CARTA A MIS HIJAS
If I were not to be here one day, would you be able to carry yourselves as I’ve taught you?
If I weren’t so much on top of you, making sure that you’re clean, that you’re healthy, that you eat properly, that you don’t indulge, that you do your homework, that you do your bed, that you don’t answer back, that you study for a test, that you keep your GPA high, that you don’t disrespect adults; even making sure that you pray, that you take care of your bodies, that you put perfume on, that you remember to be thankful, that you grow up appreciating your parents, your grandparents, each other as sisters, that you’re thankful for your meals, for your clothing, for your shelter, for your schooling, for your friends, for the opportunities that you have.
Daughters, if I were not to be here one day, would you remember all the times I tried to show you the world and its wonders, the flowers, the birds, the beach and the grass growing, even the wind blowing in times of hurricane and bad weather? Would you remember to say thank you, would you remember to give, would you remember to smile?
If I were to leave your sides one day, would you remember to be compassionate with others, to lend a helping hand, would you not be selfish and think of you first, of you second and of you third?
My girls, if I were to not exist one day, would you be able to choose right from wrong, truth from false, lightness from darkness, kindness from selfishness?
When I leave the world, how would you remember me? Would you remember me as the woman who was always telling you what to do, as the woman who always reminded you of your responsibilities and your shores? Would you remember me as the woman who was always on a diet, always trying to make it to the gym but only being able to go very seldom? Would you remember me telling you how I didn’t wash my hair because I had to rush out of the shower to go pick you up from school? Would you think of your mother as the woman who smelled of onion and cooking because as you were doing your school work I was making dinner? Would you remember me as the woman who would find a corner in the house to cry because she didn’t understand how she couldn’t find a way to be more perfect, how she couldn’t find the time to exercise more, how she couldn’t have the desire to make love, how she couldn’t find a way to talk to you more about politics, how she didn’t really know the location of countries on the Globe or how she was always undecided on what party to vote for? Would you remember me as the woman who was always “working at and from home” and so you could never pin point how I didn’t have time to do certain things, I was at home after all!!!!!
How would you remember me? As the one who didn’t buy a perfume because I could use those $50 to pay for your tutoring that week. Or as the mother who was always in shock whenever she decided to go to the beauty salon and had to pay $150 for a new hair style? How it always hurt me so much thinking that I could spend that money in buying you new shoes for school. Would you remember me as the mother who would not buy brand clothes or expensive Dolce Gabbana or Hermes brand items because in her mind that money could be used to fill up the car tank with gas, or to go buy groceries and your snacks, or to save for some school trip to Europe the following year.? Would you remember me girls as that woman who decided to stay home so that she could pick you up during your elementary and middle school years so you wouldn’t have to take the bus home? Would you remember me as the journalist who quit her job so that she could spend more time with her baby girls, while she mounted her home office to freelance from the house garage? Would you remember me as the mother who always volunteered to be the classroom’s helping mom, the career day speaker at your school, the library organizer so that I could spend more time in your world? Would you remember me as the mother who always left aside her plans because those could always wait to give way to your daily routine? Would you remember me as the mom who always said yes to sleepovers, to taking your friends out, to picking up your friends to spend time with you to study and play?
How would you remember me? As the woman who for nearly 13 years stopped leaving her life to live yours? As the woman who breathed, planned, ate, felt, saw, and heard it all around your lives? Would you remember me as the woman who didn’t accept a full-time job so that I could always be there for you? As the writer who would argue with her boss to let her leave the office earlier because you were at school waiting for me to pick you up? Would you remember that I won that battle and I was finally allowed to work at my own schedule and be there for you, even if it meant rushing through rush hour traffic to make it just on time when the school bell rang?
What do children usually remember from their moms?
I remember from my mom how she used to cry when we were living in the country where I was born. I remember seeing her cry and watching it like a movie, not being able to do anything to help her. I remember how she used to clean the tile floors every single day as if by cleaning the house so meticulously she would clean the government’s act. I remember her cooking in a stove that was a joke because it looked like anything except a stove. I remember the dangers of cooking in that little metal rusted tank about two feet long and how she used to add a combustible liquid to make it work. I remember hearing stories of other people who used to cook like that and how that exploded in their hands deforming their faces. I remember mom meeting with friends and talking about the government and who had been given permission to leave the country and who had been caught stealing a couple of eggs to feed their children. I remember when my brother was born and how mom, just after having been given birth in the hospital, was released and how she walked from the hospital with my brother in her arms all the way to the house about two Latin American long blocks. I remember how she used to wash the cotton clothes to reuse them time and time again because there wasn’t such thing as disposable diapers. I remember mom filling up my bed on my birthdays. Oh what a beautiful memory. Every year she would be designing and making me little dresses so that on my special day she could give them to me as gifts. She would find fabric from anywhere; from sheets and pillow cases that were sent from North America. They were such beautiful prints that my mom made such unique outfits, and the last thing you would think is that they were made out of bed linens. She would bathe my dolls with me and dress them up and wash their hair and make them hair dues and put them on my bed the day of my birthday. They all looked like new dolls always. I remember the day she was told again that my family would not be allowed to leave the country and that she had to get used to the idea by incorporating her life into the system and working “voluntarily” for the government. I remember it all was against her principles, but I remember looking down onto the street from our apartment’s balcony and seeing my mom with a broom sweeping the streets with the other “barrio” women who were already part of the Federation of Communist Cuban Women movement. Her head was up with pride but even then I knew her heart was agonizing. I remember my mom helping me with school work, showing me to draw and color the most beautiful designs to decorate my notebooks. We would use brown paper bags from the grocery stores and would turn them into real art works. I remember mom didn’t shed a tear when she left the country and went to say goodbye to my grandma. I don’t remember seeing my mom crying when she received news of her mother’s death in Cuba.
So I figure, if I can remember all these happenings about my mom, I have hope. My daughters will probably remember many things about me. Perhaps not all of what I’ve listed and hoped for them to keep in mind, but a lot of it and much more will also grow in their being as part of them; just as much of the things I can’t remember about my mom are embedded in my existence today.