Margaret O'Donnell 2011©
Eugenio and Marta married in their small Salvadorian town when she was 15 and he was 17. They had five children in the first six years of marriage while they lived with Eugenio’s widowed mother. Eugenio supported them all with his shoemaking; he went, as his father had, from house to house to repair shoes and leather bags. He could make dirty broken shoes look almost new again. But by then, in the early 1990’s, it was nearly cheaper to just buy new shoes; they were cheap and fell apart quickly, but couldn’t be fixed easily. Soon, the shoe repair trade crumbled. Eugenio decided to come to the US, alone, find work, send money home and save enough to buy a house and send for the entire family.
He did this; all of it. He made it over the border and got two full time dishwashing jobs in Seattle, where he rented a room from a Salvadorian Family from his home town. He sent enough money home by his third month in the US to support his family. He saved and bought a house. He sent for his family. Trouble is: they didn’t want to come. It took him too long. Nearly 17 years, all told. Eugenio is a perfectionist. He saved $50,000 for the down payment on a 4-bedroom house in Tukwila. Then he saved for the money to bring his family. He didn’t believe in making promises he might not be able to keep, so he didn’t talk about when he would bring them. He wanted to surprise them all. After he bought the house, he felt he had a big lovely gift to give them, when everything was ready.
When that time came, he made the call: come now. But, the family had grown and settled. His wife had found another man, a young man, and already had two children with him. His youngest child was 18 and had moved to the capital to find work. The rest had children, partners, and spouses.
Eugenio…well, he goes on, saving money. He still works two jobs; says he’s bored if he doesn’t. He sends money to his mother and his children, but cut off his wife after he learned he was supporting her boyfriend and her new children. He says he’s not bitter, but he wishes it had been different. He’ll be a citizen in the US soon. Maybe, he says, he’ll see if his mother will come to live with him in Tukwila. He’s ready for some company.