The Adventures of Teresita
These short childhood stories are memories from a defining stage in my life as I experience a border life. For the most part, they are lived memories with a little bit of creative seasoning. I came to accept and admire the creative eye and mind that was eight-year-old Teresita. She had a way of seeing the harsh world and creating a fun and embellished experience to mimic the characters of her few and cherished books. This, to avoid the challenges of living on the border and having to maneuver through two languages and cultures that were not necessarily friendly or tolerant of each other.
I’ve told this story before as it is one of my most vivid memories because, I believe, it engendered a multitude and gamut of feelings. Teresita was and continues to be, what I call, hypersensitive. A counselor has since taught me that hypersensitive may not be the accurate word in this case, suggesting empathetic instead. Either way, Teresita can physically feel and sense others’ emotions, even when on the screen. More about the screen later.
Back to the story, Teresita’s small library had a battered, broken-spine, graphic novel titled Las aventuras de Tom Sawyer, an abridged children’s edition by… who knew, certainly not Teresita. At the time, she was not entirely concerned with the authors of her favorite reads. This hardback book (the emphasis on hardback is significant, as for an immigrant child, owning hardback books was and continues to be, A BIG DEAL) was one of her favorites, hence its broken spine and tattered look. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. The peachy cover, not pink, nor orange, but a soft pastel color that allowed a child’s grime to taint and crack its glossy cover art of two besties whispering in each other’s ears, one holding a fishing rod (or was it a paintbrush?) with a broken spine and curling corners. Loved that book!
Moving on. Teresita read and looked at those graphic images many, many times, often inserting herself into the story to take Tomás’ place. The Mississippi River was quickly replaced by the Río Bravo del Norte, also known as the Río Grande. It was all too familiar to Teresita, these were two Mexican friends adventuring on the border, steering away from an adult culture and toward a more fun and exciting space, in bare feet! This last freedom, bare feet, one that Teresita could not achieve. First, because the women in her family, in particular, mamá y abuelita, absolutely had no tolerance for children in bare feet. Not only was it a matter of socioeconomic status, but also a health concern. The former implying that we were not THAT poor to not be able to own at least one pair of shoes. The latter, bare feet on cold surfaces was a sure bet to getting sick, and we were THAT poor to not have health insurance. Teresita did not fully appreciate this reasoning, however, she did understand tender feet, ones that could not endure the raw desert surfaces of El Norte. All the more reason to admire and emulate these two besties. The story was SO real, I could feel it! How could it not be?
Imagine the shock, the horror, at finding out that these besties were not Mexican, that the river was not El Río Bravo, and that Teresita was that gullible to believe otherwise. Terry, now a fully assimilated, sorta English-teenage-speaking, young adult, is instructed to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain for her high school Honors English class and to write about a coming-of-age satire and social criticism novel. Teresita’s fun, adventurous childhood bubble exploded, and Terry was left to face an unfriendly, intolerable world head-on. Enter stoicism.
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© Teresa Carbajal Ravet