On this side of the curtain
For the past three weeks my home has been a hospital bed in a room shut off by a blue-green curtain from the other rooms in the surgical ward. All day and through the night noises, sounds, voices penetrate and illuminate my imagination. Who’s flirting with the nurses? Why the sudden silence? Did the helicopter that landed earlier bring in the new admit?
Somewhere out there, a family gathers in one of the rooms. Laughter and desultory chatter begins to separate into meaningfulness. Someone’s daughter is going to start college to become a teacher. Someone’s daughter is starting second grade next month. A palm slaps a thigh and voices explode with laughter.
In a few moments, a quiet melody rises and silences the chatter. Paired voices softly singing. The voices carry the natural harmony of brothers speaking in the same voice yet their own. They sing “Las mañanitas” with a practiced lilt that has developed over years of serenades for an abuelo or a mother’s birthday. Tonight the voices blend with notes of sad farewell and bound together with love reserved for an elder.
Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a tí,
Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.
I can see them sharing a chair, arms around each other, neither vying for the lead but flowing sweetly from el mero Corazon. This is what familia sounds like. This is what love sounds like.
Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,
El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.
When the lyric ends they segue easily into English, the soft even vowels of Spanish giving the words a special tenderness that reflects this familia’s straddling of two worlds.
Happy birthday to you , Happy birthday to you, appy birthday mi vida, happy birthday to you.
I fall into contented deep sleep. The moment of pure beauty a reminder of many things, foremost the privilege of living in a bicultural world where we sing from our hearts not divided but united in our shared languages.
A Chicano Reporter Gets His Feet Wet
La Bloga friend and journalist extraordinaire, Ron Arias, sends a link to his story relating how a young Chicano writer fumbles to get started. It's Buenos Aires in the 60s and part of a collection--My Life As A Pencil. Red Bird Chapbooks will publish a selection early next year.
From the link:
About that time I also started my first full-time job as a reporter, working at the Buenos Aires Herald, which is where I learned to turn life into stories on a daily basis. But at first it was physically very painful.
Staffed mostly by journalists from the U.K., the Herald was the country's only English-language daily. On one of my first assignments, I hit the ground running, then falling, then running again. I'd been sent to cover a military coup in the streets but because a tank blocked my way and a cloud of tear-gas swept over me, my watery, stinging eyes lost focus and I kept tripping. Military takeovers, I later learned, were then almost a monthly occurrence and usually covered by the youngest legs on staff.