The first time I take Emmanuel’s picture, he is too thrilled for words.
He is four. His mother, an older brother, younger brother, and younger sister live next door to Paulina. His mother is expecting another baby.
Emmanuel, however, has adopted Conan’s parents, Paulina and Arturo (Conan’s step-dad.)
Emmanel started just spending time there, when he was younger. Hanging out with Arturo in the store that Paulina owns, below where they live.
He watches for a while. Just hangs out. At some point, he begins to climb into Arturo’s lap, and falls asleep. When it’s time for bed, Arturo would carry him home.
I don’t have a good picture of Arturo downloaded yet, but here’s a picture of them together with Lucia.
Arturo has a good aura, and a gentle way with him. Paulina is warm and nurturing.
After a while, Emmanuel begins to ask for food.
When Arturo goes away for the day to collect and sell coconuts, Emmanuel sometimes goes with him. They get home late, but Emmanuel’s mother doesn’t mind.
When people talk about Emmanuel’s mother, there is a lot of tsking. I won’t do that here. I don’t know her, but I’d guess that, for whatever reason, she’s overwhelmed and not able to take care of her kids as well as they need, probably not as well as she’d like to.
Emmanuel is welcome with Arturo and Paulina. Paulina feeds him and makes him take a bath and go to bed at a reasonable time, and when he falls and bangs his head really hard, she takes him to the hospital.
Arturo is a role model. Emmanuel wants to grow up to be just like Arturo. He plans to work with him when he’s old enough, and refers to him as his papa.
One day, Emmanuel picks up a knife and is trying to cut something, Paulina takes the knife from him, saying, “Do you want to end up like Arturo?” referring to the work accident that left Arturo missing a finger.
“Si!” says Emmanuel passionately, “Si! I want to be just like Arturo,” as Paolina gently takes the knife from him and deftly cuts the bread he was hacking away at.
Paolina gets him an activity book and he carefully writes the numbers and does the elementary math with great pleasure. He doesn’t like school, he says, but he’s thrilled with the coloring book I bring him.
Little by little, he spends more and more time at Paolina’s house.
One day, he brings a little bag of clothes over. He uses the kind of bag potato chips come in.
It takes him 3 trips with his little bag, but he brings all his clothes to Paolina’s house and stows them under the bed he sleeps in.
That night, when Paolina tells him, “It’s time to take a bath, go home and get your clothes,” he says, “No ~ look!! I have them right here already.”
He begins sleeping in an extra room. Paulina talks to his mother, who is ok with it.
Here he is with us at the shrine of Juquila, holding the flower I bought to leave there.
With Julia and Conan at the shrine.
He calls Conan “mi hermano,” my brother. He was a tad worried about Lucia at first, but is content now that he’s sure he won’t lose his place in the sun, and greets her happily in the morning – Lu-tia!” which amuses everyone.
Here he is when we go to visit some people – a man who does some wonderful wookwork, which I’ll show you later. Emmanuel finds a little tricycle and rides around happily.
Here, he decides to insert himself into the picture I’m taking at the shrine.
But by the end of the trip, I’ve taken so many pictures of him that when I pull my camera out again, he flops on the hammock and moans a bit, as if to say, “Really? Again?” Just like my kids used to do.
Resilient children. Children who are born into difficult situations and manage to thrive anyhow.
Often, they have a feeling, early in life, that they don’t belong in their family. And they have at least one other adult in their life who is a positive influence, who is there for them.
Emmanuel certainly has both of those. As he told Paulina, having successfully transferred his belongings to her house, “Soy arriva!”
“I have arrived.”