Grandma and Grandpa lived next to Minnie and Amalie in Austin, Texas. Minnie and Amalie had immigrated from Mexico fairly recently and spoke very little English, but that didn’t hamper their friendship. Grandma and Minnie had coffee every morning, chatting over recipes, patterns, housework, and their shared garden plot.. It didn’t matter that Grandma spoke not a word of Spanish and Minnie knew little English. They’d check out each other’s tomatoes, peppers, and flowers, chattering like nobody’s business. Though I was a small child when we visited there, I remember fondly that Minnie trusted me push her pretty, black-eyed baby around the yard in her stroller.I was so proud to be a big girl.
Sometimes I followeed Grandpa and Amalie around as they smoked hand-rollled cigarettes and worked at some project in the yard or dug in the garden. One day they made me a chair by nailing two apple crates end-to-end. I sat in that chair as long as I could squeeze into it. I learned my first Spanish when Amalie hammered his finger and cursed in Spanish. Though I didn’t know Spanish, cursing in any language is cursing. I admired cursing and was always on the alert for a tasty tidbit, since I didn’t get to hear it at home.
I was intrigued at hearing Minnie and Amalie talk, my introduction to a foreign language. I’d jabber along, thinking, I was speaking Spanish, stopping periodically to ask Grandma or Minnie to interpret what I’d said for me.I wish we all got on with our neighbors so well. We shared a lovely meal of Grandma’s greens, pork chops and cornbread and Minnes’s tamales and beans one special evening. I didn’t care much for the greens, but I’ll never forget the bite of Minnie’s spicy tortillas.