Yesterday I went over to my neighbor's house to ask if she could recommend a new maid. Ours quit because our floors are too much work to clean. I would have quit too. When I mopped these Saltillo tile floors two weeks ago--3,000 square feet of big clay squares lined by rugged grout--I was so tired I could still feel my sore muscles two days later. And I'm athletic.
I knocked on Marisa's door and she invited me in for a cup of coffee. No, she didn't know anyone, but she would drive me down to the agency in a few days. I went to leave and, like some automatic Mexican reflex, she started handing me plastic bags to take home with me--a bag of pan de pulche bread (made with cactus pulp), a bag filled with potatoes the size of cantalopes, and a bag of apples. I am always impressed by the generosity I so regularly experience in this country. But I am still shy about receiving part. "No, please, I can't take all that," I protested, especially when I saw there were at least 20 large apples in the shopping bag. She pushed the apples back at me, insisting I have them. I realized I was insulting her by not taking them so I said, "Okay, then if I take all these apples, I am going to have to make you a pie." To which she responded with a sly grin, "That is what I was hoping." What a clever woman.
Marisa knew about my apple pie as I made one a month or so earlier, as a belated birthday present for her husband. (We had been invited to his birthday fiesta at the last minute and thus had shown up empty-handed.) My pie plate was returned two weeks later, washed and filled with Dulce de Leche caramels, a locally made candy. But there was no indication as to whether or not they actually liked the pie.
I lugged my produce-filled bags across the lawn back to my house and a few minutes later someone knocked on the door. It was Fatima, Marisa's maid. Marisa had sent her to clean my house, "but just for today," Fatima said. I wanted to protest again, but my tile floors were in desperate need of mopping, so I said, "Sure, come on in." Not just a clever woman, but an exceptionally thoughtful one too. We don't interact often and I was learning a lot more about her than just the fact she drives too fast down our quiet street.
This morning, in my freshly cleaned house, I got to work first thing on that apple pie. Marisa wasn't home when I delivered it, still bubbling hot, but her teenage son was. "This is for your mom," I said. He replied with a big smile, "She loved that pie you made before." He shut the door and as I walked away I heard him yell, "Hey, we got a pay de manzana." And I heard whoever else it was in the house yell back, "Yeah!"
A clean house, healthy food that will feed us for a week, and some pretty fine neighbors who appreciate pie. Life in Mexico is good.