My husband is from the highlands of Central Mexico. He grew up in a large family with busy, loving, subsistence farmer parents who tilled the dusty fields between agave and prickly pear cactus, planting corn and forage with a horse and plow, and hand tending the fields of bounty that they would save through the winter. His home growing up started as a dirt floor, one room home cinder block dwelling that was gradually built up to its current modest two-story, three bedroom block home with a new kitchen and appliances. The three roads in his tiny town were only recently paved. Yet he had freedom to roam, and friendly waves from the people of the town. He went to church and school, went to parties that hosted the entire town, and ate meals lovingly prepared by a mom who knew how to make something out of nothing. He helped his father and developed a strong sense of responsibility.
All that to say, my husband grew up poor in wealth, but rich in the things that matter.
Fast forward to the 80s. He immigrated to the U.S., where he worked hard, developed a stellar reputation, and earned a good position in a local company as a warehouse manager, showing skills and ambition that would dismiss anyone who thinks social status is static and that growing up poor relegates you to a dismal existence. We married and had a family. It became harder and harder to make trips to visit his parents between kids and school and work schedules, so we began the process to get them into the U.S. for a visit.
My in-laws got their visas in the 90s and were finally able to come visit us. As we took them on trips and showed them the sights, my father-in-law would repeat the phrase, “a todo lujo.” Well, my Spanish isn’t the greatest, and I misinterpreted that as ‘todo al ojo,’ and assumed it meant there was so much to see. I finally looked it up. It means posh, deluxe, luxurious. Towns with overflowing hanging baskets adorning lamp posts – a todo lujo. Entering a restaurant with a fountain – a todo lujo. Everywhere we went, there was something that piqued his interest, and he always noticed the details. Things I just took for granted were newly seen through the eyes of a weathered farmer, and I understood just how lucky I was to live in a place where we could focus on making small areas of our lives a todo lujo.
It makes me realize that a large part of the world doesn’t need gilded chairs or their names in great gold letters on the front of skyscrapers to feel the touch of luxury. Some flowers, conspicuously placed, a fountain, fresh paint, clean things, new things, all add to the feeling of luxury.
It’s all about perspective.
My father-in-law recently passed away, but he was always thrilled to explore and see the world, and he never forgot anything. My mother-in-law continues to make the trip back and forth on her own. She is in her 80s.