I learned Jennifer’s name because she asked for my help with a homework assignment, though I already knew her by sight as I’d been buying homemade pan from her for months. She took over the bread sales after her half-sister Elizabeth ran away to Mexico City with a soldier who was stationed here in La Tigra. The grapevine alleged Jennifer’s father was unkind to Elizabeth because he and her mother divorced, the gossipmongers painted a Cinderella portrait.
Jennifer has earned the respect of the rumor mill because she works hard. She goes to school, helps her mother bake, and walks the village web of gravel roads and paths worn by man and animal, selling pan, every day. It’s a high honor to be spoken of kindly in the town’s foremost information network.
But Jennifer doesn’t seem much happier that her half-sister though she is the daughter of the home’s current Dona. My husband Felipe, also delivered bread in La Tigra as a child. He says it’s hard to be the only kid who works ever day when all your friends are playing. Or perhaps it’s a contagion; I’ve never seen their father express more than a scowl. Although he does now, after seven years as neighbors, concede to nod when he sees me.
I probably give more significance to a smile than I should; liberal smiling isn’t the custom here. But since I’m from Iowa (Smile You’re in Iowa, was actually considered for the state’s slogan) I crave them, especially from sullen, hardworking twelve year olds. Continue reading