Esperanza's mom has all sorts of skills: opera-singing skills, cooking skills, language skills. But there's a lot that she never learned how to do, or never got to experience.
Today Esperanza's mama is singing along to Madame Butterfly while she cooks oatmeal. In the opera, Madame Butterfly kills herself when she's abandoned by her husband. Esperanza's mom says, "That Madame Butterfly was a fool" (36.3).
Esperanza's mom confesses that she quit school when she was young because she didn't have nice clothes. She berates herself for having let shame in her appearance stop her from getting an education.