I was having lunch at Whole Foods while four older Latinas next to me talked and laughed loudly after finishing their own lunch. They were sharing stories about raising their kids, and their ages ranged from about 30 to probably around 55. Finally, the oldest woman spoke up.
"Oh I think I have the topper!" she announced.
The other three ladies “oh’d” excitedly as the matriarch began her story.
"My son had this dog. This chandoso, and he was just so obsessed with it!”
The other ladies shook their heads while sighing disapprovingly.
"Nuh uh, I would never let an animal into my home," one added to approving ‘mm-hmms.’
The older woman continued.
"And his grades were bad, and so I told him, ‘mira, if you don’t get your grades up, I’m taking this damn dog to the pound!”
A roar of laughter. Claps.
"That’s right!" said one.
"You shoulda just taken it," said another.
"Take him to the woods and let him go!" said the last one.
The old woman waited for them to calm down and continued:
"And so one day while he was at school, I did!"
To say the air got sucked out of the room would be an understatement. The permanent smiles on the three younger Latinas were ripped off, and two of them grabbed their hearts. This is something with which I’m familiar having been around Latina mothers my whole life. When they hear something horrible happen to another child, they immediately imagine it happening to their own child and have a stroke.
The only cure is a novena.
After a few seconds of silence (and confusion from the older woman), one of the ladies spoke.
"Helen you can’t do that," she whispered.
"Do what? I hated that dog," answered Helen.
The two other women were still too shocked to speak, so the woman continued, “he coulda been messed up by that.”
"I warned him!" said Helen, laughingly, trying to recapture the magic that had left the room one minute ago.
Finally another woman spoke:
"Did you get the dog back?"
Helen shrugged, “We tried, but when we got to the pound they had already given it away.”
The grief moved onto its next stage, anger.
"HELEN, HOW COULD YOU?!" yelled one woman.
"Oh my God!" moaned the other.
"You can’t throw away a boy’s dog!" yelled the last woman.
"Oh my God!" again moaned the second.
Helen wouldn’t budge.
"I told him, get your grades up. He didn’t! This was like 15 years ago anyway."
The women stood up and started walking away, but the conversation continued in hush tones as they walked through the Whole Foods dining area.
There are three lessons to be had here: first, know your audience. Second, don’t give away your son’s dog because of his grades. And finally, listen to your mother.
I’ve been following all three my whole life.