I Ever Made In Mexico
|You might think
the biggest mistake I ever made in Mexico was packing up and driving
north to Taos to escape the cinder-bearing, stinging hot winds from
Chiapas. But you'd be wrong.
Or you might think the biggest mistake I ever made in Mexico was buying
a beautiful Spanish style home in Ajijic and hardly living in it.
But you'd be wrong.
You might even think the biggest mistake I ever made in Mexico has
something to do with a man. But again, you'd be wrong.
The biggest mistake I ever made was to contribute to the modernization
of Mexico. That can happen when you fail to think ahead.
It all started one December when I was in Los Angeles seeing my kids
and doing a little Christmas shopping. I thought, "Wouldn't it be
nice for (housekeeper) Josefina to have a nice, new iron? She could
then finish her laundry chores earlier and have some time to herself."
But I was wrong.
The moment she unwrapped her gift, a lightweight, shiny chrome and
plastic steam iron, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. What
had I been thinking? I liked things as they were and always had been.
Why would I have moved to Mexico where the pace is slow only to try
to hurry it up? Obviously, I am no rocket scientist.
Josefina was elated to receive it, and "oooh'd" and "aaahhhhhh'd"
over the teflon bottom even more than she had when her pet Chihuahua
gave birth to itty bitty puppies. (The iron had a teflon bottom, not
Josefina's friend, Linda, took one look at the glossy new Sunbeam
and wanted one just like it. That was the beginning of the end. Soon
all Josefina's friends wanted steam irons. The ironing boards of Ajijic
resounded with plaintiff cries of "Queremos planchas de vapor! Queremos
planchas de vapor!"
I had unwittingly become a murderer by participating in the killing
of yet another beautiful Mexican tradition.
Gone would be the slam-slam of the flat iron as it was raised off
the fabric, then vigorously pounded down again, its handle too hot
to touch without the protection of a cloth folded over many times.
No cloth is necessary to pick up a steam iron; the handle never gets
Gone would be the hissy "ssssssssssss" sound as Josefina applied just
the right amount of spit to her practiced finger, which then touched
the flat bottom of the three-pound iron, assuring her that it was
just hot enough. That's not necessary with a steam iron. It tells
you when it's ready. Efficient, not interesting.
Gone would be the sight of Josefina's set of "Mrs. Potts Irons" (which
once sold at about 28 cents for a set of three with one detachable
handle). Two would be heating on the stove while the third was in
use. When that iron got cool, it would be replaced with one that was
hot. No more would a series of historic irons be lined up by size,
the smallest for under collars and around buttons and seams, to the
largest, for flat surfaces like pillow cases, sheets and aprons. You
only need one steam iron. Practical, but dull.
Never again would I know the smell of a starched white shirt being
scorched as Josefina's youngest tried to help his busy mother by pressing
his own school clothes. New steam irons cannot singe; they turn off
automatically before that can happen. Effective, but boring.
Live and learn, they say. Next time I get the urge to fool with a
Mexican tradition, I'll lie down till it passes.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
Published June 9, 2004