Friday, April 13, 2007

Comadre Highway

Manuel Ramos offered me this guest spot on La Bloga that I gratefully and humbly accept. I’m a practicing middle school teacher for over a quarter of a century, not that I’m counting. A tremendous amount of joy comes from being the mother of two incredible daughters. I’m still living in my hometown and blessed to live close to my parents and extended family. My husband, a long standing activist, makes life interesting and humorous. I love and adore my man but women have a way of nurturing each other like no other. The following short story is an attempt to reflect the uncomplicated enduring relationships among comadres.

Linda Arroyo-Holmstrom

“Sofia, will you smudge us with the sage bundle while I start the prayer.”

We all gathered around my diminutive version of La Virgen de Guadalupe, who answers to many names. We offered our rose tinted prayers to our miraculous brown queen; understanding mother with gentle hands cupped in prayer. “Madrecita, it’s me again, Marisol, we ask for your blessing. The “Girls” are getting together, again, for one more road trip. Please, bless our desire to be ourselves, even if it is only for a week. Grant us the freedom to go on strike, guilt free, from our duties as mother, wives, and daughters and anything else I left out. We’ll drive safe, eat well, and say our prayers along the way. Okay, Madrecita?”

“Bless our trip,” implored Pinkie and Angela.

Sofia proceeded to smudge the car and made sure she had another sage bundle for the journey home. We were cleansed and blessed and ready to ride. With the sign of the cross and a kiss, La Virgencita was returned to her prominent spot, hanging from the rear view mirror in all her luminescent glory. We gave thanks and started our familiar journey from northern Colorado, to the Southwest, to the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

First stop agreed upon was breakfast at Las Delicia’s, the best Mexican restaurant, in town. Keeping the Martinez sisters well fed always made the trip much more pleasant. The quick service delivered an aromatic bowl of menudo with pig’s feet and eggs a la Mexicana with a side of sopapillas to go. Tradition savored, bien contentas, we took our leave.

We weren’t even in the parking lot when the discussion started about which route we should take. Angela, the co-pilot, was consulted and recommended the mountains. The San Luis “Valley” girl’s countless trips home settled the decision. It meant a longer get-out-of-town southern route but a much more scenic drive through the Rockies.

Carving through the north Denver residential area reminded me of two dreaded words, “Garage Sale”. It was Saturday morning, the beginning of the trip with money to burn. We stopped at one giant moving sale. I passed another, hoping they hadn’t noticed. My excuse for not stopping was the signs weren’t visible until it was too late. I can’t understand why three grown women would want to spend their vacation looking at junk. My second hand shopping comadres demanded a stop at the flea market or else, si no, me van a matar.

“STOP!” they screamed in unison. I hit the brakes so fast the sopapillas went flying and hit Angela right upside the head.

“Hey, you want honey with that?” I giggled.

“Damn you Marisol! Oh never mind, cabrona, I’ve got some compras waiting for me.”

These ladies startled me with their voracious, hyena-like appetite for the good deal. Don’t get in their way they can be vicious, especially if you’re eyeing the same chingadera. I kept my distance preferring to save my money for the powwow vendors.

My limited patience was dwindling when I spotted La Muerte, all bony and hollowed eyed. He had that Grateful Dead look, propped up on one elbow, sprawled out and making a “scene”. His groovy stationary pose was alluring. How often do you come across an inviting plastic glow in the dark Muerte? It was a sign, a wink. Were my ancestors playing a joke on me or was it that mischievous jokester acting on his own?

I asked the old man, “How much?”

“Ten cents.”

“I’ll take it.” I tucked the lipstick sized mystical character into my pocket.

The girls were happy with their deals and I was annoyed strapping the rusted antique lamp on top of MY car. I had to rearrange the two end tables they bought at the first garage sale near the gas station, even before we were on the road. They all yelled don’t be so grumpy. Yeah, whatever, I just wanted to get back on the rode and get to our destination. The 13-hour trip, which should take six, had us getting into the Jicarilla Nation around midnight. Our waiting friends have given up on us and are snoring and into their second dream.

The Jeep's ample space in back accommodated the additional buys. They were sorting out their deals when Irma meekly asked what I bought. I pulled out La Muerte and mentioned he glowed in the dark.

“Who we going to see next, the Cu-Cui?” Sofia smirked.

“Or La Lloooooorona.” Angela mimicked the suffering woman’s desperate lament.

“Please, you’re giving me the creeps,” shivered Pinkie.

I propped my man right on the dash as if he was part of the crew. He was chilling and coming along for the ride. He was the fly on the wall that all our husbands wished they could be.

The stops were frequent; the girls piled out smelling like pumpkinseeds and Butter Babies, the sweet alcoholic drink reminded me of butterscotch candies wrapped in yellow cellophane. Every girl needs snacks for the road; of course Pinkie and Sofia ate them all before you even got to taste one. Oh well, that’s why I’m so slim and they’re NOT.

I would have preferred La Flaca, but no, Running Water became my nickname. They considered calling me “First in line” until I understood the reference to the restroom. At least it wasn’t “Girl Who Gets Them to do Anything”. Angela had a knack of cohersing, encouraging, or manipulating any situation. She wouldn’t spend a penny at the bars but had plenty of drinks and admirers. We could be going 70 miles per hours and the hard working crew would respond to her honk with a wink and a wave.

Pinkie’s yearning for the sweet smell of wild flowers took us off the beaten track. Late afternoon was perfect for picking osha in Mt. Albert’s shadow. The woody plant’s roots would serve for next winter’s cold season remedy. Her poppa’s health was always on her mind and in her prayers. Sofia’s ceremonial approach to picking sage was out of respect. She reverently asked permission and delicately snapped each sprig.

Day's end was approaching and the spectacular view of the Valle de San Luis was of the Sangre de Cristo range immersed in crimson twilight. Renamed by the Espanoles but utilized and cherished by our indigenous ancestors the majestic natural monument was a reminder of our blood blend, of our Chicanisma. Que chingona somos!

The tunes were up and the ladies were feeling good. The full moon illuminated the countryside in a surreal way. It wasn’t like the Barrio moon; this was in the heart of Aztlan, the backlit clouds fringed in light drifted across the moon’s face. The effect was eerily beautiful and stirred Angela’s senses. She’d already finished the Butterbabies and was into the bottle of Tec. Tequila is on a whole different dimension, primal, unpredictable.


There she goes. Ah damn, she can get us to do anything! The chorus of howls rolled into laughter, resonating deeply, shifting earth and La Muerte. The indigenous sister’s influence had done it before. We had brought the rains two summers ago to these parched enchanted lands. Everywhere we went our friends commented how we had brought the long awaited rains. Last year it was the fires. First the lightening flash on the Sangre de Cristos and then on the Res, we awoke with our senses filled with pinon smoke and flames.

We looked at each other in wonderment and pulled over. Earth Mother’s pulse was palpable. La Muerte awoke to the rhythm and slipped away unnoticed. The angelic look on Irma’s face made me bust out. “Damn ladies, did you feel that?” Sofia was shrouded in her deep turquoise shawl as she looked in wonder. Pinkie’s golden eyes lifted she pointed, the delicate sparks glided through the air . . .

“Did you see that? Look, over there, near the mesa. What is it?’

A faint voice played in the distance. “Thanks for the ride, ladies,” the clacking of bones, punctuated by his laughter, urged the clouds to part. Moonlight emerged and graced us with the timeless feminine appeal of sisterhood. We embraced, and danced to the melody of friendship.


msedano said...

Linda: bienvenida and not only that, welcome, to La Bloga! I enjoyed reading your story. I'm looking forward to seeing more.


Lisa Alvarado said...

Linda! Welcome from me, too! I loved the title of your piece, its warmth, and the enduring message of women's friendship...That highway is a long and well-traveled one in my case, and it sounds like in yours, as well.

Anonymous said...

Awesome title, I hope you write more and I can hardly wait for the
next chapter or book? Gracias for
you and your writing.

Cyber Chapina said...

I look forward to hearing more!