Sunday, November 09, 2014

Words Made Flesh

"Candelita de ojos azules," wrote my mother when I turned 2 years old 45 years ago.

Candelita literally means "little candle" or "little flame on the candle," but in Cuban Spanish it can also mean "a little girl with fiery curiosity and mischief to spare."

My love of cooking must have started then. My mom noted that I cracked eggs on the sofa and grabbed olives from the refrigerator. I also remember opening and emptying out every single jar in the spice cupboard onto the countertop in neat little piles -- my first mis-en-place.

Forty-seven years ago my mother gave birth to me in San Juan. Every year since -- until Alzheimer's stole her memory -- my mother would tell me the story of my birth, of how I came into this world her flesh and blood, both bound to each other, poised for a 47-year adventure.

My mother always wanted to write a book. And today, on the eve of my birthday, I caught a glimpse of what could have been a career in writing three months after my mom's last breath on earth.

"Now I understand why rental apartments in the U.S. post NO CHILDREN signs," she wrote to introduce a description of my childhood pranks in a baby book, still wrapped in protective plastic, which I found in a box next to her ashes.

Thank you mother, for recording this moment in time.

Many memories have dissipated in the sea since my childhood years, shoring up now through your handwriting, which floods my heart with immeasurable love.

If I could speak to you now and hold the hand that once traced those words, I would say to you: "But you did write a book, mother. You did!"

You raised a prankster daughter who has written more words than she cares to remember. Words so charged with urgency. Important words. Words that mean nothing now. Those words crumble down, collapse into a pile of meaningless absurdity next to the simple phrase candelita de ojos azules.

I see you writing this, probably after I had gone to sleep, on the living room table. I see myself reading this now and there is no time, no distance between us. It's 1969 all over again. It's also 2014. The heart doesn't know time. Love is boundless, with no beginning or end.

Mother, know that your voice still lives, has always lived, through the ink and tears, the laughter and parchment of my own writing. Words made flesh in the fiber of my being.

My words are your legacy, mother. And since I couldn't give you a grandchild, my legacy -- our legacy -- lives on through my writing and the stories engraved in our hearts.

Thank you for giving birth to me, mother. It was and always will be "our" birthday.

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