PETE PETERSON - PERUVIAN LABOR DAY
Pete Peterson’s quest for Baseball’s Hall of Fame ended when he could hit neither the fastball nor the curve, so he turned to something anyone can do – writing saleable fiction and non-fiction. Alas. He has not yet won a Pulitzer or whatever writers win, but his work has appeared, or is scheduled to appear, in a number of anthologies and publications including Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Stoneslide Collective, Deadly Writers Patrol, Ravensperch.com, the anthology “Tales of Ten” and Charles Carter – A Working Anthology, plus such newspapers as The Kansas City Star, Coastal News, and The Paper.
Peruvian Labor Day
My wife and I linger over breakfast coffee in the Peruvian resort dining room. On the lawn, outside, framed by red, yellow and blue flowers, two llamas graze. Adding to this post card scene, a native woman, wearing a round multi-colored hat, a blue shoulder cloth and knee-length skirt decorated in red, green and orange geometric patterns, marches past. She places a small bundle beneath a Eucalyptus tree, walks to the far end of a nearby corn field, and using a short-handled hoe, begins to chop weeds. I glance at my watch. Eight o’clock.
Nancy and I are at Hotel Rio Sagarado in Sacred Valley, Peru, acclimating ourselves to the high altitude before climbing Machu Piccu. Nancy is as detailed in trip planning as in her career. The past year has been a momentous one. After forty years as a secondary educator – seventeen as a class room teacher, twenty as a high school principal, three as director of curriculum, she retired. In response to numerous requests for her input and counsel, and to “stay involved” she agreed to limited consulting assignments to school districts in California.
When her ninety-one-year old mother’s health quickly deteriorated, Nancy supervised the sale of the long-time family residence – where her younger brother lived with their mother - ramrodded the purchase and remodeling of an apartment for her mom in a luxury retirement home, expertly juggling furniture moving, airplane flights, and doctor’s appointments to relocate her Mom successfully. We didn’t cancel our long-planned South American trip, as Nancy needed the time away to unwind.
This morning in bed, tears filling her soft brown eyes, Nancy said, “I feel guilty. Mom’s been in her apartment for only four days and here I am a thousands of miles away. What if she needs me? She doesn’t know a soul.”
I tried to reassure her. “I understand. But, this vacation was planned before your Mom’s needs surfaced. You’ve done an incredible job moving her in a short time. Enjoy the moment. Your mom’s fine.”
After breakfast we returned to our room, the soothing burble of the beautiful Urubamba River just outside our suite, relaxing us both. I read “R is for Revenge,” while Nancy used her I-Phone to purchase a bedroom table for her mother, answered client e-mails and checked our reservations for the evening. The sun is warm on my shoulders. The scent of fresh-mowed grass fills the air. Before I doze off, I see the Incan woman in the corn field, her bright red and yellow hat bobbing in the sun, her hoe flashing.
Mid-morning, Nancy leaves for her massage, returning just before noon. She showers and changes into shorts and blouse. We stroll beneath tall trees to the air-conditioned dining room for a lunch of fruit salad, lobster roll and iced tea, served by four overly-attentive Incan waitresses.
Nancy’s meal is interrupted twice by her cell phone. We watch the Peruvian lady walk from the corn field to the Eucalyptus tree unwrap her package and eat. Finished, she quickly returns to the field. Nancy asks, “Does she work all day?”
Before I can answer, Nancy’s phone lights up again. She glances at Caller ID. “I have to take this.”
Back in our room, I read while Nancy pays bills and answers emails. The front desk calls. Our driver for the tour of Ollantaytambo’s textile factories, will arrive in fifteen minutes. While we wait, Nancy orders new towels for her mother. When we climb in the van for our tour, we see the Incan woman’s hoe flashing in the sun. Nancy whispers, “Won’t she ever quit?”
After our tour, we enjoy coffee and chocolates on the veranda. I was impressed by the primitive weaving methods the textile workers used to produce beautiful sarapes, blankets and other goods. Nancy watched attentively but resisted all sales talks. “Why,” I ask.
“I’ll buy from a particular weaver when we get to Lima. See this?” A web site blooms on her phone. “Isn’t her work gorgeous? Plus, she’s guaranteed to receive payment for what I buy, since she’s part of the Indigenous Network system.” That’s my bride. Details. Details.
The setting sun turns the hillsides purple in contrast to the white as coconut ripples in the Urubamba River. The Incan lady’s hat still bobs in the corn field. Nancy looks up from her phone. “Today’s a holiday in the States. Labor Day.”
I look at my watch. Almost six o’clock. “Two ladies I know celebrated it by working all day.”
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