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Friends You Make On The Corner

Ed Fesler

"Ya gotta start working early," five-month old Pita would tell you if she could talk. "Take my brother, Chavita, he started working when he was only one month old." It's true. Two years ago Chavita - nickname for Salvador - was the miracle of our corner and all the passers by stopped to marvel at him - and to buy newspapers from his father who was just getting started in the trade. Now the two infants with their mother will be at our corner during the day and they'll attract even more business for their father's newsstand.

Child abuse? No, it's Mexican necessity. The parents don't have the money to hire a sitter. In another year Chavita will be old enough for a public pre-school, but until then there's no one to care for him except his parents.

Chavita was a huge attraction on the corner two years ago and the business prospered. The family routine was this: the father pedaled his bicycle with its big front rack loaded with newspapers up the three-mile hill from their home, arriving at 8:00 AM. At about 10:00 AM the mother would come tearing up the same hill pushing a baby carriage loaded with Chavita and Papi's breakfast. They would stay the rest of the day helping sell newspapers and talking to all the visitors who stopped to see Chavita - and who bought a newspaper while they were there. Chavita passed the winter in his baby carriage on the corner and never had a sick day - which shows how mild the winters are here.

Getting to know Chavita and watching him grow has been a lot of fun for us. We like his young mother a lot, too, because of her sunny disposition and her "Look out world, here I come," attitude. And we're much better friends with "La Rana," the patriarch of the corner and self-appointed grandfather to Chavita. His friends gave him that nickname because he looks like a frog: squat, warty, with a wide-mouthed grin. He washes cars for a living, but has a sixth-sense that tells him all the time where Chavita is playing. We also met a man who told us all there is to know about raising peacocks. We have even come to know the real grandparents who own a newsstand one mile East of here.

Business prospered - the corner is transfer point for seven bus lines - and the young father installed a tin shed which he was able to lock at night. It allowed him to add magazines to his inventory which he could store safely in the shed overnight. Then came a concrete floor for the shed, a rug, and a chair. The family also found better living quarters, but stayed on Calle Constitución, of course, because that's where all periodicals in the city begin their trek to readers.

Then disaster struck. Contrary to the stern warnings of her doctors, the young mother was pregnant again ten months after delivering Chavita by caesarian. She was in difficulties from the start and was absent for long periods from the corner. Toward the end of her term we offered to rush her to the doctor in our car if she ever wanted. She didn't call on us.

Her heart stopped beating during delivery and she had to be resuscitated. Her recovery was long but the new baby, Pita, did well. During this five month period the young father developed a lung infection which took three weeks to fight off. He couldn't work. They went broke.

We really worried when he didn't show up at his stand so we would walk to the parents' stand to buy our paper and get the latest news on the young family. His parents proved to be an agreeable couple. The man had a sideline of wholesaling newspapers on his bicycle to other vendors. Now that we know him we see him often pedaling around the neighborhood.

Then one wonderful sunny day the baby carriage again raced up the hill about 10:00 AM loaded with Chavita, Pita and Papi's breakfast. The young mother, like a steam engine, furnished the locomotion. "La Rana" put himself in charge of their arrival and showed off the new baby to everyone who stopped. Chavita was glad to see all his old friends and you can bet he remembered us. The "peacock man" showed up as did scores of other old customers. Business prospered right away and now the young mother can keep the babies at home when it's chilly.

The young man has offered us the convenience of having our newspaper delivered to our apartment door, but wouldn't that be silly of us? If we didn't go down to the corner every day we wouldn't have all those friends.

Published or Updated on: October 9, 2008 by Ed Fesler © 2008
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