I rang a doorbell inside the gated entrance, a guard informed me the strike was declared at 10 a.m. that morning. I don't know when I've felt such fury and frustration. I yanked a pen out of my purse and wrote on their sign (in Spanish): "Why didn't you inform the public? What a wasted trip." I steamed and grumbled all the way home, while composing a letter to the newspaper in my head. (I've built up a sizable archive of unsent drafts over the years.) At home, I called SERVEL  and asked why, when I called in the morning, they didn't inform me. The operator answered, "We didn't know about the strike then." I sat at my computer and pounded out my complaint, sending a copy to the newspaper and to my congressman.

I probably would have done better chaining myself to SERVEL'S iron-wrought gate. My letter was not published in today's paper. I'm less upset now because I realize it's futile to direct anger at the "system". It's an impersonal entity. Today's paper said the strike in all public offices will last "indefinitely". I may not be able to vote in the run-offs. I've always considered it a privilege that I'm allowed to vote here without being a citizen.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Received another magazine rejection for a piece I'd submitted. It's a good piece in my opinion. I'll look for another loving home for it. We writers hear constantly: BE PREPARED FOR REJECTIONS. Fine, I'm prepared, but an acceptance is such a great motivator, and I'm in need of one soon. What would I do without the wonderful women in my writing group who encourage and support?

Tomorrow I have two rather unpleasant chores to do: renew my driver's license and go downtown to the government electoral service office. I was unable to vote in last Sunday's presidential elections here as my name and ID number were on no list. It felt like I didn't exist! A mystery, as I've always voted. I want to be able to vote on December 15th in the run-off election between the two women candidates. I'm hoping for a woman president in the U.S. next term.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The first cherries are out! I bought a plastic container of them from a man at the stoplight. Such a treat after months of bananas, apples, pears and more bananas, apples and pears.

The typical Saturday chores filled my morning: water the potted plants, make a trip to the recycling center and stop by the "Tostadería Talca", crowded with people buying grains, seeds and dried fruits. It was a good feeling to stock up on wheat germ, almonds, peeled sunflower seeds, chia seeds, grated coconut and honey, mostly ingredients for our homemade granola.

The sky has been overcast all day with a gauzy layer of clouds, just a thin sun filtering through. A flat day. I feel flat, at loose ends. Sort of how I think Speedy Gonzalez, our pet tortoise, is feeling. He's been sitting in the same spot all day, not foraging for leafy tidbits or attempting to sneak  into the house as he does when the red line on the thermometer climbs. Maybe I'll go tempt him with a cherry. His favorite are the apricots off our ancient tree, but they need a few more weeks.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Purple explosion

My first post! I'm afraid nothing profound. I took the metro today to find a place that would change the screen on my new IPhone that cracked mysteriously. It's Friday and the metro was crowded and hot. At my stop, those waiting to get in lunged forward, squeezing and pushing. I finally yelled: "Dejen salir primero! Let us out first!" It's those incidents that make me feel like a country mouse trapped in the city. Throngs of people filled the sidewalks, more, I swear, than in downtown Manhattan, where we were two weeks ago to watch our son run the marathon. You'd think I'd be used to city living after 40+ years. It's the rush and frenzy of the pre-Christmas, end-of-the-school-year, vacation planning season and the sight of aisles of plastic Christmas paraphernalia at the supermarket that plunge me into a Scrooge-like mood.

But then just look at the purple explosion of jacaranda trees on our street, blanketing the ground with petals. We should all give each other a jacaranda tree for Christmas.