A fortnight ago, I felt a bit wistful when our old friend Jorge came round to discuss some work in our front and back yards. We had last seen Jorge some ten years ago, when he and his workmate Nico worked on our new house, not long after Mattie and I had emigrated, and I realised that my feeling of wistfulness was partly due to the thought of all that time having flown by, and partly because little 11 year-old Mattie was with us back then – I had a flashback of her in the white hard hat that Mike had bought her and how Jorge and Nico laughed as she pretended to supervise them. In fact, when Mike had rung Jorge to see if he was available to do our work, his first question had been: “How’s Mattie?” and Mike explained that she’d left us six months earlier to return to England, initially to see her birth family, and that she intended to stay.
It soon became obvious that over the years things had changed for Jorge, too. He brought his only child and son along with him and I remembered how proudly, back in 2012, he spoke of the then 15 year-old: how well he was doing at school and the hopes of his becoming an electrical and mechanical engineer. But on my asking, the son told me that after a time in the military he’d dropped out of his college course, and now, aside from helping his father at weekends drove a delivery van during the week.
Our reunion with Jorge reminded me of a blog I wrote back in 2012, soon after Mike, Mattie and I moved into our partially renovated home. In it, I mentioned the barbecues we enjoyed back then and how Mike liked to make margaritas:
“He poured the margaritas into recycled Mexican glasses that had a band of navy blue around the rim. I liked a little salt on the rim of mine. Whilst the chicken was grilling we’d sit down with our drinks and pass the time of day with Mattie. It was a nice way to wind down after a day making the inevitable trips to Lowe’s (the DIY store up the road) and overseeing our workmen, Jorge and Nico. That last Saturday, we invited them to have a meal and drink with us before they left for home. These Mexican men are two of the nicest people you could meet. Jorge hails from a town called Musquit close to the US/Mexican border. He is quite tall and handsome, wears a small beard and a baseball cap turned backwards, and speaks excellent though heavily accented English. He also goes to church with his wife early each Sunday morning, is sensitive, well read, and learns German in his spare time. They have a small terrier whom Jorge obviously dotes on and even equips with small boots during rainy weather. I like to think Jorge would be a poet in another life…”
Now, ten years later, Jorge still wears a beard – though it is a little thicker and contains specks of grey – but no baseball cap. His English is still heavily accented. I asked him if he still learned German but he couldn’t remember having done that. He did remember putting booties on his little terrier, who has since sadly passed away but not before giving birth to three daughters, who obviously bring him just as much joy. He was interested that our dog Leia is similar in appearance to the mother and I told him that Mattie originally brought Leia to our house, two years earlier, and that we wouldn’t be without her either.
Mike remembered that Jorge used to carry an air of anxiety about him – most likely due to his and his wife’s illegal immigration status. (I often thought of Jorge and Nico during the Trump years, hoping they were safe.) We were therefore delighted to learn that Jorge now has a different boss, who not only pays him a lot more but is sponsoring him and his wife in their bid to get green cards.
When Jorge and his son drove off that day, I – strangely – felt just as wistful as that time all those years ago when Mike, Mattie and I waved Jorge and Nico off on their final workday. Back then, my wistful feeling was due to saying goodbye to our first two friends in this new country. Now, it was because this time, there were only two of us waving goodbye. Mike later said he felt the same.