My husband, Peter, and I are back in our little place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Of course, it is not really “our” place. We don’t own it and have no desire to own anything here larger than a pressure cooker (yes, Peter bought one). When we arrived, Pepe at the front desk said, “Welcome home!” in English, and that is exactly how it felt: as if we had been away from home and were now returning.
A large box that had formerly held boxes of Cocoa Puffs was already in our apartment, filled with the things we had been allowed to leave behind: kitchen stuff and some art and clothing. It’s nice having our things stored for us while we are away. It is nice to have other people worry about the internet and water and electricity and watering the many plants that fill the courtyard. It’s nice having someone at the front desk who will accept packages if we have any and say “good morning” and “good afternoon” whenever we come and go. And, I have to admit, it is nice to have Lulu.
I’m not used to having housekeeping. But Lulu comes twice a week, and I’m getting to like it.
Of course, I wash all my dishes, and six days of the week I make my own bed. I don’t leave clutter lying about. I find myself looking nervously around the kitchen to make sure the place looks OK before she comes. But then Lulu arrives with fresh white towels and a rag mop and a bucket full of cleaning supplies, and I smile at her and say, “How are you doing today, Lulu?”
Lulu always says she is doing fine.
Lulu is an older woman, thin and somewhat severe. Her hair is pulled back into a tight bun and she wears glasses. She does not readily smile and so, when she does, it is a special treat because I am quite sure she is not doing it for show. Getting Lulu to smile has become one of my major goals on Mondays and Thursdays.
It was a bit awkward at first. I was nervous having her in the apartment. Should I leave? Was I in her way? I’m pretty sure I made Lulu nervous, skittering around to avoid her and constantly apologizing for my existence. But this is our second stay in this apartment hotel, and we are getting used to one another, Lulu and I. Now I stay put until she lets me know when she’d like to clean the area I am currently occupying, and I tell her about all the amazing vegetables I found in the market and, when she leaves, I give her a larger tip than is, perhaps, customary.
Because I can’t think of a better person to have a little extra money than Lulu.
She always thanks me, and I thank her, and we have a moment of awkwardness, and then she is gone until the next Monday or Thursday.
And, of course, it is her job. But there is an ordinary kindness that Lulu embodies that warms my heart. She appreciates my gratitude, and I think she even enjoys my company for the short while we are together — even though my Spanish is not good and I am a little nervous around her. I think she knows I mean well, and that I appreciate her.
When Lulu is gone, the apartment smells of disinfectant soap — a pungent smell I will always associate with Mexico, a clean white bedspread, a spotless floor, and Lulu.
Till next time,
Carrie Photos from the column and other info can be found at CarrieClasson.com.