Zulma, a true lady. And my friend.Posted: October 14, 2011
One of the loveliest friendships I’ve made in LA has been the one with my cleaner, Zulma.
She’s so much more than a cleaner though. I struggle to remember how we met but I think her cousin was first recommended to me. She was busy and gave me Zulma’s number. ‘Call my cousin,’ she said, ‘She work hard for you’.
A few days later, this feisty vibrant lady turned up on my deck ready for action. She was smiling and happy, and with a sense of confidence and purpose that I’ve rarely seen on any woman, from any walk of life. I liked her immediately.
Zulma is legal and so are her family. I make that clear because she struggled long and hard for that status.
Her husband first came to the States from Guatemala, leaving a pregnant Zulma behind. After their baby was born she had to make a heart-wrenching choice to leave her infant and join him in America.
She thought the risk worth it and two years later was reunited with her child, who had been cared for by her mother. She told me, ‘I had to get to know my own child, and him me. It was very tough but he’s now a good child who works hard at school and stays out of trouble. I’m proud of him.’
You might sneer at her decision but the way she explains this story as a bid for a better life, brought tears to my eyes. Her family are now inseparable, although she hasn’t seen her mother in years. There’s always a trade-off.
‘You pay the price to live in California,’ she said to me today.
No, don’t think you know everything about that women who cleans your house.
Zulma is at business school, learning new skills that will take her far. Because I’m moving house and possibly country, I gave her my computer desk and office chair today. She was thrilled. ‘My husband and son have a desk but I have to balance my laptop on my knees. Now I can work!’
She called her husband, who came to pick it up. I’ve never met him before but he too had a lovely, happy energy. He shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for all that you have done for us.’
Even when I had little money I made sure I could pay Zulma. It was the least I could do for such a generous spirit.
So, no Mr Zulma, it is the other way around. Your wife – this incredible woman, who I have employed for 18 months – has become someone who I trust and care about, and admire greatly.
She is loyal and hard-working, and has brains and ambition. And a big, big heart.
As we waited for her husband to arrive, we talked about how hard life has become, and how things have changed for everyone around the world in the last few years. She told me that the Guatemalan name for money is ‘pisto’.
I mentioned the poor (mostly) Mexicans I see around LA who have to rummage through trash to make their money. All struggles are relative and I don’t know about you but it breaks my heart every time I see them fishing for plastic bottles and cans.
‘We have so much and we are so blessed,’ said Zulma, whose family fights weekly to make ends meet. ‘We must live each day as if it is our first and last.’
Zulma, I am honoured to have met you.
It has been a priviledge to call you my friend.
You better bloody email like you said you would.