When I was a young boy, I was convinced that my mother knew everyone in the neighborhood. Every time I went grocery shopping with my mother, she always met someone she knew, either from the neighborhood, the old neighborhood, or from México. While talking to someone she met in the street, my mother would ask about other mutual acquaintances. I was amazed at how many people she knew. She could talk for an hour with someone she met on the street because they knew each other very well and I would always be pulling her arm so we could go home before the milk went sour.
Once before my mother went to Mexico for her summer vacation, she asked me to do her a big favor. The Mexican singer Irma Serrano was coming to Chicago to perform at the People’s Theater on 47th Street and Ashland Avenue in Back of the Yards. Well, my mother wanted me to go to the show and take pictures of Irma Serrano for her. I was nervous because Irma Serrano was very famous in Mexico. Then, my mother told me to go backstage after the show and tell Irma that my mother says hello. Well, this was just too great a task for me! I told my mother that I didn’t think I could do all this. My mother assured me that I could once I told Irma that I was the son of Carmen Rodríguez. I told my mother that if she wanted to see Irma Serrano so badly maybe she shouldn’t go to Mexico and she herself should go see Irma Serrano at the People’s Theater instead. After much convincing and threatening on the part of my mother, I agreed to take pictures of Irma Serrano and then go backstage to talk to Irma and then take even more pictures. The day of the concert, I watched Irma perform beautifully—I have to admit that even I loved the show—and I took plenty of pictures of Irma as promised. It took me a while to build up my courage, but I managed to go backstage and talk to Irma Serrano. When I told her I was the son of Carmen Rodríguez, Irma hugged me and asked me how my mother was doing. I asked her if I could take some pictures of her and she posed for me. I managed to get a good picture of Irma’s dress that looked like butterfly wings from behind. My mother loved the pictures!
When I joined the Marines, my mother told me to look for somebody she knew. I said, “Chances are I won’t ever meet him. Even you have never met him!” He was the uncle of a little girl Melanie for whom my mother would babysit. My mother knew that her uncle was in the Marines, but had no other information about him. I promised my mother that I would look for him, but I was sure that I would never run into him since the Marines are stationed all around the globe and I never left California. However, one day, when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, some arrogant Marine entered our shop shouting, “Anyone here from Chicago?” I didn’t like his cocky attitude, so I didn’t answer him immediately. Then he shouted, “Any south siders here?” Well, I couldn’t resist that invitation to meet and greet a fellow south sider. What a coincidence! He just so happened to be Melanie’s uncle. We even knew some of the same people. We became friends because of my mother!