Last summer was bearable, to say the least. I had to stay with my Aunt Martha at her country home. She had asked me before, but I had plans with some friends since I graduated from a private liberal arts school a month prior to her asking. Finally, I agreed to put my journalism and other hobbies aside for a summer at La Casa de Martha Paramour.
Even though I told her that it would be a well deserved vacation, the scrawny Spanish farmer lady used my physical attributes to care for her animals in the mornings, and when they saw fit. Aunt Martha is still strong and intelligent, but she knows when to take advantage of something, when appropriate. Every morning, I would get up and walk down the poorly lit hallway of which the walls would bare the logs to which most cabins are confined. Even though she came (illegally) from Honduras, my aunt Martha always adapted well to the typical North American culture.
The sturdy logs that surrounded me that whole summer never leaked, and never splintered. It was almost like the whole house was built to withstand the devastating human touch. As strong as they were, the wood was also beautiful. The light was gracefully complimented by the surface in almost any hue.
Aunt Martha built this home with her own sweat and blood (not to mention seven other illegal Hondurans) to escape the poverty and pain of living in a third world land. Many times long ago, she would tell me stories to make damn sure I was grateful for my educated upbringing and middle class wealth. In front of the handmade fire place, she would sit in her rickety rocking chair. With the fire gently warming our faces and averting our eyes from the outside world, Aunt Martha told many humbling stories.
One of these stories involved an old man and a mission group from the states. She began, “There was once an old man who looked after me, after my parents died from falling off of a mountain.” I looked intently into the fire. My parents had been asleep for about an hour. “How old were you when they died?” I asked with a somber tone. “I was only two years old, Peter.” she said, as if it were a badge of honor. Aunt Martha wore her parents death as though it proved her to be an intrepid explorer, exploring life and it’s beauties.
She continued, “His name was Jesus Morales.” Aunt Martha rocked her chair a bit faster, although she were bringing forth good memories, “At the time, he was a dapper man in his fifties.” she smiled. “What’s dapper, Aunt Martha?” I asked with the child-like voice that I had at eleven years old. “Boy, dapper is someone who is neat and elegant in the way one dresses or acts.” She responded. I suddenly felt as though she were the smartest woman on earth, even though she probably learned that last week while drinking at the bar with her one, or two girlfriends.
Aunt Martha sighed and exclaimed quietly, as not to awaken my parents, “Pay attention now,” she turned back to the warm, glowing heat, “Jesus would always talk to me as though I were the most elegant female in the world. He was a true gentleman.” I could see the glimmer in her eyes. “Do you think I would ever be like him?” I asked, again in the little boy voice. “Oh,” she smiled and almost laughed, “first, you would need to have Hispanic features, and poor hygiene!” I chuckled at her remark.
Sometimes, I wish I heard the rest of that story. I fell asleep after that last chuckle. I am sure she went on, and on about that man and his grace. I woke up that morning to see the sun rising through the trees, painting them scarlet like Aunt Martha’s cooking apron, or her boots. My parents walked from the guest room to welcome me to the new day, as I did the same. Aunt Martha was already making breakfast.