About the Author
Mark Victor Hansen is a co-founder of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Hometown:Santa Barbara, California
Date of Birth:August 19, 1944
Place of Birth:Fort Worth, Texas
Education:B.A. in History, Harvard University, 1966; M.A.T. Program, University of Chicago, 1968; M.Ed., U. of Massachusetts, 1973
Read an Excerpt
Every First Friday
La experiencia no es el más amable de los maestros, pero sin duda el más sabio.-Latino Proverb
I looked out the window and couldn’t see a thing. I had to scrape off the frost with my fingernails in order to glimpse the gusting wind and thrusting snow. No one would dare venture out on such a cold winter night unless they had no other choice: My mother was one of those people. Mama was on her way to her job cleaning offices in downtown Chicago. Under her scarf and hat, I could see her tired eyes. Standing next to her was my younger brother, Cesar. He was also covered from head to toe in winter wear, but his eyes sparkled.
On the first Friday of the month, Mama was allowed to bring her children to work. I was about twelve years old at the time; my brother was ten. She worked Monday through Saturday from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. She had to take three buses to get downtown. On every first Friday, Cesar was right there with her. I, on the other hand, was always too busy. If it wasn’t baseball practice, basketball tryouts or some movie, I’d come up with another excuse. I couldn’t see myself staying awake all night cleaning offices. Cesar and Mama would beg me to go along, but after a while they stopped asking, knowing I’d say no. It was different for my brother. Cesar would come home and excitedly tell me how he had helped Mom vacuum the carpets, dust, and throw out the trash. But the highlight of his night was always playing hide-and-seek with the other workers and children.
My mother’s coworkers were all immigrants, mostly Polish and Mexican women. Many were from our neighborhood, and they, too, would take their sons and daughters to clean offices on those first Fridays. Most of them labored this horrendous shift so they could send their children to Catholic schools. My mother was no exception.
My parents came to this country from Mexico and at first did not speak English, so the only jobs they could find were manual labor. Remarkably, through it all, my mother never complained about being too tired or too busy. She cooked us breakfast every morning, was always there for us after school and made sure we were safely in bed before she left for work.
How cozy it must be for lawyers and dentists to show off their offices to their children. It’s much different taking your child on three buses on a cold Friday night to help you clean them. But my mother was willing to do it. She wanted our company, but more important, she wanted to show us how she paid the bills. But I never once saw for myself how Mama earned her livelihood.
When I was a senior in high school, I asked my brother why he had loved going to those offices so much.
Did he actually like dusting and vacuuming? His answer wasn’t at all what I expected. He said the reason he went was not that he liked picking up after other people, but because he loved spending time with Mom. He said he felt sad each night when she left for work; he was always wishing she didn’t have to go. So for at least one evening a month, he had the chance to be right there with her. I felt ashamed, wondering why I hadn’t seen it that way. To me, it was a chore, something I was too good for. I had the luxury of saying no; my mother didn’t. And my brother had actually chosen to do it. Ironically, after graduating from college with a degree in accounting, Cesar found a job in the very same building my mother had cleaned years before. On his first day,
Cesar wore a suit; he was now a businessman. My mother straightened his tie, kissed him on the cheek and gave him her blessing. But on the way to his car, my brother stopped and rushed back to the house. He set down his briefcase, put his arms around our mother and began to cry. She embraced him even tighter and also wept. The cleaning lady’s son had grown up.
As I watched this display of love and tenderness between mother and son, I realized the full extent of my mother’s sacrifices. And today, I often think of my brother’s warmth and generosity. He understood as a boy what it took years for me to learn. He knew how to express love, gratitude and affection toward his family. He also realized that certain opportunities come only once in a lifetime, and that if you don’t grab them, they’re gone forever. Mama passed away several years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t have her in my mind and heart.
How I wish I had gone to clean those offices.
-Alejandro DíazContributing author, Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul
¬ 2005. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Latino's Soul, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Susan Sanchez-Casal.. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.,
3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This collection of stories written in English is the embodiment of all things Latino. Two of my stories were published in this book, "Grandma's Recipe and A Bridge to Freedom." I could connect to all of these stories because in each and everyone one of these pieces I was reminded of an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or mother whom I grew up with. A must-read for anyone who was raised in a Latino community or family.
Sincerest congratulations to Dr. Susan Sanchez-Casal for putting together this beautiful and inspiring collection of stories about our rich heritage. The anthology gives voice to 70 talented Latino/a writers and I count myself fortunate to be among them. While the book is of particular pride to Hispanics, it is also of great value and interest to non-Hispanics. The stories and poems are written in English and I have presented the book as gifts to persons of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Each person, no matter his or her origin, found messages in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE LATINO SOUL that truly touched the heart. And perhaps that is because, as part of the family of man, we are (though some would have us think otherwise) more similar than we are different.
In this beautiful collection of stories, poems, and quotes, my fellow authors and I have created a book that truly honors our past, creates our future, and nurtures our present lives. We honor our families, friends, and loves ones, embrace the spirituality of our culture, and believe that we can be whatever we choose to be. There are no compromises here¿we all live life to its fullest and enjoy all that our bicultural/bilingual lives have to offer us. This is a must read for all Latinos who want to feel proud of who they are and where they have been and all of our allies who have joined us on this journey.
I am so glad this installment of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series came out. It's about time!!! It was great reading stories about Latinos across the U.S. who, although different, have so much in common like our love of our heritage, learning experiences in a foreign country, striving for a better life, meddling relatives etc... The stories evoke a range of emotions from pride to embarrassment, sorrow to joy. You'll definitely be able to identify to the people and their stories even if you're not Latino. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.