Posted by: alegra22 | May 7, 2011


painting by Shirley Reade

A bee hovers in front of me, its fat belly swelling so that I can see each of its hairs defined. Its wings saw through the air. The heat presses down, it rises up through chipped bark bringing with it the faint smell of urine, tire rubber, bubblegum wrappers and child sweat. I stand on a tire swing, my fingers gripping the ropes holding it, my toes curling along the inner edge. I believe that the bee is angry at me and that it plans to attack. I can already feel the burn of its sting, how it will spread down through my skin, invade my muscles, and destroy my day. I will fear the playground forever.

And then I hear it: rescue. My mother’s voice calling my name and the sound of the playground gate opening and closing behind her. The bee, distracted,  buzzes and bobs away, navigating the thick air. I jump down from the tire swing and dive beneath my mother’s skirt. I remember it as a thin denim. I remember the shadows, the familiarity of her knees and calves and how I believed they belonged to me. I hung out in the shade of her protection until I grew impatient with her talking and then I peeked out from beneath her skirt and announced to my teacher and surrounding friends, “My mama isn’t wearing any underwear!”

She laughed and scolded me, shooing me out from beneath her sanctuary. She wore a scarf tied around her head, her long brown hair hung over her breasts. She was the most beautiful woman in the world.

These things I know are true: the bee, the tire swing, the announcement. The rest, like all of my memories, are whispers of the truth that overlap and blend and become something new.

Lately, I have been gathering  memories of my mother and hanging them in quiet corners of my mind. Many of them are torn, their images faded, their details missing, so I improvise, teasing out the strongest impressions: tiny doll clothes hand-sewn, an artbook resting on a shelf made of planks and bricks, the taste of warm milk as she read to me, eating Red Vines while we watched The Lost Boys for the second time in a row at a theatre in San Francisco, the click of mechanical pencils and cloth-covered journals she bought me, the garden we planted in widening circles, a cactus holding court in its center.

There are other memories that exist in rooms with blown open windows, panes shattered, their sharp edges dark with stains of old blood. I close and lock the doors to these rooms one by one and hide the keys from myself, knowing this is the kindest thing I can do, the fiercest way I can preserve my love.

Tonight we celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday. After dinner and dancing, Dan and I came home, sweat drying on our skin, our muscles tired, our fingers interlocked. Joaquin was sitting in his Koro’s lap, the blue light of the television washing over him. He heard my voice and cried out. I crouched and he came running, throwing his arms around my neck, flattening his belly against my chest, pressing his cheek into my shoulder. I rocked with him, realizing that on this Mother’s Day, after six years of parenthood and four children, I actually feel like a mother. A real mother. A good one. A loved one.

 Joaquin began to strum his lips, I could hear the smile in the sounds he was making. As I held him, I thought of that fourth child, the one we never got to meet. We named the baby Isobel even though at twelve weeks, we didn’t know the sex. I thought of her small body being carried away from us, how I couldn’t let myself think too long on what it meant – my inability to protect her tiny heart and hands.

I pass Joaquin to Dan as he walks into the room with a bottle of milk. Zaviera calls out in her sleep. There is a wet patch on my shirt where Joaquin pressed his mouth, a warmth along my ribs where he buried his small fists between his belly and mine.

Every day I am anointed by the scent, spit, heat, bruises, fatigue, and love of my children. In this sixth year, I understand that every worthy act in my life arises from this sacred ground. Every night I go to sleep and pray that I am hanging vivid memories in brightly lit spaces of my children’s hearts.



  1. Beautiful. You said it all.

    • Thank you, Deborah

  2. love this sis it is beautiful.

    • Love you hermana, thanks for reading xx

  3. your writing whispers right to the soul of things. beautiful.

    • Sarah – I’m holding this one to my chest!
      thank you, truly

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