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San Antonio, Texas

October 3, 2011


Dear Friends,

October has arrived with the Monarch butterflies, those migrants who cross two borders without papers. They're making their way south back to Mexico from Canada. It's wonderful to sit under a Texas pine tree and watch them skittering above the river sunflowers. The drought has broken finally, and the air was blue and clear as if made of water. A pair of Monarchs laced themselves together in the air, tumbling and then darting apart, rolling over each other like kids wrestling.

I'm just back from my trip to Los Angeles where I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy in Echo Park where the community had the audacity to name their school after a living person! I felt as happy as those butterflies. Imagine having a school named after you! I could never have invented this story, so it must be true.

The principal, Shannon Leonard, made a poetic speech, and parents and students and folks who did all the hard work of making the school look so great were there -- teachers and architects, administrators and artists.

Well, it was an unforgettable day! The kids were polite and heart-breakingly beautiful. They had shiny faces and hair and big smiles that made you feel good when they shone their light at you. I remember seeing a little boy in the office hiccuping terrible tears. He wanted to go home; it was his first month at school. I remembered how I cried for three months when I started school, and now here I was with a school named after me! I wondered if one day he would have such an honor. I hope so.

So thank you, students of Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy, for being kind, intelligent, polite, charming, and best of all, pronouncing my name correctly. You were marvelous, especially the two students who made speeches.

I didn't do much but show up, but I was tired by the end of the day anyway. It's exhausting to have a school named after you. Remember this when your turn comes.

I hope to return to my namesake school when the first batch of eight graders graduates, and maybe by then I'll have something wise to say.
The next day I gave a talk at the AARP convention, which was the opposite of the audience at the Cisneros Academy. It too was a lot of fun. I had three AARP staff people following me about to make sure I didn't get lost, and they did everything to make me feel comfortable, even carry my bag. If I had asked them to carry me, I think they would've. They were spectacularly sweet.

The missing poncho.   Photo © 2011 Nely Galan

The missing poncho. 

Photo © 2011 Nely Galan

Finally, on Saturday I read at my friend and fellow MacArturo's book store, Rueben Martinez of Martinez Books in Santa Ana! I ran out of energy before the end of the signing and had to run away because I felt like I was going to faint unless I ate something. I have never had this happen to me before, by the way. And in my haste, I left behind on the couch a beautiful poncho I had just bought and was wearing for the first time, a striped Peruvian wool. Sadly, when I went back to get it, someone had taken it home.

I hope whoever is wearing my poncho will know how much I miss it and will return it to me. No questions asked. Drop it off in a grocery sack at Martinez Books in Santa Ana. Write in marker, "pls mail to Sandra Cisneros." You'll make my day, have wonderful karma, and I'll send you a gift. Do you think you could do that for me?

Well, I am still sad just thinking about it, but today was a wonderful day, and thinking now about the Sandra Cisneros School, well, I have to say I'm still pretty lucky, no? Come what comes, venga lo que venga, I was born, as my father would say, under una estrella.

Gracias a la vida, gracias to all the teachers, families, children and staff at Sandra Cisneros Learning Center. Gracias a Rueben Martinez and the lovely folks in LA who came out to hear me at Martinez Books. Gracias a AARP and the crew.

Friends, it was a tremendous weekend. I listened to stories and told a few, and friends gifted me with their time and kindness. I slept in beds shaped like big loaves of bread, and I ate meals when I was hungry. I was tired, but I was also exhilirated. I was afraid on the LA freeways, but I was glad I wasn't driving. All in all, more good things happened than I could've wished for. For that, I'm grateful.