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Black Velvet
December 16, 2012 – 3:09 pm | 17 Comments

Childhood memories are vivid, almost indescribable in their detail, and impossible to forget. A Christmas memory I have is that of a black velvet dress  a family friend gave to me for my seventh Christmas.
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The Reach of a Small Moment

Submitted by on May 4, 2011 – 1:00 am68 Comments
gdrpempress abuela
Editor’s Note: This is the second of five essays celebrating Abuela’s during Mother’s Day week 2011 on the Tiki Tiki. To read the other essays, visit the intro essay.

by Alexandra Rosas Schultze

De la Sierra Morena
Cielito Lindo, vienen bajando
Un par do ojitos negros
Cielito lindo, de contrabando
From the Sierra Mountains

My beautiful sky, they come down
A pair of blackest eyes
Pretty little heaven, which I cannot have

Alexandra, Good Day Regular PeopleI sit cross legged on the floor, holding the baby doll that my Spanish grandmother has bought me.

My grandmother sits behind me and sings softly as she patiently runs a wide toothed comb, that she every now and then dips into a mason jar of rhubarb water, through my jungle of curly almost black hair. She takes the smallest sections of my hair, wets it down with the rhubarb water, and then curls it into corkscrews around her little finger.

She sings this song to me every morning – it is a peaceful, wistful melody.

“Be sure to smooth your hands over your baby doll, your munequita,” my grandmother instructs me in Spanish as she combs my hair, “you want her to feel safe.” I immediately rub my hands over my baby’ doll’s head, I want her to feel safe.

The intention of the rhubarb water, boiled down to a thick juice made from the plants that she grows in her garden, is to give highlights to my hair.

“Now, when you go outside to play in the sun and your hair dries, you’ll have Shirley Temple rings,” I hear her promise me in Spanish.

When she finishes, she asks me with her soft, slow voice to please help her up, if it’s not too much trouble, from where she has been sitting.

I am only 4-years-old.

My grandmother walks me to the mirror in the front hallway, and stands behind me. She reaches around, and holds my chin up gently with the tips of her fingers so that I can see myself in the mirror. I feel her quietly looking at me. I look at myself, too.

“Those dark eyes, you have such beautiful dark eyes. And the most delicious laugh. You are like a little doll, you are a munequita.”

I smile shyly back at myself. I believe her.

We stand together, in one reflection, while she moves her hands over my small shoulders. I feel so safe.

She turns me so that I face her, and gathers me so tightly inside her arms and all the ugliness around me is gone. There is peace at my grandmother’s hand, and in her arms. I close my eyes and bury my head– I want to stay there, with my eyes closed, my ears covered, all by her.

The morning above occurred in 1965, two years before my father would have committed suicide on Thanksgiving Day, when I was in the First grade. The morning above occurred on a day when my clinically depressed mother would have spent another usual day of not looking at us, not making eye contact with us, not speaking to us.

As I write this morning, about this small moment in my life, I can see from the distance of years, the power a moment contains.
I still feel how she had me convinced that even though there were 6 of us born to my mother, it was me, who was the special one, me who was the most loved one.

When my grandmother passed away, my siblings and I sought each other out, at her funeral, to confess. We whispered, “You know, I was her favorite.” Fools. I knew deep down it was me who was the favorite.

De la Sierra Morena
Cielito lindo, vienen bajando
Un par de ojitos negros
Cielito lindo, de contrabando

I am singing to my youngest son as I work a comb through the curly knots that are his hair. I tell him that the song he hears is the same song my grandmother sang to me while she combed my hair when I was little.

I am hit by an impulse too strong and quick for me to stop that it makes me pull my son into me, and grasp him in an embrace that I need more than he does.

“I love you, mama,” his muffled words rise up to me from my chest.

The power of the small moment that my Grandmother created for me has carried me to this very moment here.

Did she know she created this small moment? I don’t know. Did she know that from this morning in 1965 that I’d be writing of that same moment in 2010, 45 years later.

Would she have known the reach of a small moment?

The force of that morning’s memory, makes me stop and look at my children, with eye contact, with words heard, and with words returned, with full burying embraces — I want to give my children moments that will reach to the year 2050 and beyond.

Alexandra is a first-generation American raising three boys full time, while she caters part time. She lives with her husband and children in a small Wisconsin town and writes of the sweet and the funny at her humor site, Good Day, Regular People.

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