My mother would have loved this. Every year, when I’d visit for Christmas, Mom would drag me to Bingo at the local smoke-filled hall. Gleefully she’d buy a passel of bingo cards and press a packet upon me. I’d tape my eight or ten cards to the carved and chipped wooden table while she spread her thirty or more before hitting the refreshment stand to fill up on greasy fried food and oversweet deserts. The moment the caller began announcing numbers, she was in another world – daubbing the called numbers with her colored marker, holding her finger over a number she needed as if to wish it called. I’d be woefully behind, unable to keep up despite having a paltry handful of cards. Somehow, Mom always managed to keep an eye on my cards as well and alert me if I missed a number.
Last night I happened upon a gathering of women in the central square in La Paz, Mexico. It was the announcer who first caught my attention – from the flow it sounded like he was calling Bingo numbers, except that he was calling out names of items. “El corona” – the crown. El arbol” – the tree. “Las caras” – the faces. I sneaked closer for a better view. A hundred or so women were gathered under the soft yellow lights to play “el loteria” – the lottery. Instead of numbers, the multi-colored cards held pictures of items. Intently, the players covered called items with bright pieces of polished glass or large corn kernels, hoping to be the lucky soul who covered every item first.
Mom won at Bingo occasionally, although never when I came along for the ride, and I sometimes wondered if I was bad luck for her, since I never won. Frankly, I never much liked Bingo, but I went because I’d do anything to spend more time with Mom. But standing there last night, I thought about my mother and suddenly knew she was there with me. I miss her so.