God was Mary Herrera

Morning Journal

 

God was Mary Herrera.

I did not know her well.

She worked in a clothes manufacturing shop in Los Angeles in the 1930’s. My mother worked in the same shop and was her friend, which is how I knew her.

I remember family visits to her house, which was in the same neighborhood in Los Angeles where Rochester- the Jack Benny Radio Show character- lived. When we drove by his house and happened to see him in the yard, my father shouted out “Hey Rochester, what ever happened to the gas man?” He smiled and waved.

She was a great cook. Even though they were divorced, her husband would be there, eating her chili, so hot it took his breath away and he couldn’t speak, sweat pouring off his bald head. She grew her own peppers, in soil she brought up from Mexico, because LA soil wasn’t up to the job.

Her children danced the jitterbug in the living room. But I didn’t. I was too young at the time. It was later on that I danced the “New Yorker” in my living room with my sisters. And the word “Pachuco” entered my vocabulary from the newspapers.

So I did not know her well.

“God was Mary Herrera.” Why did I say that? I don’t believe that she was, or was not, God. Not any more or less than anyone else. I used to say “God was a little Jewish tailor working in a small shop in the 15th Century, stitching together the fabric of existence, forward and backward in time from there.”

The ambiguity of past and future, the stitching together, like the orderly laying of bricks in a wall, my mother, who was a tailor, and my father , with whom I laid many bricks in the walls of a beautiful adobe hacienda in LA, together brought by the immanent existence of God coming forth in the diverse lives of many people. How can one write a simple sentence that says it all?

God was Mary Herrera.

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