(Photo: Some rights reserved by katacumbas) Nabor lived at #8 Pacifica and Emilia lived at #16 Morello just a block away. Nabor can’t remember a time when he didn’t know the woman who would become his wife and the mother of their seven children.
They started “dating” when they were ten years old. I put dating in the bunny ears because Nabor and Emilia were never allowed to be alone. Their version of dating was talking to each other through the crack of Emilia’s front door when her mother went to the market. These conversations usually only lasted about five minutes. They couldn’t talk to each other at school because the boys and girls of the village went to separate schools. It was an entire city of player haters!
Oh, there would be the occasional peanut harvest when Nabor’s mother would invite Emilia and a few of the neighborhood girls to help out, but they would be so busy that they couldn’t talk to each other. And, of course, there was the corn harvest when Emilia and the neighborhood girls would cook a feast for the men as they worked: frijoles con manteca, caldo de pollo, carne con chile, sope, and pretty girls carrying it all in big pots on top of the towels on their heads. It was the only time that they got to eat food like that and one of the very few times that Nabor and Emilia got to see each other. Still, it wasn’t exactly a date.
It seemed as though only Chema had compassion on the young courter. Sometimes Emilia’s uncle Chema would pretend not to see the young couple as they conversed in the garage of her house while she cooked. In keeping with decorum, Chema’s blindness only lasted for the customary five minutes.
Something was sparked in those five minute sessions however, because when Nabor was 18 he asked Emilia to be his wife and she said, “yes.” It wasn’t exactly a picture perfect engagement. First of all, Nabor was too poor to give Emilia a ring. Secondly, both sets of parents were split in their approval of the young couple. Emilia’s father was generally cool with it because he was a generally cool cat. I know this because my Tata was still around when I was a kid and was always very nice to me. He gave me a dollar for the ice cream man whenever I asked him which made it easy for me to like him. I’m not above being bribed. Emilia’s mother, on the other hand, thought that they were much too young to get married. I also find this interesting because later when I introduced my wife to Grandma Emilia, she said that she liked Nicole just fine, but was wondering how I could be married when I didn’t even know how to blow my own nose.
And on Nabor’s side of the family his mom was just fine with the match while his dad thought that he should wait for five years before taking his nuptials. Different parents, same reason. Too young. Nabor said that his own grandfather approving the marriage and offering them a place to stay sealed the deal. So, one day, Nabor and Emilia set out on the long trek from Mixtlán to the county building in Tenamaxtlán where they would be legally married. They had to hoof it for over eight hours so that they could get hitched because they were too poor to own their own horse. Nabor said they would have gotten there faster, but Emilia had to stop, rest, and drink water for some reason. I suppose the fact that they were wearing guaraches while they were on this little hike, might have had something to do with the need for a break.
“Wow,” I said to Grandpa Next Door after he told me this part of their love story. “Grandma must have really wanted to marry you if she was willing to walk that far?”
Grandpa Nabor just laughed. He’s not exactly a touchy-feely kind of a guy.