All of us were grounded a time or two in our adolescent years. But everyone once in a while there was something really, really, REALLY important going on that was serious enough for our parents to grant a reprieve for a few hours. Like that time in seventh grade when Mike had just broken up with his girlfriend and the school dance was my only chance to swoop in and make him mine before Larissa did. (Thanks mom. I still appreciate it. Even if it was a failed effort.)
Honduran folk can be sticklers about punishment so I knew the chances of getting permission for Francisco to come to San Pedro during his month of being grounded was slim. I was assured by a few people that he would be brought to Delia’s house just as soon as he was punishment free.
But…But…But…I wanted to be there…..
Okay, okay, stop being selfish. The important thing is that he sees her. And surely whoever goes with him will tell me all about it.
So, I was even happier than that time I got to go to the dance and (failed to) win my beau when the Director told me that Francisco was getting special permission to go with me on my last day. Do you think a grown man would appreciate chocolate and flowers as a thank you?
(If Honduran men are anything like Honduran children, I’m going to go with yes.)
Wednesday afternoon we were on our way. Francisco tells me that he was sure I wouldn’t come get him and that he changed three times. I’m still not sure if he meant that he changed from nice clothes to comfy clothes three times because he thought I wasn’t coming or if those two things were unrelated and he was saying that he had tried multiple times to find the ‘perfect’ outfit. Either way, his anticipation was tender.
As I drove, we talked about the questions he wanted to ask. (Excellent advice from the psychologist who said that sometimes the kids get caught up in the moment or become timid and lose the gumption to ask their questions. If that happens, I can ask them for him. This woman…brilliant.) His questions were simple.
1) Where’s my mom?
2) Why did you put me in a center?
After getting lost AGAIN (gosh darn San Pedro) we arrive. My three point parking job became thirty. (Maybe I was a little nervous too?) Francisco makes fun of my driving abilities. (Comic relief to break the tension! That was my intention all along….)
Cross the street.
Knock on the door.
The suspicious turned friendly little girl greets us and then says she need to find Delia. She walks up and down the street knocking on doors and calling Delia’s name. A door opens. Delia emerges and strides straight for Francisco, engulfing him in a bear hug that shows just how much she has missed him. As though that wasn’t touching enough, while still embracing him, she begins to tell him how much she loves him, how hard it was to give him up, how blessed she is to have him back, how she was, at one point, his mom and hopes to be again.
This scene would have made a grown man cry. I don’t believe there was a dry eye within a twenty foot radius.
Delia invited us in and after Francisco had collected himself ( and I squeezed him as hard as I could) we followed. We sat in that wee front room and I tried to drink every moment in and burn it into my long term memory.
…..like watching this cocky and confident seventeen year old reduced to an overwhelmed child with his shoulders hunched, wringing his hands, as Delia explained to him how she got him and why she gave him up. She never once took her comforting hand off his arm. Was he uncomfortable? Yes. But it was the “Is this really happening?” discomfort that all of us should have the privilege to feel at some point.
…..like the other family members that stopped by because Delia had told them we were coming and they wanted to see him for themselves. The gleam in their eyes as they would beam at him and say “Gosh, Cisco, you have the exact same face.”
…..like hearing these same people tell story after story about little Cisco. The neighbor who adored him and called him to her house every single day to give him a baleada. The son who was always jealous because he was sure Delia loved Francisco more than him. That time Delia was sick and Francisco sat with her, stroked her hair and told her how much he loved her.
…..like Delia announcing to every person that came to the door that they needed to come and see. She had found her lost son! (And how every single time she said that, he would wipe his eyes.)
Our time came to an end. Phone numbers were exchanged. Christmas and birthday celebration plans were hatched. Pictures of Francisco with every combination of family members were taken. We said goodbye.
After leaving my parking spot with ease, I was hoping to talk through much of what he had experienced. At that moment, it was all too much. Instead, we repeated some of the most amazing things that had been said.
“I see you, but I still can’t believe that you’re really here.”
“We never forgot you. We were just talking about you a few weeks ago.”
“How handsome you have become!”
“We would like to be your family if you will have us.”
“Our door is always open to you.”
“I have found my lost son.”
His number one question at the beginning of the day had been “Where is my mom?” And from our conversation with Delia, I think we could find her. As we drove, I asked him if he would like to look for her.
“Nah. I think I’m good for now.”
Maybe we’ll save that for the sequel.