A Mother’s Hug

The vaccine rollout in Mexico has been terribly slow. Only 12.7 million people out of a population of 126 million have received at least one dose. I am incredibly grateful that my mother was lucky enough to get fully vaccinated.

La Jechu received both of her Pfizer shots at a well-run vaccination center set up near her apartment in Mexico City. By sheer chance, I got my Moderna jabs in Miami almost at the same time. Soon we’d be able to meet in person. The video calls that had kept us emotionally afloat for so long would at last be a thing of the past.

An old university friend who was unable to hug his mom before she died of Covid-19 emailed me with a simple piece of advice: Just hug her. A lot.

That was precisely my plan.

I took a coronavirus test in Miami one day before my scheduled flight and an antigen test on arriving in Mexico City, a few hours before visiting her. Both tests were negative. I went to an empty restaurant to eat tacos al pastor (spit-grilled pork tacos) and drink agua de jamaica (hibiscus water) — speaking of important rituals! — and then I rushed back to my hotel to take a shower. I wanted to be as spanking clean as I was when I was a small boy. I even scrubbed under my nails.

On my way to my mother’s place, I felt the nerves creeping up on me, almost as if I was heading out for a first date. With two face masks on, one of them an N95, I took the elevator up to her apartment. Then I rang the doorbell. A soft figure, even shorter than I had pictured, opened the door. I saw her eyes open wide. We stared at each other, completely frozen. Before I touched her, I asked if she could put on a mask. She took a few steps back, grabbed a cute face mask with a Mexican pattern — green, white and red — and laboriously put it on.

Then, at last, I hugged her. For a long time. Neither of us wanted to let go. I knew I had gotten home in time. I felt her body nearly trembling. She wrapped her arms around my neck and said behind my ear, “Ay, mi niño.” Then I broke into tears.

Jorge Ramos (@jorgeramosnews) is an anchor for the Univision network and a writer. His most recent book is “Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.”

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