Marta and me and Piccolina


I was walking down an old street in an old part of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Brightly colored wooden doors lined the streets. There was no indication from the outside what might be within. It could be a courtyard filled with flowers and a fountain, or a small business, or somebody’s kitchen. It is always a mystery what is behind these doors, and so, when one is open, naturally I look inside.

Last week, a door was open, and I saw a few items of clothing for sale, so I stepped inside. That’s when I met Piccolina.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“That is Piccolina,” a woman at a sewing machine answered in Spanish.

Piccolina was a fat little puppy with blue eyes and black-and-white spots. She was delighted to meet me, and I was delighted to meet the woman with the sewing machine because I had a square tablecloth that I wanted to be round. I had thought of bringing it back home with me to the States to do the alteration, but that seemed like a lot of heavy fabric to haul back-and-forth when, the odds were, I would run into someone like Piccolina’s mother. And now I had.

I explained my tablecloth situation as best I could, and it was clear from the woman’s nodding and pantomimed gestures that she understood the project. I agreed to bring it the next day.

“And then I get to see Piccolina!” I thought.

The next day I called, “Where is Piccolina?” and the little dog came running, and the woman, whose name was Marta, also came running. I handed off my tablecloth, and we agreed on a price that seemed like far too little for the work involved.

A few days passed, and I came back. The floors had just been mopped, and Piccolina was not being allowed on the floors until they were dry. She was being held by a young relative of Marta’s and this made her unhappy, which she indicated by chomping down on my finger when I went to greet her.

“Oh, no! Piccolina!” Marta said. She didn’t think Piccolina should be biting the customers, but they were just puppy bites, and the customer had been asking for it.

The tablecloth was not finished because Marta was proposing something more complicated — and prettier — than I had envisioned.

“Fine!” I said, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what she was saying. I promised to return in a few days.

“And then I get to see Piccolina again!” I thought.

The next time I arrived the tablecloth was finished, with a fringe all around the edge that transitioned from one color to another, with a mixture of the two colors in between. It had taken a lot of thread-pulling and time, and I paid Marta more than she had asked for and I said goodbye to Piccolina.

But not for good. Yesterday I stopped by, even though I had no business with Marta.

“Piccolina, where are you?” I called, and she was easy to find because she was waiting at the doggy gate that Marta had installed.

“Piccolina has a gate!” I said.

“Piccolina has been running onto the street!” Marta tut-tutted.

The street is quiet and cobblestone, so I don’t think Piccolina was in much danger, but I also imagine Marta got tired of running outside to retrieve her.

“You are a naughty little dog!” I informed Piccolina, and Marta agreed.

You can tell friends things like this, and we are all friends now — Marta and me and Piccolina.

Till next time,

Carrie Photos from the column and other info can be found at

Carrie Classon Conributing columnist Classon Conributing columnist

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