Sunday, May 08, 2016
Soñando Nuestra Madre: The Bright Speed of Words and Breath
My sister dreamed of our mother yesterday. The phone rang and it was nuestra mama on the line.
"Were you surprised, surprised it was her in the dream?" I asked.
"No," she said. My sister didn't think it strange at all. She was just so happy to hear mama talking.
As she told me her dream, I was right there with my sister, imagining what it would be like to hear her voice just one more time. My sister said mama was excited and had so much to say. She couldn't remember any details though. It was simply about the cadence of her voice, her easy laughter, the familiar bright speed of words and breath. The breath returned!
Just a couple of weeks before she died, mama had called me. We talked for a good while, and she didn't want to end the conversation. During every quiet moment, she would say, "¿Que mas? ¿Que mas? Cuentame." And I would try to think of something more. I kept seeing her face on the other end of the receiver, insistent, then amused at hearing my stories.
My sister's slip of a dream: how in the telling of it, the three of us (a mother and two daughters) enter into a suspended but present moment. And within that moment, so many other moments intersect. This one: It is the 1960's and there we are in a medical building, inside an examination room. It takes forever for the nurse or pediatrician to come in and see us. Mama doesn't seem to mind when my sister (who might have been 12 at the time) takes the stethoscope to check our heart beats, or deftly manipulates the reflex hammer to test our neurological functions. We whisper in Spanish and try to muffle our laughter in that freezing, white walled room. I marvel at the way I can see Mama's breath when she laughs.
My sister was with her when she died. I arrived after--the three of us together one last time. This one: I trace the cool, but still soft contours of her lips with my fingers.