The night with Augustino (age 3), Cecilia, Mateo, and Julio was a tragicomedy that had a wide and tuned in audience.

The people in the ice cream shop, who were used to my routine with Augustino, had grown interested in the expansion of my dates to include Mateo (8), Cecilia (7), and, last night, little Julio (2).

The workers in the coffee shop were also surprised when we ordered three frozen mochas (we already had coffee and there were only two of us). The biggest part of the show for people (employees and surrounding customers) was when four Mexican children joined us, two of them perpetually carrying their tiered chests of gum, mints, and cigarettes, and all of us carrying on in our best Spanish despite that we are all Spanish as a second-language speakers. (The kids speak an indigenous language, and this is why Augustino is sometimes so difficult to talk with). So this I guess is the comedy part.

Cecilia and Mateo asked us to name the world in English, pointing out lights, walls, tables, straws, earrings, hair, teeth and calling out: people, house, music, bus, coffee, balloon, clown, basura,taco, and tlayuda.

At one point, I pulled out my notebook. Mateo looked amazed that someone would carry around a book to write in — and pens. He asked why as I tore out a page and began writing words, including their names, which they did not recognize and the names of friends they hooted out.

I turned a pen over to Cecilia. She did not know how to hold it in her hands. She could not draw a flower, and she barely made a circle with a string attached for a balloon. But she could call out things she wanted to see drawn: a dog, a horse, and a man with shoes (a stick figure was not satisfactory; she wanted eyes, a nose, a mouth). I gave her two pens to practice with and a couple of sheets of paper.

While we were naming the world, Augustino would interrupt to remind us that he is the cutest of all. Clowning and charming, he was willing to earn our attention.

Part of me felt guilty that they’d spent a bustling Friday night with us instead of finding customers and patrons, especially when their father arrived carrying his larger case of cigarettes and sweets.

I gave Mateo the paper with all of the words and pictures and promised to see him, taller and even stronger, in June. He smiled and said he wouldn’t forget me.

Augustino and Julio waved as they were heading over to the wall to huddle with their mother.

Cecilia grew quiet.

It is hard to say goodbye.


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