I’m sitting here rubbing my patience stone trying to relieve my mind and heart. There are moments of doubt and anxiety that just seem to dominate over assurance and serenity. Where can one find a little more patience? Are you born with it? Is it learned? Can I achieve it from methodically rubbing this stone?
I believe this impatience, especially for waiting, stems from an early memory of my childhood. As a young immigrant student in my first US public school my family had a particular drop off and pick up routine. My older sister and I were dropped off at a young, scraggly Live Oak tree on the southwest corner of the school parking lot. Being younger, I was released at an earlier hour than my sister and instructed to return to that spot where my father would be waiting to take me to abuelita’s house, my maternal grandmother. We were living in El Paso, Texas, a desert city, a dusty city, a hot city. At midday, the wind was gusting, the desert sand was pelting, the tumbleweeds racing, and the sun blistering hot. I had finished my stretch in an all-English classroom for the day and I was relieved to go home to my cultural safety. I hurried back to that weak Live Oak in anticipation of returning home and seeking protection from this ruthless US environment.
Running to evade the tackling tumbleweeds and attempting to shield myself from the prickling sand I arrived at the tree to my disillusionment – my father was nowhere in sight. I looked for shelter from the sand and sun but the tree had none to offer. So I sat with my back against the gusting wind and waited. And waited and waited and no father. Hours passed, or so it seemed, until a car slowly passed by, stopped, rolled down the window, and a man waved to me to come closer. I did as I was told. He looked familiar, perhaps worked in the school office. Not sure.
“Who are you waiting for?” asked the American, middle-aged, skinny, white-haired man.
-Mi papá. – I answered.
“I’m on my way to buy cigarettes. Is your house nearby? I can take you,” he said as he leaned over to open the passenger door.
-Voy a casa de mi abuela. Ella vive cerca de aquí. – I muttered.
“Do you know how to get there?” he asked.
”I show you,” I said in my best English and climbed in, relieved to get out of the harsh climate and desperately wanting to get to abuelita.
“Okay, where do I go?”
Trying to look confident in knowing how to get to abuelita’s house I gave him the first instruction, “Estrait.”
We travelled what seemed like miles before approaching a Y on the road. I knew how to get to abuelita’s house as I had travelled the route many times already. The only thing was that I did not know the street names or distances. I knew and still know the route by landmarks. At the Y we needed to veer left, over the bridge, and continue straight, although I did not know these instructions in English. So I quickly improvised.
“Keep estrait in your side,” I instructed him.
To which he interpreted to stay on the same traffic lane veering to the right. Completely wrong! Hayayay! Now I lost all confidence in my ability to direct this man to abuelita’s house. I kept stretching my head over to the left at every intersection, hoping I would be able to see any recognizable sign of the road we were supposed to be on. He noticed my anxiety and coupled with his eagerness and craving for a smoke he stopped at a convenience store, bought his cigarettes, and return to school.
He apologized, saying, “I just don’t think you know where we are going. Let’s return to the office and try calling your parents.”
I was devastated. I wanted to press forward. I was certain I could get to my abuelita’s house. If only…
Driving back to school in a smoke-filled car was heartbreaking. I was almost in tears, although I did not let myself cry. I didn’t like to cry then, I still don’t like to cry now. So I fought back the tears and accepted my defeat. Arriving at the office I heard a familiar voice almost at a scream that lightened my heart. It was my paternal abuelita, demanding that everyone be sent out in search of her granddaughter. How can a school lose a child?!?!
Calmed to see me walking in she got down on her knees to hug me and I knew I was in for a beating, figuratively and literally. I received much more than two earfuls during our drive to abuelita’s house about following instructions, not leaving with strangers, and being patient! I was to wait, forever if need be, until a family member came to pick me up. No exceptions!
Patience, I still don’t have any for waiting. So I continue to work on this by rubbing my patience stone and diverting my attention to other things. I now carry a book or two with me all the time. Waiting has now become Reading Time, although I do admit I don’t rely on others for rides. I drive myself everywhere and anywhere, regardless of distance, cost, or redundancy. And, I drive my husband as he claims I still don’t know how to give proper English driving instructions.