THE HERNANDEZ FAMILY
Jesus Hernandez Ortiz, age 28 (1)
Maria del Pilar Rios de Hernandez, 27 (2)
Jose de Jes-Us Hernandez (Chui), 5 (3)
Oliver, 3 ( 4)
6:00. The Hernandez family’s duplex apartment is on one of Guadalajara’s busiest streets. The infernal noise of cars, motorcycles, and trucks blends with the shouts of children passing by on their way to the church and school next door. The early-morning commotion does not disturb the Hernandez family, who have no problems sleeping late. 8:15. The heels of Pilar’s slippers clatter as she runs down on the tiled staircase. Still more than half asleep, she lights the water heater and prepares two bottles of chocolate milk for her young sons. She delivers the first to Oliver, whose bed is squeezed into a narrow alcove at the top of the stairs, and the second to Chui, who has his mattress on the floor next to his parents’ bed. Then Pilar falls back into bed for fifteen minutes more of luxurious sleep.
But she sleeps too long and now the children are late. Showered and dressed, they run to the door followed by their young parents. At the last minute, Pilar pulls a sweater over each of their heads to protect them from the brisk morning air. She lets go of them only after receiving a kiss from each one and making the sign of the cross over their heads. The boys climb joyfully into their father’s truck and head off for half a day at the kinder (nursery school). Once the door has closed, Pilar breathes a sigh of satisfaction: “Ouf!” Three whole hours of peace and quiet.
9:15. Jesus returns to eat his breakfast: coffee, scrambled eggs, sausage, and tortillas, prepared by his wife. They gossip about their friend Pablo, who had dinner with them yesterday. “He’s still single at the age of twenty-nine, a sign that he is not taking life seriously,” remarks Pilar. “We must convince him to get married.” She would love to continue-other people’s lives fascinate her- but Jesus has to leave for work.
Jesus owns a small ceramic-tile workshop that he inherited from his father. During the day, he looks for new customers and purchases materials to replenish his stock. His five employees produce the tiles; Pilar does the paperwork and looks after the store, which is just off the kitchen. Pilar and Jesus are saving to renovate the apartment, which they own, and they are ambitious enough to eventually achieve their dream despite the runaway inflation that makes it particularly hard for the middle class.
Still in her dressing gown, Pilar washes last night’s dishes as she glances with interest at a television program on the private lives of Mexican artists. The laundry must be hung out to dry, the furniture dusted, the floors washed. Pilar tries to do her work around the small apartment without completely losing sight of the television. 11:00. Pilar takes a break to shower. She strives to look impeccably elegant, and dressed now in a silky blouse and trousers, she sits at the counter that separates her kitchen from the dining room and begins the delicate operation of painting her eyelids. A skillful blend of gray and white, a line of black pencil, crowned by long false eyelashes, and Pilar looks as rich as any of her favorite soap opera heroines. She has no plans to leave her house, but wants to look her best for the customers who come throughout the day to order tiles. Pilar knows that the success of the tile business will enable them to move into a bigger home and a nicer neighborhood. She is more than ready to move up the social ladder as well.
12:00. School is out. Students from the school next door climb into their parents’ waiting cars as Jesus drops his two boys off in front of the apartment. The tranquil, clean house is instantly turned into a circus arena. Each time Chui picks up a toy, Oliver tries to grab it. He screams, jumps up and down, and hurls himself at the furniture, knowing his mother will then make sure he gets his way. If Chui complains, his mother threatens him with a spanking. It is tough to be the older son.
Pilar sends her sons outside to play so that she can finish making lunch in peace. Less than five minutes later, Chui runs in shouting, “Oliver broke Mrs. Gonzaiez’s living-room window with the ball!” Pilar orders her sons inside, but the telephone rings before she has time to run and apologize to Mrs. Gonzalez or to reprimand her son. It’s a girlfriend on the line. For fifteen minutes Pilar chats and complains about the mischief caused by her offspring. She hangs up to call a glazier who might come to repair the damage before nightfall. “She should have put bars on the windows like everybody else,” sighs Pilar. “That would prevent these problems.” Another two thousand pesos down the drain. In the last week, Oliver has smashed the glass of the coffee table and broken the color television set. “That child would have to be tied up to ensure that anything worked properly in this house,” Pilar says, exasperated. Still, she leaves the disciplining of the boys to her husband.
2:00. After inspecting their hands for dirt, Pilar sits her children on high stools at the counter. They eat their rice, bananas, french fries, and meat without taking their eyes off the Flintstones cartoons on television. When Jesus returns, the couple take their children’s place and over lunch discuss the day’s business. Jesus asks his wife to allow more time to fill the orders that are flooding in. Right now their employees have more work than they can handle, even by working overtime. Jesus eats lightly, changes into his soccer clothes, and leaves for the stadium for his weekly match. After that, he will have a sauna at his club. He’s making an extra effort these days to lose a few kilos. This weekend Pilar and Jesus will attend a family baptism, where they will be the godparents. When Jesus tried on his formal suit, he was shocked that he could hardly get into it. Pilar goes to their club only on Sundays and then mostly to visit with friends and let her children work off their energy.
4:00. Jesus has punished Chui and Oliver for their morning’s carelessness. No going outside to play or bothering their mother. The only thing left to do is to take refuge upstairs on their parents’ comfortable bed to watch cartoons on television. Pilar has reserved the television set in the dining room to watch her four daily soap operas, especially her favorite one, Guadalupe. Since she has to press the clothes they will wear to the christening, Pilar sets up the ironing board in front of the television.
7:00. Dinner is casual and light. Pilar takes the tortillas that she buys weekly out of the freezer. She reheats them, fills them with ham and tomatoes, and serves them with cups of milky coffee. The family eat their fill. Jesus takes a big helping before leaving to watch a basketball game. He won’t lose a single kilo tonight.
8:30. Her husband gone, Pilar piles up the dishes in the sink. There will always be time tomorrow to wash them. Tonight, she cannot summon up the energy and goes upstairs to wash off her makeup, change into her dressing gown, and lie down between her two sons, who are once again hypnotized by the TV set. Pilar deposits them in their bed and settles down to watch an American film and wait for Jesus.
11:00. Jesus climbs into bed with Pilar to watch one last film. Tonight the couple again fall asleep with the light from the set flickering on their faces.