A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Alexandra Elizabeth's Happy Melancholy
Monday, February 09, 2009

In 1971 with the help of my mother, Rosemary and I bought a little house in the outskirts of Mexico City in the State of Mexico. It was called Arboledas and our house was half a block from Los Bebedores. This was a boulevard of huge eucaliptus trees that ended at a tall white concrete wall. Under it were two parallel rectangular pools where the animals that had once grazed in those parts could have had a drink, hence the name bebedoros or "drinking pools". At the time we had only one daughter, she was 3 and her name was Alexandra. Our Mexican neighbours thought that was much too so they called her Ale (pronounced Ah with the le of let). One day our housekeeper came to me, "SeƱor hay un problema con Ale!" She was on the floor of the kitchen. She looked dead. One of the cabinets was open and I spotted a bottle of Carbona (carbon tetrachloride) an upholstery spot remover. I immediately called our pediatrician who told me to rush her to hospital after inducing vomiting. Something just didn't sound right.

I had been a Boy Scout in my youth and I remember that for some poisons, vomiting could make a situation worse if the poison happened to be corrosive. I rushed Ale to the bathtub and poured cold water on her face. Her eye balls were turned up but the cold water brought some life to her. A neighbourhood acquaintance, a singer called Piruli took me in his car (and calmed me down) to the local doctor just a few blocks away. The kindly doctor immediately came out with a stomach pump and asked me if I had induced vomiting. I nodded to the contrary and he smiled. After Ale was revived he calmly told me, "She would not have made it to the hospital."

A couple of year later our housekeeper Clemen and Ale went for a walk on the Bebederos. Ale decided to pull a wild flower. A nearby little girl shouted, "Don't touch my flowers and threw a large chunk of brick which hit Ale on her forehead. There was lots of bleeding. When I saw Ale I almost fainted (I don't like the sight of blood.) I took Ale to our friend Carlos Zamora's house who made some curious little bandaids with scissors and white adhesive tape. He used them to bring the edges of the gash together. And that was that.

Ale has always been a happy girl but in moderation. Had she been born in the 50s she would have been a hippie. There is a streak of melancholy in her face, behind her smile, that almost breaks my heart. I sometimes wonder if her two near-death experiences made her grow up quickly. I know that Ale is wise beyond her keen intelligence. She is one of those terrible persons who can coast and do extremely well without really trying. She can read a book upside down as fast as I can read a book normally.

As Rosemary and I file all these old pictures and yesterday and we celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary (that always makes me think) I thought that my mother died when I was 30. I find it amazing (more than my wedding anniversary) that my sad looking Ale, So beautiful, so elegant, is 40.


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