Margarita Wednesdays: Making a New Life by the Mexican Sea
Deborah Rodriguez closes the pages of this story telling how she was forced out of Afghanistan in the spring of 2007 and came to a new life in Mexico with these words: It’s a long story. MARGARITA WEDNESDAYS begins with the dangerous departure from Kabul with one of her sons and takes her to sunny California for months of sitting and waiting for the healing to begin. It does not happen. She wants to be home, but is not sure where home is.
Rodriguez searches and is encouraged to seek help. However, her disdain for professional therapy is heightened when, after paying an exorbitant fee and waiting too long for the session, her therapist says she has some homework for the next time: “I want you to go into the fields at night and sit with the glowworms.” You can hear the sneer, and the ridiculousness of this homework is mentioned again and again. Glowworms? A friend she makes in Mexico will help save her and restore her to a place of self and worth. That friend is a trained therapist, but the friendship and the culture of spirituality are the important catalysts, not glowworms.
Rodriguez’s first nonfiction book, KABUL BEAUTY SCHOOL, describes the adventure and success she found in establishing a beauty school and changing women’s lives in Kabul. This second memoir moves forward several years, taking Rodriguez on another kind of quest.
"Threads of Rodriguez’s life continue to weave new colors and patterns as she settles into life with her sons, her grandchildren, and her friends. She ends this memoir with an upbeat, positive look at the future and what she has to offer the women of Mazatlán."
The search for the old Debbie (or, perhaps, a better, newer model) begins as she spends months in unsettled, jumpy moods, alternating between blurting out her whole history and keeping absolutely silent about her past. She becomes enamored with Mexico while listening to a gardener tell of his family there, and she takes a Mexican cruise with her then-boyfriend in a half-hearted attempt to salvage their relationship. From others on the boat, she learns about a small village, Mazatlán, and is fascinated with the culture, the unknown and the possibilities of change. She then learns that one of the main roads in Mazatlán is called Carnaval Street. She is hooked: Carnaval Street has promise.
After she and her boyfriend break up (actually, her boyfriend’s mother breaks it to Rodriguez that the love affair is over), she takes another chance and buys a house on Carnaval Street. The details follow her moving, decorating, meeting neighbors, and making choices in a nation where she does not speak the language. The humorous moments over the next few months are laced with a real and imagined “you-had-to-be-there” mentality, but they fall short more often than not.
Her insights into the ex-pat Mexican community, however, ring true. Americans move their lives to this country where stretching a dollar is feasible, and they embrace the ancient cultures and customs and learn a new lifestyle. Conversational exchanges among them focus on the here and now, and Rodriguez realizes that “for all of them, dwelling on or even talking about their pasts was a waste of time.” She finds comfort in the new friends who invite her to join them, sharing margaritas and gossip and wearing a swimsuit in the warm magic of the blue waters. She feels that no matter their differences, they all shared a huge, undeniable fact: something peculiar inside had drawn them all to this odd little city by the sea.
Months after moving to Mexico and meeting a brave new world of hopes and failures, Rodriguez opens Tippy Toes salon and spa in Mazatlán. She discovers that preparing young women to hold jobs and become responsible for themselves will help her. She sometimes wishes she had not heard their stories or seen their limited lives, because once she did, she knew she had to act. “The minute you open your eyes and really see something, there is no turning back.” She does not disappoint.
Threads of Rodriguez’s life continue to weave new colors and patterns as she settles into life with her sons, her grandchildren, and her friends. She ends this memoir with an upbeat, positive look at the future and what she has to offer the women of Mazatlán.
A final comment about MARGARITA WEDNESDAYS: Read the ending first. It doesn’t matter that you don't know the “I”, the family members, or the sense of release she describes. It doesn’t matter that you don't know why she has traveled to or settled in Matzalán. Instead, read Chapter 19 and believe in beauty and growth during the celebrations of the Day of the Dead as she creates an altar for her father, a man she thought she knew but realizes she did not. Her description of the cemetery and “renovated” graves, her respect for her family and herself, her understanding that the veil is thin between worlds will reveal a Debbie Rodriguez you will want to know. Then turn back to page one and find her.
Reviewed by Jane Krebs on June 13, 2014