A grain of life for Mami
While Mami’s rushing around the kitchen, I squirm and squiggle in my booster seat and play Coast Guard with my cereal. I yell out in sailor-kid voice, "Capitán, there's a bunch of adultos drowning in the ocean. What should we do?"
I change back to Capitán voice. "Lower the lifeboats. We've got to rescue them!" I push two floating rings into the middle of my bowl and save everybody. I'm a hero!
Mami says, "What a great imagination you have! You're so cute when you pretend." Really, it's a game any kid can invent, but I love her attention when she’s happy.
But then she changes to Worry Mom and says, "Don't make a big mess, Hijo, 'cause we can't be late and…."
I don't hear all her words because when she’s Worry Mom, it changes my brain. It goes deaf because it's heard it all before. I wish I could finish playing and go to the hero's parade to get my medal for saving the people. Mami would've been proud of me.
She doesn't realize I only play this cereal game when she's around because it makes her smile at me a lot. I miss that. A lot.
I remember when I squeezed out of her womb on my birthday. Mami's face glowed bright like a full moon on a clear black noche. That was the day she first saw me, her new bebé.
And the first time she gave me chichi. Even with my eyes open, I can replay it in my head and see her face crinkle up, cradling me to her soft bosom. It makes me suck my tongue over my lips, how warm and delicious that tasted!
I remember we laughed like locos when I teetered like a baby giraffe, taking my first step. And then I fell--Crash! It was great. I didn't even break my head when she kept saying, "Careful. Careful. Careful," like when a song's stuck in a bad spot.
Those memories make my heart beat fast--which is right here. But all that happened too long ago for Mami to remember. That's 'cause she's always busy with stuff.
That reminds me that I should create another great imaginary world. It might help her remember, maybe. I'm so excited and hit the spoon on the bowl, and all by itself it jumps up and splatters soggy cereal on the ceiling, just like the last time. It sticks there. I know what comes next. Mami gets angry with me.
"Don't play with your cereal like that!" She yells, "Look at the mess you made."
I am looking, and it's great. But her words don't make sense because I didn't do it, the spoon did. No matter what I try, it never jumps up like I think it should. Plus, she's never shown me a better way to do it.
"Think of all the starving children who have no food."
I can't understand that, either. If kids don't have food, then they can't play with it. And how could a child starve, anyway? There's always chichi. Or what--their frig and microwave both broke?
That's how I figure it. But if I tried explaining it to her, the way she gets sometimes, it wouldn't impress her.
Now I try to think of something else in my head, the way I plan my imaginary places. I ask myself, "What if I made a special mundo to help Mami remember how our hearts, our corazones used to connect? Like when I was in her womb. How fantástico would I have to make that mundo?"
Then I let my mind fly in the loco way it loves to take me, to where I use all my senses and feelings for my special powers.
She thinks I'm not doing anything. "Good, you're done. I've to get you ready. You're gonna love your new Easter outfit."
She always expects me to love stuff, but I hardly do. When we've gone to the store, Mami pries my fingers off clothes that cry out to me, "Take me home, put me on." But I never get to pick my clothes; somebody picks them for me. When I get older, I'll pick out and buy and keep my favorite shirts until they rot.
Then she orders me to, "Keep still," like I’m a magician. I hate standing like a big doll because I'm no Barbi. And I've never seen any adulto stand still. It's impossible. Anyway she'll tries clothes on me like I'm a baby. New ones itch my skin, and Mami pulls them on so fast and rough I suffocate, something my body hates. I can never run away, so I fight for air like my body tells me to.
She got me all dressed now, so we head outside and I remember. I'm a Creator.
Mami doesn't know I love something else mountains and montones more than any game. Something that's not a game. Something real.
"Stay in your spot back there and leave the seatbelt alone."
I have to pull at the seatbelt to get out. I'm too far from Mami, alone back here, and I can't see her face. What would I do if there was an accident, and I can't reach her? I hear her voice and see the back of her head, but that's not enough. I need her touch. I thrive near her aura. This far, I can barely feel it.
I'll forever hate the back seat. I hope it doesn't give me another complex, like the one they say I got from Papi hardly ever being around.
I use two gnarled fingernails for the gravel stuck in the seat. I drop one bit of gravel next to another one. I aim them so they won't hit anything else. This is a great game. But it's more than that. I make planets out of sand and dirt and whatever I can find. A Creator like me loves forming new worlds, even if it takes all day.
"Now, what are you doing?"
"Na--da," I answer, using my special voice that usually makes adultos giggle, hoping that talking to people that way won't give them a complex. This time it doesn't work on her. I wipe sweat from my lip. It's always tough coming up with answers Mami can understand.
How do I explain the miraculous things I can do, so she won't interrupt my work? Like one world I made that had a blue moon. The tiny worlds are the most difficult to construct, even for me. Today, nothing's going to stop me. Maybe I'm stubborn, like she is about nagging.
She uses Serious Adults Know Everything Voice. "You should try to appreciate this more, 'specially 'cause I had to take the day off from work."
Sometimes Mami demands mucho mucho. Like expecting me to know what work is--except that it takes her away from me. Or what happens if she misses work, why it's important, how it’s about making money that I have no use for. But especially, why spending a day together is a "sacrifice." I remember when I was worth a sacrifice, the day she screamed a lot in the delivery room.
"Make sure you don't get the Easter outfit Abuela gave you all dirty."
The Creator in me doesn't understand this now, so I can't respond. It makes no sense. Clothes aren't my responsibility. Plus, I can't protect them with my powers. Clothes get dirty, especially new ones on important days. Nobody controls that. I'm just a Creator, not one of those gods that have superpowers.
"How’s Abuela's gonna feel if you ruin them?"
I'm worrying how Mami can't comprehend that someone young as me can't imagine how somebody a hundred years older like Abuela feels about anything. She's almost from another planeta; it's hard enough understanding the dog who's fifteen. What Mami said doesn't bother me. My brain's used to it.
Then I get an idea and in my head I say, "Why not make a new world to pay Mami back for loving and caring for me." Maybe she'll remember how happy we were together. When we were connected.
"Pay attention! We're almost there." Mami assumes I don’t know what's going on or what she just said and she's right, but not for the reason she thinks. I do pay attention. It's just that there's too much wonderful stuff happening for me to keep everything separated.
Here's where the parade will be. The adultos crane their necks or raise their bebés to watch something that's not there. Many my size stare at me, cause I'm the only one lucky enough to sit on the curb. They're looking at my work, in awe, knowing, expecting, hoping.
I don't care about the parade coming because I'm busy. I started a new special world that's approaching a critical stage they call gestation, like I did years ago. Already, rivers of drool flow down my mountains and into grand canyons. But something is missing. I spot some white crumbs someone left on the sidewalk for me and grab them.
She sees me and turns on her Worry Mom voice, sounding like a TV comedy. "I've told you a thousand times--"
As Creator, I never pay attention to whatever words come after "a thousand times." It would endanger my world-building and interfere with my responsibilities. So, my brain tunes it out. Plus, it was only about 345 times. Mami doesn't know my brain approximates better than hers.
"Okay, it's time to stop that. The parade's starting."
Just when she grabs my hand, I drip saliva so its moisture will begin life.
"That's disgusting! Who taught you that?"
I don't answer. No one taught me. I was born knowing how, and whenever I try to make her understand, she can't understand. She might go loca if she knew about all my powers. That's something I wouldn't want to cause.
She tries to drag me, but I dig in my new heels, lean away from her, stretch far back, watching for my fluid to take.
My saliva river stops and soaks in, my world transforms and glistens with growth. It makes me feel new, powerful, big-time.
"Look, here comes the Easter Bunny. We got to get closer or we'll miss it."
When she tugs me, she's usually too quick and strong. But this time, I need a few more seconds to bless my brave new planeta on its birthday. I get my chance when a big man pushes between us, and Mami loses my hand. Like a comet, I shoot away and fall on the concrete. On my elbows, I bequeath my world my own blessing.
Mami lifts me to brush off all my ropa. She glances down. Then she looks again and wrinkles her brow like when she's confused about something.
Like I hoped, mi mundo knows that it's time. Its newborn forests flash green, tiny leaves multiply. A miniature volcán erupts with red flames. Oceans spread and shine with azure waves. In its itty-bitty way, it wants to communicate with Mami.
The ear-hurting marching band passes, the crowd goes, "Ooh!" and "Caramba!" But Mami doesn’t hear. Now she's the one not paying attention.
I see that Worry Mom’s busy changing back into Mami. She holds her breath and shakes her head to break out of a trance. Her face turns angelic and softens, like long ago. She stops flicking at my clothes and lets go of my wrist. She clasps my hands in hers.
For one forever moment, her wide eyes twinkle over what she discovered.
Maybe she remembers what we lost. She clears her throat and whispers, "Please, come with me."
She gently takes my hand, and we stroll behind the crowd
side by side
down the sidewalk.
She’s crying and doesn't realize she's cracking my knuckles. Still, I smile on the outside. Inside I giggle loco because I finally got Mami to understand!
I'm pooped. Tired, not the other one.
Tomorrow, I'll have another chansa to create. This time, more than a planeta. I'll make a whole solar system, with lots of moons. Or, maybe The Creator will try something even more magnífico. A sister might be good. To help me build something special. Like….
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This story was originally published by Antique Children, A Mischievous Literary Arts Journal, in 2009. © Rudy Garcia