Maite was already up and sitting at the kitchen table, getting an early start on her next homework assignment, when she heard the door to the living room open, her ama entering the room. “Egun on,” said Maite as she looked up from the notebook and equations in front of her.
“Egon on, Maite,” replied her mother as she made her way past the couch and TV stand and into the kitchen. As she opened a cupboard to pull out a saucepan and a small French press, she gave a small shake of her head. “You work too hard.”
Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!
Maite smiled. “No harder than you and aita did.”
Her ama sighed. “And look at us now, old and frail. This isn’t the life we wanted for you.”
Maite put her pencil down and stood up. Taking her mother’s hands in her own, she looked into the face that had always been there to comfort her when she was sick, to listen to her stories about the boy down the road, to fly with her in her dreams. “You gave me the best gift any parents ever could, opportunity. Because you worked so hard and sacrificed so much, I now have the chance to follow my own dreams, to follow my own heart, to be the best I can be. If I work hard, it is out of choice, not out of necessity. And I have that choice because of you and aita.”
She watched as a tear trickled down her ama’s cheek. Her ama pulled her into a big hug. “Maite zaitut, Maite.”
“Nik ere maite zaitut,” replied Maite.
Her ama, her cheeks wet with tears, broke the embrace and smiled at her daughter. “At least, let me make you some coffee and breakfast while you work.”
Maite smiled as her ama turned toward the stove and she returned to her notebook. But, instead of on her homework, her mind focused on the swirling whisk in the saucepan as her ama heated the milk. She felt like a little girl again, watching her ama in the kitchen of the bar where she had seemingly prepared a million different dishes at the same time, juggling pots and pans, glasses and dishes, as she had readied for the day’s patrons. Her parents had never had a lot of free time to play, to spend with her, to do all of the things she saw her friends doing with their parents, but she had always known that everything they did they had done for her. And she loved them for it.
Maite turned back to her homework, sighing, and smiling, as she took pencil to paper and continued working on solving the equation for temperature.