After my first divorce, I moved back home with my mother to 2509 W. Marquette Road. At first, she didn’t even know I was living with her. She lived on the second floor and I moved back into my bedroom in the basement. When I separated from my wife, I lived in the basement for about two months before I finally told my mother I had moved back home. I guess I needed to feel comfortable about telling her. Plus, I thought that the possibility of a reconciliation still existed. I didn’t want to tell everyone I was getting divorced if we got back together again! The reason she didn’t know I moved back home was that she worked the day shift and I worked midnights. We hardly ever crossed paths, and not just physically, but also ideologically and morally. Anyway, when I told her I was getting divorced, she said I was making a big mistake and that I would never find another wife as good as her. You know, the usual speech a Mexicana gives her oldest son upon discovering that he’s getting divorced. A speech filled with sentiments that would make any Mexican son feel guilty for breaking his mother’s heart by not giving her grandchildren. I was hoping to get a reception like the prodigal son, but I got The Mexicana Mother Speech! I got over it in about two days.
Once I could freely go upstairs to my mother’s apartment on the second floor–she rented out the first floor to paying tenants–I used to see my mother staring out the window a lot. Our house faced north on Marquette Road, just west of Western Avenue, so there was always plenty of activity to observe. One day, as I was trying to sneak downstairs behind her back–she always knew when I was in the room–she called me over to look out the window. A young Mexicana holding the hand of a little girl was was walking past our house. They lived in a basement apartment across the street. My mother had noticed her walking past our house previously. I don’t think that my mother would have taken such an interest in them if they hadn’t been Mexicanas. The next day, my mother saw them again. “They always walk by at the same time,” my mother said to me. “She needs a babysitter. I’ll talk to her tomorrow.” I told my mother to be careful because she might not trust her daughter to a complete stranger, especially one who is waiting for her on the street. The next day, when I went to my mother’s apartment, the young Mexicana and her daughter were in the living room. The mother was a very pretty Mexicana who was completely bilingual. In fact, when I heard her speak English so fluently, I didn’t think that she could speak Spanish at all, but she was just as fluent in both languages. It turns out that Chayo, her actual name was Rosario, took her daughter Melanie to daycare every morning before going to work. Somehow, my mother talked her into dropping off Melanie at our house before going to work. How did my mother convince Chayo to trust her with her only child? Well, my mother was waiting outside about the time that Chayo and Melanie walked back home from the daycare and my mother greeted her in Spanish. One thing led to another and they were talking on the corner for about an hour before they went into my mother’s house. Apparently, they both knew some of the same people. So that was the connection! Mexicans always try to find a common bond, whether it be friends, family, or the same place of origin in Mexico. So my mother had a babysitting job now.
So the next day, Melanie was upstairs when I woke up in the afternoon after working the midnight shift. I love children, so it was nice to have a little girl in the house again. She was like my mother’s daughter and my little sister. We both pampered her. Melanie looked much happier now than when she walked home from the daycare. Melanie’s first day at our house was very exciting for Melanie and us. Then Chayo, who was about my age, came to pick up her daughter. We talked for a while and when it was time for Chayo, and Melanie to leave, Chayo asked my mother how much she charged for babysitting. I knew mother didn’t want any money, but she had to name a price, so she said, “One-hundred dollars! Cash!” Chayo’s mouth dropped open. And then my mother laughed. She said that she would babysit for free. Chayo said that she had to pay her something because she was saving so much not taking her daughter to the daycare. Chayo tried to slip some folded dollar bills into my mother’s hand but she wouldn’t accept them. As far as I knew, my mother never charged her for babysitting.
Melanie took quite a liking to me. She had just turned four and she was at that age where she was so much fun. She had long, dark brown hair, brown eyes, and olive skin. She looked liked the cutest Mexican girl ever. She would always anxiously await me going upstairs when I woke up in the afternoon. We played games together and she always sat next to me at the dinner table. When I started working the day shift, she would look out the window waiting for me to come home. She was always happy to see me. Soon, she wanted to go with me whenever I went out. At first, I didn’t want to take her with me, but my mother said it would be okay. Melanie and I walked to my car hand in hand. I was going to the store to buy some groceries for my mother. Melanie sat in the front seat with me. Actually, she kept standing up and putting her arms around my neck, holding on for dear life. This was in the 1970s before it was mandatory to have small children in safety seats. Well, I almost got into an accident because Melanie obscured my vision, so I had to swerve and slam on the brakes. Melanie lost her grip around my neck and slid across the front seat until her head hit the passenger door. Luckily, she didn’t even get a bruise. I learned my lesson and from then on Melanie wore a seatbelt. After that, I felt more comfortable driving, too.
Then, my mother started talking to me about Chayo. She was available. I should ask her out. But what about Melanie’s father? He was in jail. I didn’t even want to know what crime he had committed to wind up in jail soon after Melanie’s birth and I didn’t want to know. Besides, he never married Chayo. No, I never asked Chayo out and she soon met someone else, something I have never regretted. One day, Melanie, out of the blue, started telling me, “I love you.” Somehow, she had become like my daughter. I didn’t mind, either. I like having Melanie around. Then, it all ended when I enlisted in the Marines. My mother told me to look for Chayo’s brother who was also in the Marines. In one of those unbelievable coincidences that you’re not supposed to write about because no one would believe it anyway, I actually met Chayo’s brother at Camp Pendleton. I wrote about this accidental meeting in a previous blog entry. And in yet another one of those unbelievable coincidences, I met one of Chayo’s sisters at the University of Chicago Track Club. But wait! Here’s another coincidence. When I was a member of the Marquette Park Track Club, Joe Gregory, one of our runners, announced the he was getting married. To whom? To another one of Chayo’s sisters. After I was honorable discharged from the Marine Corps and I had my own apartment near Marquette Park, Chayo called me. We talked awhile. My mother had previously told me that she would try to set me up with Chayo. So Chayo called me, but I wasn’t really interested. She called me a few more times, but that was the end of it. My only regret? That I didn’t ask her about Melanie!