“The boy can operate an iPhone, but he doesn’t know his ABCs!” exclaimed the boy’s uncle, who was sprawled out on the sofa watching a Mexican club soccer game and now on his third beer.
“Sobrino! Sobrino! Come over here, tell me the ABCs.”
The boy obliged, making his way over from the kitchen, where he was picking at a dish of Canela Bunuelos that hadn’t been set out for the relatives yet.
“Okay tio, ready? Here I go. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, O, L, M, N, O, T — …”
Before the youngster could finish, the living room erupted in raucous laughter.
His abuelo, his tias, his tio, even his mother and father. The boy smiled. He didn’t mind. His parents never laughed like this when they were just the three of them. The truth was his dad was rarely around these days — ever since he picked up a third job as a cook at a family-owned burrito shop 40 minutes from their apartment.
“Hijo, aren’t they teaching you anything at that school?” announced his father from where he sat next to his brother on the couch.
He didn’t know what to say to this; he recognized it as one of those questions adults asked but didn’t actually want answered.
“It’s okay, my son, I love you anyway,” said the man, before entering into a conversation with his father and brother about the dire state of the Mexican national soccer team.
The boy now saw his mother motioning for him to come over to where she was at the far end of the room.
“Ven aqui, hijo,” she instructed, her expression evolved from joyful to concerned now.
The boy did as he was told. When he reached her, the woman’s expression softened, and she put an arm around his shoulder, bringing him into the kitchen that way.
“Are you listening to your teacher at school?” she asked, taking his head in her hands and holding him close so that he could smell the Dos Equis on her breath.
“Then how come you don’t know your ABCs?”
“I do, but I lie that I don’t because it makes you all so happy,” answered the boy.
At this, his mother began to cry softly.
“Mama, why are you crying?” the boy asked.
“You’re too sweet for this world, mi amor.”