When I returned to California from my field study in Mexico, my interest in Spanish intensified.
Each nuance binds me to those in Mexico, but despite my connection to them through language, I remain an island.
Language was the heart and soul of the world I knew as an infant, as my mother would put me to sleep with lullabies in Spanish, the only ones she knew, until Ms. Jaye in the daycare center would draw me near to her and call me the girl with the rosy cheeks, telling me how sweet I was. It was language—whether in English or Spanish, whether from a teacher or my mother—that rooted my understanding of the crucial identity of speaking two tongues.
I wonder if she longs for all those in Mexico who remain tethered to her family tree—nieces, nephews, their children and grandchildren. She has no children of her own and reveres me as her closest descendent, the closest twig on the branch of her right arm. She doesn’t own a cell phone, nor does she own a computer to maintain contact with the extended world.
Christmas cards only tell people how we want our recipients to perceive our entire year. We put our most shining moments on the stage, moments that like vapor appear for a little time and then vanish.
I can’t recall exactly how old I was when I started to question who my father was, if I had one, or where he was. I remember Father’s Day projects at the day care center in which I would construct greeting cards to no one in particular, make believe sentiments that were conjured up for a moment of craft time and then tossed into oblivion.
Soon you’ll be vacuuming the eraser residue off the carpet, underneath the table where the children write in their workbooks. And you’ll call that little moment a victory. In all your toil, in all the nesting manias that will occur to you at any given moment, vacuuming eraser crumbs will signal reassurance to you.
Four years ago I found out about something that happened to me. On my way to work, I had listened to a podcast in my car that immediately thawed one of my frozen memories. At once I had my eyes forced open to the undeniable past. I was unearthing a secret that I had forgotten for decades. Bit by bit it returned with fierce power and stunning revelation.
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