Adriana will be ten in May. It is paradoxical how she can be a little girl one minute and as womanly as her mother the next. She can take out her dolls, her doll carriage, a box with cloth, paper flowers, and fake jewelry and enter a private world to which only a child can migrate.
This morning I approached her as she sat on the cement path abutting the garden between the house and the backyard bathroom. Flowering bushes towered above her as she found a space between stems and thin trunks to hang a hammock. She had one naked doll leaning on a bush as she removed articles from the white box containing her treasures. She looked up with the sweet smile of a child and I smiled back. I said, “I love you” and wondered if she could understand why I said it just then.
The mind, whatever it is, is a wonderful construct. It can process and print out so many images in nanoseconds. I saw little Roger sitting on the path under the weeping willow tree making roads in the dirt with his cars creating his own world apart from the real world. I could smell the sweet aroma of mommy’s peonies, feel the cool breeze and hear the rustle of the lithe willow branches. The little girl’s eyes locked on mine as if she wanted me to walk through the barrier that separated our worlds. But then the image changed. She was in the kitchen watching the tortillas warming on the stove while her mother was outside feeding the chickens. Then she was leaning over my shoulder as I watched the presidential election results on the computer. She was asking what the numbers meant and how to decipher the percentages. My heart pounded with excitement as she showed inquisitiveness, curiosity, a desire to learn. I felt my eyes watering and a silent voice shouting ‘that’s my girl’.
You have to understand something about the culture here in El Refugio. Adults don’t question. Adults don’t change. (Notice there are no direct objects in the previous two statements.) What you see is, was, and will always be. Some authority made all the decisions a long time ago and only God can change any of it. As a teacher, as someone who as a child had challenged my elders, my teachers, and everything I could read demanding to know, to have explained, to dissect, I saw my educational task as one of stimulation, excitation, daring my students to push their intellectual constraints and expand their concepts of the world. It wasn’t an easy job in California. It was almost impossible here in El Salvador. Motivating children in a culture of dire hopelessness for anything different is extremely frustrating. But here was my daughter asking. Asking! Waiting for my responses and focused on them. One question led to another until I couldn’t contain my emotions and I just hugged her so tightly.