LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL:
Kids, Trucks, and the Love of Life
Adjacent to the coffeehouse, there’s an enormous yard with picnic tables set in the shade of gigantic palm trees, brightly-coloured lawn chairs that are perfect for reading, and a children’s playground where parents bring their kids to play while they relax with an iced latte or cappuccino.
Francisco’s mom was untying a large, golden retriever from a metal stool the dog was about to pull over, when I noticed her children, and said, “hola!”
Her son came over, and immediately began talking to me in that spontaneous, open-hearted way that kids sometimes do — as if he’d known me all of his life.
When his mom saw how happy I was talking to him, she gave me a warning:
“He’s going to want to talk about trucks,” she said.
Right away, he showed me his yellow dumpster truck with the big scoop attached, explained how it worked, and said he wondered what would happen if a persona got picked up in the scoop.
I told him that would probably be dangerous for the human being.
Next, he showed me his other truck, which had a recycling logo on the side.
When he’d shown me all the doors that opened and closed, he moved closer to me, and began to tell me what seemed like a serious story in Spanish until he yelled out the last part of the story, and howled with laughter.
He looked at me, waiting for my response; but, unfortunately, my Spanish was too limited then to get the joke.
I told him I noticed that one of his trucks was a recycling truck.
He wanted to know what recycling was.
I explained that recycling is when you use something, like plastic, over and over again. For example, instead of throwing your plastic bags away, you can give them to the people at St. Paul’s Church, and they will make mattresses out of them for children who don’t have mattresses to sleep on.
If you use things over and over again, instead of throwing them away, then there’s not so much garbage in the ground, and it’s better for the environment— the earth, the trees, and the animals — and it’s better for human beings, too.
It was hard to know if that explanation made sense, but he stood still for a while, contemplating it, and thinking about it, before he ran off to play with his friends in the playground.
His mother and I talked for a while about our recent moves to San Miguel de Allende, and how much we loved the city, before she ran off to prevent her two-year-old daughter from chasing the golden retriever she’d untied out of the gate leading to parking lot.
I wanted to say goodbye to him before I left, so I yelled across the yard, “Adios, Francisco!”
He looked puzzled. Who was shouting his name?
When he saw me waving, he yelled back in a loud voice, “Don’t forget what I told you about trucks!”
Everyone in the yard was grinning.
I assured him I would not forget what he told me, and, in fact, I thought about trucks all the way home. Now, I can’t help but notice each one:
The yellow dumpsters with forklifts; the fanciful trucks in the windows of the art galleries; the small pick-up trucks that carry vegetables down the narrow cobblestone streets to the local markets and grocery stores; and the flatbed truck my friend and I saw the other day that was stacked high with coffins, all wrapped in black cloth — a sight you’d only see in Mexico, where death is so much more in the open than it is in the United States.
But, so is the love of life more in the open in Mexico than it is in the United States. Every week there’s another festival, a new reason to celebrate in the town square, and another reason for fireworks at 5 a.m.
As I walked home from the Geek and Coffee after meeting Francisco, I thought about trucks; but I also thought about the beauty of children, their innocence and trust, the passion and excitement for life that exists in the youngest of children.
I thought about how eager they are to connect with us through stories, especially the ones that make them howl with laughter, and the sweet, patient way they look at us, waiting to see if we will get the joke.
Don’t forget what I told you about trucks!