Sometimes loving someone is not enough
The newspaper story appeared on the same day as the opening of Isabel’s show. It ran as Señor Sierra Vargas had wanted, the tale of a street urchin who had been plucked from despair and given the chance of a lifetime. A lottery winner in life, using her talents to better her entire family and put her little Pacific village on the world map.
In Sayulita, the newspaper story made little impact. Yes, it was a sleepy Mexican fishing village, but since Isabel’s childhood, the town had changed. Surfers from California had discovered its waves, artists from America and Canada had found in Sayulita inexpensive housing and a tolerant attitude. Yoga practitioners and massage healers offered rejuvenation and relaxation and even Europeans had begun buying the small beach cottages, refurbishing and renting them to seasonal tourists. In the hills above the small town, small condos were popping up and there was a bustling atmosphere of growth. Where once Isabel had been alone in her pursuits, now other artists and craftspeople had opened small galleries and shops on the two streets that lead to the beach where horses stood tethered awaiting riders and the fishing fleet went out to sea every day to bring back a fresh catch.
The show was a success, with half the paintings sold at the opening and reserve sales put on most of the rest. So, by spreading the word that the artist’s work was now coveted by collectors throughout Mexico, Señor Sierra Vargas could add to the tale of the street child who made good through his benevolence and beneficence.
At home, in the village where Isabel lived her real life, things were not going so well.
Two days after Isabel’s show opened, Estrellita arrived home from school and ran past her mother to the bathroom where she locked herself inside. Surprised and concerned, Isabel followed the girl.
Tapping gently at the bathroom door she called to her. “Lita? Lita what’s wrong?” She stopped tapping. There was the sound of running water. She knocked on the door loudly.
“Lita. Open the door. What is wrong with you?”
“I’m all right,” she said in a hoarse voice. “I just want to be left alone.” She pushed past her mother. In her room she flopped onto the bed and curled up into a ball, hiding her face against the pillow.
Isabel had no roadmap for how to deal with this new behavior. She stepped over a pile of clothes and books to sit at the edge of her daughter’s bed. She reached out and tenderly stroked Estrellita’s hair back from her face.
“Poor girl, are you ill?” she asked.
When no answer came back she went on, knowing that when her daughter was sick she was reluctant to talk about it. “Can I make you some tea? I think we should take your temperature. Do you need to go to the doctor?” She patted her daughter’s shoulder, hoping the girl would turn around so Isabel could see if she was flushed with fever.
When Estrellita did turn around it was with a great force. She sat up and pushed her mother away so that Isabel nearly fell on the floor.
“I don’t need a doctor,” she almost spat at her mother. “How can you be so stupid?” She swung around and stamped her feet on the floor, then stood up and walked to the window.
“Lita,” her mother spoke harshly. “What is going on with you? If you’re sick, well, we can deal with that. But you mustn’t speak to me in such a way. It is unkind and not necessary.”
“And what is necessary, Madre mia? Eh? Should I be a good girl and never cause any trouble for you? Is that what is necessary?” She turned to face her mother, her green eyes narrowed, her hands on her hips. “Should I stay a child forever?”
“I do not understand you anymore,” her mother said. “Why do you draw a line between us now, when it has always been the two of us?”
“You do not understand anything,” Estrellita said. “Except your colors and your paints. That is all that matters for you.”
“That is not true,” Isabel responded, feeling struck in her heart by this accusation. “Why are you suddenly jealous of my work? Haven’t I always taken care of you, been there for you?”
“I am not a baby!” Estrellita almost screamed.
“No, you re not,” said her mother. “But neither are you a grown woman. And you are not yet ready to know how to behave like one or take on the responsibility of one.”
“It’s none of your business.” Estrellita grabbed her book bag and ran past her astonished mother. The front door slammed shut.