|Volunteers at Santa Maria del Mexicano|
|My Kinder Class in Colon, Mexico 1992|
My assignment was to teach letters and numbers to eleven children around the age of five. I remember all of them: Sandra, Rocio, Sergio, Angelica, Martin, Cesar, Angel, Alejandro, Oscar, Cecilia, and Ruben. They all made an impression on me but none like a five year old, with a dark tan complexion, dark eyes, long eyelashes and a low, rough-sounding voice.
On my first day, we were walking to a local park, when a small hand grabbed my hand. I looked down and his expressive eyes were looking up at me. In a low voice he told me he knew the way and he would take me there. I soon noticed he seemed to always be near me. He liked to hold my hand. If I happened to be sitting, he would get on my lap. He told me stories. His mother died when he was born. He had a sister, Margarita, and a brother, Daniel. They also lived at Santa Maria. As we passed a doorway a strong smell of beer wafted out to us. In his gruff voice Ruben asked, "Did you see that borracho? He was asleep in the corner, did you see him? He does not know when to stop drinking. Hurry, you don't want to see a drunk. Sometimes they hit you." I felt his hand tighten around mine.
Was his father an alcoholic? How did this little boy know so much about drinkers? I did some investigating and found out his mother drank and had abandoned her family soon after Ruben had been born. He never knew her. No one knew where the mother had gone but the father worked in Queretaro, about 40 miles away, and visited his children once a month.
Ruben and I became inseparable. If I read stories to the children, he would be right next to me. When we ate, he made sure to find a chair for me that happened to be next to his. Instead of playing with the children he would ask to help me. I fell in love with little Ruben. I inquired about bringing him home, maybe a possible adoption. I was told that because of many legal reasons, it was impossible to adopt a child, especially if there was a parent.
The following year, I arrived and greeted my now six year olds. They called me Maestra and I continued teaching the same group along with some new children in my class. Ruben was distant. He seldom came near me and when I sought him out, he seemed too busy to talk with me. Our relationship never returned to how it had been that first year. I felt an emptiness and missed our friendship. A psychologist told me that Ruben was protecting himself from pain. "Your leaving hurt him deeply and he did not want to feel that pain again. He did not want to feel sadness and pain and he decided to stay away and not get close to you again." It made sense.
|Fun Loving Ruben!|
|This kid stole my heart.|
|Martin at Age 8 and 16|
|Rocio at Age 6 and 14|
|Gustavo at Age 6 and 14|