The following day a petite Mexican with auburn hair, big, brown, twinkling eyes, upturned nose, and heart-shaped lips arrived for the appointment. As I walked through the house with her she reminded me of a fluttering butterfly, never stopping long enough to really see anything, although by the time the tour had finished she seemed happy with the house and me. She wanted to know when she could start. As soon as we had agreed on wages and a day to begin, Beatrice said she wanted to leave, but rather than heading for the front door she headed down the hall to the guest room. Before I could say a thing she asked,
“How did you tell me to get here?
Her question perplexed me since I thought she should have asked where the front door was. I don’t think she realized she was heading in the wrong direction; I redirected her and then told her how to get home. After she left I wondered if she would remember me the next day!
During the first few weeks at work I found Beatrice to be reliable, energetic, caring, funny, but hard to train:
- trash cans never emptied!
- mop bucket never used–the kitchen sink is preferred!
- mountains of soggy, soiled towels smell of gallons of Windex and Ammonia!
- vacuum cleaner rendered useless (its bag is so full it nearly bursts!)
Within fifteen minutes of her arrival, Beatrice begins unraveling a troubling tale about a problem she has encountered at home. Usually I try to help her solve her personal problems, but occasionally I am at a loss at how to help her understand she has created many of them herself. Little tragedies also occur while she cleans our house, once again caused by naive awareness–her naivete is awesome.
Shortly after she started working for us, Beatrice arrived bundled in three sweaters, leggings, crew socks, and boots. She trundled in, set her purse on the chair, shivered and said,
“I’m so cold, aren’t you?”
Concerned, (since it was one of those crisp Arizona winter mornings) I asked Beatrice if the car’s heater was broken…it wasn’t, the driver’s side window was broken. I offered to call a window shop and arrange for them to have her window fixed while she was at work. She peeled off the sweaters one by one, continued to look distressed, and replied,
“It’s not that window, I was so-ooo cold last night.”
Confused, I questioned, “What do you mean it’s not the car window and why were you cold last night?”
She clarified, “You know I live on a street corner, well, you know my apartment is on the corner, anyway, this guy, well, he drove into my living room last week and the landlord says he can’t do anything until he gets the insurance money!”
“Wait”, I asked, “what do you mean a car drove into your living room, you mean he broke a window?”
She timidly responded, “No, I mean he drove into my house, there is a big hole in my wall and all the furniture was knocked over and broken!” Shocked, I asked her if she was actually living in an insecure apartment and what did she mean the landlord couldn’t do anything until the insurance company paid him.
Her response was “Well, that’s what he says–do you have a blanket I can use tonight, my children have mine!”
Once, as I passed through the master bathroom, I saw Beatrice fanning herself as she perched precariously on the side of the tub while cleaning it. She stopped cleaning for a moment, plopped to the floor, looked at me with her big brown eyes, (drops of sweat formed on her brow plastering whiffs of auburn hair to her forehead and exhaustively said,
“Gosh, it’s so hot today, don’t you think so?”
I asked her to look up at the ceiling and tell me what she saw. Her big brown eyes turned to the ceiling, an eyebrow arched, then she jumped up and swatted the light above her head with a damp cleaning rag. Stunned, I asked her what she was doing-
“Oh I thought you wanted me to dust the light.”
To this day she doesn’t understand the light is a heat lamp. Each week I check to see if she understands and each week I see whiffs of plastered hair on her forehead. Each week I turn off the heat lamp!
On another occasion Beatrice arrived looking hassled and defeated, her brown eyes were cast with grey, two crows feet perched on her forehead, and flared nostrils vented steam. I was impressed, frustration might glean a spark of awareness; a moment later tears rolled down her cheeks and this time a rag doll plunked down on the big green chair. I handed her a tissue to mop the giant tears from her face. She had needed new tires for her car, the slick mechanic told her she needed a different size tire, one larger than her original tires, (I’m sure she trusted his judgment without question!) When she picked up her car he had cut 3 inches off the fender so the tires would fit!
“They said to me, ‘Lady we do it to everyone,'” then shrugging her shoulders she continued, “what do I know!”
Surprisingly, there is another side to Beatrice. She is devoted to her children and is as protective a mother as a mare is to her foal. I have even been astounded by her strong independence, (now divorced, she wisely prefers to raise her children alone than depend on the help of their useless father). She even tries to help her sister-in-law leave her brother, a man who beats his wife.
Yesterday Beatrice brought her son along to work because she didn’t want him to be home alone. Soon after their arrival Beatrice pointed to an ugly bruise on her son’s nose and asked,
“Can you break a nose?–when he jumped in the pool he kept his eyes closed!”
“Of course you can break a nose,” I answered.
“You can?–Gee Whiz!” chirped her son.
I looked at Mother and Son and saw two Beatrices standing side by side, each with big brown eyes and heart-shaped lips!