Saturday, November 10, 2012

sinking under

It is as if the weight of everything is piling up on top of me, the weight of all of it pulling me down to the bottom.  I struggle to push my way to the surface for air but when I do more weight is added to me and I sink further below. I try to remember the good things, the people and ideas of this world that I find pleasure in, I love yet it does not free me of the burdens of each relationship. I feel pulled in many different directions. My list gets even longer, more things are added daily. I cannot keep up with everything that needs to get done or should be getting done. I sink deeper, deeper and there is no light where I am going. “It will work out,” people say, I know better than to trust that logic because nothing ever works out. Things don’t get better, they just get different. Things just seem to get worse or at least to become more complicated. My body fails me; it is unable to keep up with everything going on around me. There was a time when there was a purpose, a plan, a life raft, and a destination. There was a time when the present did not overtake my joy and yet here I am today and I find no joy; there is no plan, no destination and I am drowning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Green Chili

         She stood in the kitchen, a long brown braid going down her back and her hands were busy. She sniffed and began to make very subtle noises, trying not to bring attention to herself. She often did not want to bring attention to herself. She hid herself off from all of us at times because she talked to God, and, I think, because having five children made her anxious and she sought peace and quiet. She shifted her weight from one side to another and grabbed a paring knife laying next to her, she chopped an onion into the smallest pieces I had ever seen. And the noises continued. "Mama are you o.k?" I asked and joined her at the counter at which point my entire face became red and my eyes started to burn. "I'm o.k" she said, "Just making green chili for your daddy." She continued to peel the skin off chilies (we never called them peppers) and placed them in a small bowl along with the already skinned onions and tomatillos: which always made me laugh because I wondered, What would a green tomato taste like? I would never know because Mama only used them in the green chili she made for Daddy. "Mama why do you make chili when it hurts your eyes and skin so much? Can't daddy just not have chili sauce?" She smiled, "Yes Daddy could have no chili sauce for his eggs but he misses his family, his home. This chili sauce is a small piece of home that I can give to him. No stores in town have chili sauce like your Grandmother's recipe and there are no tortillas or cheeses he can have from home." (think 1977) I thought about what she had said and it was so true. My Daddy had brought home some tortillas once from a store about 45 miles away from our house. He drove a long time after his shift in the subway tunnels to get them and was so excited. Mama had made beans, rice and chili sauce. We all sat down to the table. Daddy took the first bite and it tasted like cardboard. My family ate plates of beans and rice without tortillas and Daddy and my big brother's put the green chili on everything. Mama had wished she had spent the day making Grandmother's white flour tortillas. Daddy said we should have some soon and everything she made tasted delicious.
            Mama continued to work on the chili sauce, big tears dripping down her face and her hands bright red from the acid from chilies. I got a tissue and came to wipe her face for her knowing that if her hands came anywhere near her face that things would go from bad to worse. "What is that thing called, Mama?" I pointed to the stone thing Mama was putting the chilies in. "This is called a stone grinder" said Mama. "A long time ago, when I first was married to your Father, your Grandmother tried to teach me to cook." said Mama and she giggled. My Grandmother spoke no English other than "hello" and "yes". "Your Grandmother would talk and talk and use her hands trying to explain to me how to cook these dishes. I was patient and tried to understand her, but couldn't. As time went on I stopped listening and started writing things down and watching what she did and I learned a lot and became a good cook. Your Grandfather was watching the whole time and told your Daddy that after his next trip to Mexico he was going to bring me something special. When he returned he brought with him the stone grinder and your Grandmother taught me to make the green chili, which was your Daddy's favorite." I listened as my Mother spoke about the grinder and my Grandparents, who I had never met. My Mother shared with me that afternoon that her own family had turned her away and wanted nothing to do with her. My Father's family had welcomed her as one of their own even though she was not Hispanic. In the 1950's, when they got married, people from different places did not marry each-other. In the 1950's there were not a lot of Mexicans in the country and people did not treat them nicely. She was touched by the love they had shown her.
        Mama cleaned up the chili and washed her hands a few times. I told her that tonight I was going to taste the chili and she said that is was too hot for me. (which it was, making me cry)
        Many years later my Mother was sick with cancer. She was asking each of us what things we wanted of hers. I told her that I wanted the stone grinder and a notebook of her's. "Why would you want that thing?" said Mama. "I just do Mama, it reminds me of you." I said. The grinder reminded me of all the sacrifices she made for her family, putting each one of us first, going through painful things in order to make us happy. The grinder was a sign of her love for her husband and of her children. The stone grinder sits in my kitchen today. I don't have to make green chili, I can walk into any supermarket and buy all kinds of chili sauce. Oh how times have changed.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I am a motherless daughter. Now read that sentence again. I am a motherless daughter. The sentence seems to contradict itself. It is like it could not happen, how could a child exist without the mother. I know I could not exist without my beautiful daughters, I would have no will to continue without them. Not a day goes by where I don't think of my Mom. I only need to look down on my hands and I see her hands, my feet are her feet. Even the face that looks at me in the mirror is a shadow of her face. My voice the way it is raspy at times it echos her voice. My body is shaped after the one who made me.
To say my Mother was my best friend is an understatement. She was Mother, friend, confidant, counselor, and spiritual guide. She was always willing to listen and only gave advice when asked to. She never judged, always forgave and was forever loving the children God had given her no matter how much we often times did not deserve it. Now I am left without my compass, without the one person who I could depend on. (besides my husband) She was a gentle guiding force within my life and within our family.
So many times things have happened and my first instinct is to call her and ask for her thoughts on the issue. I stop myself and have to remember that she is no longer there. Is it wrong to ask God to tell her things? To hold her and tell her I love her? Sometimes when I pray I ask him to speak to her and I feel guilty about it, don't know why I feel that way but I do.
I am finding my way, an orphan wandering through life without a map, without a compass. I often think things would be different if she was healthy and alive but I stop myself from selfish thoughts and remember that she was not healthy for a very long time. Her last few months were so painful and she was so tired of fighting her disease. She remained a fighter for as long as she could but it must have been incredibly hard for her. I know she fought so hard because she didn't want to leave her children, her family. In the end it was me who told her it was okay to go when Jesus came for her, those were some of the hardest words I have ever spoken in my life. When she heard those words it woke her from a medically induced sedation and she looked deep into my eyes, her eyes grew soft and she squeezed my hand. My last hug from her was that hand squeeze.