I only knew her as Lupita. I was very young, perhaps about six years old, when one day she appeared in our lives in the Back of the Yards. She used to take care of us when my parents went to work. She looked like most Mexicanas of that era in the 1960s: long black hair, brown eyes, short, and pleasingly plump. Since I was so young, I’m not even sure how old she was, but I’m pretty sure that she was older than my mother who was in her twenties at the time. She spoke very little English with a heavy Mexican accent, even less than my parents. She was single and had no children of her own. Even though we were children, we always called her Lupita, just plain old Lupita, nothing more formal than that. Now that I think of it, Mexican children were always taught to call an adult woman Señora or Señorita plus her last name. Now I’m wondering why we even called her Lupita, just Lupita. Anyway, I’m not sure how my mother met Lupita, but it may have been at a factory where they both worked. Back then, factory jobs were plentiful, and when someone got tired of doing the same job for too long or they just got tired of their coworkers or bosses, they would just quit and find another factory job almost immediately.
Before Dicky was born, my brother Danny had to go to the doctor at Cook County Hospital a lot because he had osteoporosis in his right arm. My parents would take Danny and my younger brother Tato (Diego) to the hospital and Lupita would take me to her house on the bus. She lived about two miles north of us which seemed like a long, adventurous trek to me back then. We would take the Ashland Avenue bus (Number 9, I think). Many of the buses were still electric then and there were overhead wires to provide the electricity. Many parts of Ashland Avenue were still paved by cobblestones. I would take my train set that I received for my birthday or Christmas–I don’t remember which. At her house, Lupita would clean her house and when she was done she would read novelas, which were books that were printed in sepia-colored ink that told soap-opera-like stories, but looked like comic books. I would play with my train set that entertained me for hours at a time! It consisted of a locomotive, two boxcars, a caboose, and a small circular track. Most children my age would have been bored by it, but not me! The train set also came with some small wooden barrels that I would put under the tracks to create a “hill.” I could while away the hours just by positioning these barrels in every possible position! When I had accomplished that, I liked to experiment with the sequence of the locomotive and boxcars and caboose. I was so easily amused back then! Oh, wait a minute! I haven’t changed all that much since then. I’m still easily amused!
Well, when my brother Danny was better and no longer had to go to the hospital, Lupita would babysit us at our apartment after school. She genuinely enjoyed being with us. My brothers and I would play well together, but she would get nervous when we wrestled. We loved to wrestle. Since I was the oldest and biggest brother, I always won. The last match would involve Danny, Tato, and Dicky wrestling against me. I always won! I would pile them up, one on top of the other, and then pin them down for the count. Lupita was so afraid that we would hurt each other that she would stop us from wrestling. She always stopped us from having too much fun. Like the time we were throwing my mother’s records out the back window like frisbees. Or the time we used my grandfather’s encyclopedia from Mexico to build a fortress wall. I told Lupita that my mother always let us use the encyclopedia to build a fortress, but she didn’t believe me and made us put the tomes back on the shelf.
She never talked much, but she always sat in the living room with us. If we went to our bedroom and we were too quiet for too long, she would come to see what we were doing. Once, my brothers and I were in the bedroom just reading comic books, but she made us go into the living room with her. She didn’t trust us. And with good reason! We once gave her a really good scare. We were reading comic books in our room and she didn’t check up on us. When we read comic books, we became our favorite comic-book heroes. I was Spiderman, Danny was the Silver Surfer, Tato was the Torch, and Dicky was Batman. Well, once, Dicky felt the power of Batman coursing through his veins and he dove headfirst into the air shouting, “I’m Batman!” However, he didn’t fly very far. His head hit the dresser drawer handle, which had pointed ends, and he had a huge gash from his forehead to the back of his head. Dicky screamed from the pain and we just stood there silently not knowing what to do. Lupita came running to the bedroom and she almost fainted when she saw Dicky bleeding from his forehead. She picked him up, carried him to the sofa, and stopped the bleeding by putting a warm, wet towel on his head. My parents came home shortly after that and took him to the hospital where they closed the gash with twenty-seven stitches. Lupita stayed to watch Danny, Tato, and me while my parents and Dicky went to the hospital. We just sat there quietly in the living room with Lupita until they came back from the hospital.
I don’t remember the last time we saw Lupita. She was always a part of our family, but suddenly one day she just wasn’t there anymore.