One of the saddest days of my Seed life was when Ana left. She moved to Arizona nearly twenty years ago, barely speaking English, and we hired her right away. Ana worked for us thirteen years, first as a classroom assistant and then as our office manager. She was loved by everyone at the Seed, partly because of her daily greeting: “Hola. ¡Buenos días!” Ana was always eager to lend a hand, often giving her free time to pitch in on a project. She was funny and kind-hearted. Ana had particular ways of organizing things and people around her. When staff members kept “borrowing” office equipment, Ana resorted to taping each item to its respective location. This included tape dispensers, the stapler, pencil holders, and binders. Her taping tendencies were matched by the way she labeled everything with instructions. My favorite instruction label, which we still use in our medicine cabinet to store students’ inhalers, allergy meds, ointments, and cough syrup, reads: EVENTUAL MEDICINE. Not occasional, ongoing, or potential…eventual. It’s one “Ana-ism” that has remained as tenacious as the tape she used to adhere office artifacts to their appropriate locations.
One of the happiest days of my Seed life was the first Saturday of our recent spring break when Ana greeted us at the Leon airport in central Mexico. It was the first time we’d seen her since she returned to her hometown, Guanajuato. We picked right up where we left off six years ago. For nearly a week Ana showed us around the streets near her home, introduced us to her lovely family, and shared delicious meals with us. We explored mine sites, checked out her entrepreneurial brother’s business, navigated rickety stairs deep into a church basement to see where her father’s ashes rest, rode the bus to San Miguel for a day trip, and shared evening conversation on her mother’s rooftop patio. It may have been the fullest six days of my life.
Guanajuato is a visual delight. I loved all the colorful generations of houses stacked tightly on hillsides surrounding the central plaza. The flowers, fruits and vegetables in the mercado made focusing on anything else challenging. The people’s faces and places welcomed us in. What I loved most about our time in Guanajuato, however, was the time with Ana and her family. Negotiating communication between two languages had its challenges, but somehow it was never a problem. Laced with laughter (often inspired by Spanish miscues on my part) and appreciation that we’d finally met each other, our conversations were full of love and light. With Ana as the common denominator, I don’t see how it could have been any other way.