When Zachy was a baby, and I was pregnant with Evelyn, and I was overwhelmed with motherhood, Chris & I decided it would be beneficial to hire someone to help with the housecleaning once a week. Through a friend of mine, we found an amazing woman to help, and she's been with us for five years now!
Through the years, we've had lots of time to talk, and while she doesn't speak any English, and I only speak preschool Spanish, I've enjoyed getting to know her, and have come to admire her deeply.
Living in Mexico, Ruth* grew up cleaning houses alongside of her mother, to help bring in the money. Because she had to work, she was unable attend school for any kind of education. She can't read or write, and has trouble with simple things like understanding a calendar, or telling me her age. But that's never stopped Ruth from dreaming.
As a young adult, she decided to leave her abusive husband, and come to America to try to start a new life. So she found her way across the border, with her five kids in tow --her youngest just a baby.
When I met her, Ruth had been in America for about 6 years. She was living happily with a new man, and her children were attending school - already better educated than she. Still not knowing any English, she often expressed her desire to learn. But when she told her husband of her aspirations, he informed her that she couldn't because she was too stupid. This was the beginning of their problems. Little by little she shared stories with me, of how he was mistreating her, and of the occasions that she had to call the police. She was torn, because she wanted to leave the unsafe environment of an alcoholic husband, but she didn't know how to drive, and relied on him for transportation to and from work. With the help of some friends, Ruth was able to leave her husband and support herself.
It didn't take long, before she told me that she was learning to drive! Some time after that, she asked me to get her some math books, because she wanted to learn math. A couple months ago, Ruth pulled up to my house with a "new" car that she had just purchased.
I'm amazed to watch this woman's life unfold, knowing where she's come from, and how far she's come. She works hard to provide for her children, and is happy to do so. Sometimes, I'll ask her about weekend plans, and she'll give me a list of the houses she has to clean. When I express sympathy for all the work she has to do, she always stops me. "No, Karina. Estoy muy contenta" I'm happy. She never complains. And when she leaves at the end of each day, I thank her for her work, but she's always quick to turn it around and thank me instead.
After living here for about 11 years, Ruth still can't speak English, and I'm amused because she gets exasperated with me whenever I fumble over my Spanish. But today she informed me that this month, she's going to start taking English classes. She told me in Spanish, "I wanted to drive, and I learned how to drive. I wanted a car, and I got a car. Now I'm going to learn English." And I'm sure she will!
And so you see why I had to take the time to write about this amazing woman, who chooses to overcome her obstacles, and make the best out of life, while I complain about the mountain of laundry in my garage.
*not her real name
3 weeks ago