The Reach of a Small Moment

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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By Contributor on May 4, 2011 · Posted in the habla habla

68 Comments | Post Comment

Sue Valencia says:

Wow Alexandra, this is so powerful on so many levels.
First I want to continue hugging that little girl who lost her dad and whose mom had absent moments. But then I read the strength in your words and the certainty in your family that it just amazes me. It´s beautiful to see how we can choose to live UNDER tragic circumstances or go above and beyond them choosing to see every single opportunity and love around us.
Thank you for that reminder, and may your embrace last forever around your sons hearts and memories.
Sue Valencia´s last [fabulousness] ..Martes bueno- Miércoles Musical de Mmm Canciones Interesantes Britanicas

Posted on May 4th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Oh, TikiTiki Blog, thank you for giving my abuelita a place to have her life validated.

I think that’s is a big beauty about hispanic culture: the extended family.

We do that good.

Thank you, TIKITIKI, for showcasing this piece, and having my grandmother’s life honored in such a way for Mother’s Day Week.

You’ve brought tears to my eyes with the publication of this story.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 4th, 2011

Honoring Las Abuelas says:

[...] and dramatic childhood dinner-time struggles with Abuela.Wednesday: Alexandra Rosas Schultze writes “The Reach of a Small Moment” about the sweet compliment Abuela delivered to the 4-year-old Alexandra, a moment that has carried [...]

Posted on May 4th, 2011

Roxana A. Soto says:

Alexandra, I’m searching for the right words, but I can’t really find them. Your writing is not only superb, but it’s loaded with imageries which make it difficult not to be right there with you and your abuelita combing your hair 45 years ago!

Muchas gracias for this profound and beautiful essay honoring your grandmother. You were lucky to have her!

BTW, I love that song too! My Dad used to sign it to my mom even though her eyes are bluer than the Pacifi Ocean!
Roxana A. Soto´s last [fabulousness] ..Week of SpanglishBaby Moms- The Adventures of Raising a Multilingual Child

Posted on May 4th, 2011

Ana L. Flores says:

Beautiful, hermoso…I´m speechless right now

Posted on May 4th, 2011

Carrie says:

Alexandra, you will always have a spot reserved for you here on the Tiki Tiki.

Your stories make us laugh, think, cry, rejoice.

You have a gift.

And, now we all love your Abuela too.

Posted on May 4th, 2011

candace says:

so beautiful and poignant. thank you for sharing this.

Posted on May 4th, 2011

Tia Mirtha says:

Alexandra,
Beautiful story, I was there with that little girl having her hair comb. You brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you for sharing.

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you.

I think the same thing, I was so blessed to have here.
Some children have NO ONE.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

That song is so wonderful.

I tried to listen to it, when I wrote this, and I didn’t make it beyond the first chorus.

It’s strikes so deeply.

Same when it’s rhubarb season, like now.

Such strong memories…of the red rhubarb boiling in her kitchen.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Bless you, for feeling this moment, and honoring my belita’s memory and life this way.

Bless you.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Carrie, I can’t tell you alone in words, what it means to me spiritually and emotionally, to have connected with TikiTiki Blog.

I am home.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you, Candace…doesn’t this picture just take your breath away of Abuelita?
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you so much.

I feel so honored that TikiTiki Blog has a place for my grandmother’s life here.

It makes me cry with gratitude.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Monica says:

Alexandra, this is such a moving story. I have so many memories of my own ‘Buelita that are seared into my memory. Ones that I sometimes forget, only to have them resurface at odd moments now with my own children. You have put into words the powerful affect that we have with our grandmothers, with our children, and our grandchildren. I want so badly to be the same type of woman my own ‘Buelita was, and you have reminded me about my own ability to create special moments with my own children.

xo
Monica´s last [fabulousness] ..A Día de los Niños Giveaway- Ladder to the Moon

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Lydia says:

Alexandra, this made me smile inside and then it made me cry. It’s a perfect moment in time suspended. It’s a great tribute to your grandma. :) And I think it’s a reminder that we are provided with those that provide what we really need when we need it. (I’m pretty sure you really were the favorite how could it be otherwise?) xx
Lydia´s last [fabulousness] ..Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated on Saturday- okay

Posted on May 6th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you, Monica.

I have to remind myself about the power of little moments in our daily lives, too.

They can happen.

This morning, my son and I shared one, a laugh , over our oatmeal.

It can be done…we need to remember, right?
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 6th, 2011

Alexandra says:

I was so very lucky to have her, wasn’t I?
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 6th, 2011

Tracy says:

Ay, my heart. Wow. Don’t even know what to say. One of the most hauntingly beautiful things I’ve ever had the fortune to read.

Thank you.
Tracy´s last [fabulousness] ..El Trompo

Posted on May 6th, 2011

Alexandra says:

You have sent my spirit soaring with your comment.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 6th, 2011

anymommy says:

You must have had the entire house in tears. Gorgeous.

Posted on May 8th, 2011

Alison@Mama Wants This says:

So beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Your words bring to life the emotions you felt all those years ago, and your moment with your son. Your grandmother was amazing. Thank you for sharing.
Alison@Mama Wants This´s last [fabulousness] ..Mothers Day- Schmothers Day

Posted on May 8th, 2011

Ms. A says:

Alexandra, this is so heartfelt and moving. As a parent, I was never quite sure what moments would remain with my children and which would be forgotten, or pushed aside. Every now and then, they mention something that has left a lasting impression. Just last night I jokingly said the nightly ritual of childhood, in a text message to my youngest son. He told me he thinks of that every night when he goes to bed. I had no idea he even remembered it. It made me cry… happy tears. As someone who struggles with depression, I’ll take the happy tears anytime.
Ms. A´s last [fabulousness] ..Happy Mothers Day

Posted on May 8th, 2011

Jessica says:

What an excellent post for you to read at LTYM. Your grandmother sounds like such a wonderful person.
Jessica´s last [fabulousness] ..My mother’s day and Baby Steps

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Jessica says:

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful just as you are Alexandra. I had a grandfather much like your grandmother who left me with amazing small moments as he did with every one of his 23 grandchildren. There is no doubt that we all thought we were his favorite… the greatest gift he could ever give us.
Jessica´s last [fabulousness] ..Happy Mother’s Day

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says:

That was lovely and made me really think about how i miss the people in life from my yesteryears.

My grandmother wasn’t anything like this although i have good memories of her. My mom used to put lemon juice on my hair and send me out in the sun.

The simplicity of youth!!
Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up)´s last [fabulousness] ..In which i celebrate my kids

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Galit Breen says:

I am speechless.

And you, my dear friend, know how rare that is.

You’re amazing. This piece is phenomenal.

I couldn’t be more honored to have read it.

XO

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Denise (RottenMom) says:

Tears are flowing, I can barely see to type. This is beautiful, wonderfully beautiful.
Denise (RottenMom)´s last [fabulousness] ..Happy Mothers Day Big Pagain

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Oh, thank you. I just wanted the memory of my grandmother to be heard, and I wanted people to know that you don’t have to be a biologicall mother, to be a mother.

My GM was my mother. And it made all the difference in the world.

Thank you, to LTYM, for the opportunity to have my GM’s life witnessed.

Oh, what that did for me.

I’m still floating.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

You make me feel so happy, to know that I triggered such emotion in you.

Thank you, so much. Your words mean everything to me this morning.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Your comment made me tear up.

What were your nightly rituals?

The power of small moments, right?

THE POWER. The possibility is everywhere.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

The wonderful, amazing thing is that we have the power daily, to create small moments. Little, stolen moments where we stop what we’re doing, bend down and sit on the floor, and give our babies ALL of what we are, in that moment: their mother.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Knowing you, as I now do, I am happy to share this part of my life with you.

The chance we have everyday: to create a lasting impact.

How awesome.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

I can see you, getting your hair combed with lemon juice.

The power of that memory for you. Amazing.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Galit: you and I, we eat words for breakfast, don’t we?
I love knowing you.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Oh, Denise: thank you. I know, these memories we have, and the memories we give our children.

I always ask my children, what do you boys remember from when you were little:

I am so paranoid I won’t give them memories like my grandmother did for me.

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Motpg says:

Stunning! It was more than a moment. It was, hold you forever. What a gift.
Motpg´s last [fabulousness] ..But Does It Define Me

Posted on May 9th, 2011

FranceRants says:

She is still smiling to you from heaven.

Moving piece.

Thank you…..
FranceRants´s last [fabulousness] ..Blog Award Rant

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Oh, MOTPG: you know the power of a moment, don’t you? They carry us forever. You, do it so well with your own. Thank you
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

You know what, France? You just made me smile.

I hope so, I hope she heard my words. I hope the universe somehow carried them up to her ears, and she heard. I hope so.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

amber says:

Tears. I have tears. That is a beautiful tribute to a grandmother who gave you a much bigger gift than she knew.
amber´s last [fabulousness] ..Five Things I’m Doing Right

Posted on May 9th, 2011

liz says:

Oh, Empress, what a perfect piece to read for LTYM show.

And now I wish I had ringlet curls so you could brush my hair and sing to me. :)
liz´s last [fabulousness] ..The iPhone Underworld

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

It makes me think everyday: there is a potential in every minute.

You never know what your children will remember.

I remember this moment so viscerally.

I can still feel it.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

It was a perfect piece: the moments, so ripe, in every day.

Thanks, sweet girl.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

TheKitchenWitch says:

This piece is stunning. Wonderful job, Alexandra!

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Leighann says:

Your words have left me speechless.
Beautiful. Beautiful.

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you, KC. I could write forever on my Abuela.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you, LeighAnn. Where would we be without a place to be heard. I love blogging, it’s how I met you.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

GrandeMocha says:

I’m crying in the bathroom at work so no one sees me. I can’t think of better way to honor your Grandmother’s life.

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Kimberly says:

This gave me absolute chills…you are so lucky to have had such a wonderful woman in your life like that. I’ve never told this story before…
For me, my grandma used to sing this song “Round round the race track” as she traced circles in the palm of my hand. usually this would calm me after my Dad lost his temper or my Grandpa was drunk and obnoxious. It was our thing.
The day my grandma passed, I remember sitting in my living room holding my son who was 1 at the time. I began to cry because she loved him so much. Then out of no where, my son took my hand and traced circles in the palm of my hand and said “Round, round, round…”
…I never ever taught him that before.
I truly believe that my grandma came to comfort me in my time of sorrow, to tell me that everything was going to be ok.
Now I sing it to my son.
Kimberly´s last [fabulousness] ..Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturday

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Ilana says:

Oh Alexandra— your words are so beautiful that they brought tears to my eyes. I wonder if your grandmother knew exactly what she was doing. Giving you (and your siblings) the love you needed to hold onto and stay strong. How beautiful that you carry it with you and have given it as a gift to your son.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and congratulations on the show— I am sure you were brilliant.
Ilana´s last [fabulousness] ..Friday Recap- Mothers Day Edition

Posted on May 9th, 2011

kendall says:

So beautiful, but I’m not surprised. You’re so talented. Thank you for sharing this.

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Oh, thank you. You know what I hope? I hope that the universe carried the words I read out loud in Sunday’s show to my grandmother’s ears.

That’s what I hope.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

WOW.

That? Needs to be a post right there.

WOW.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Thank you, Ilana. I was so blessed to have this incredible woman.

Her voice was as soft as a breeze in summer.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..But The Hours- The Time- The WorkOy Vey

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Sherri says:

Alexandra this post could not have been any more perfect….and to have read it on Mother’s Day?

Yes, perfect.

I am so happy that your words were heard by so many, and that you gained so much from the experience.

Wow. Your memories just flow so easily and they are so deep and colorful.

Just beautiful.
Sherri´s last [fabulousness] ..When Is Mother’s Day- Really

Posted on May 9th, 2011

Cheryl says:

Alexandra that was beautiful.

I wish I could have been there to hear you.
Cheryl´s last [fabulousness] ..Happy Birthday Goofball! Father Husband Writer Blah Blah Blah

Posted on May 10th, 2011

tracey says:

That is such a lovely yet sad moment. Very beautifully captured, Alexandra.
tracey´s last [fabulousness] ..My Mothers Day Wishes

Posted on May 10th, 2011

Suniverse says:

Love.

Really.

Just love.
Suniverse´s last [fabulousness] ..Its Not as Dirty as It Sounds Swear

Posted on May 10th, 2011

Only You says:

Love, love, LOVE this essay, Alexandra. THIS is the one that needs to be published (maybe I had said it before?). It is perfection. You capture the love that both mother and child need so poignantly.

My heart aches for the little girl you were. I am glad there is so much love in your life. And thank goodness for your Abuela.

I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Posted on May 10th, 2011

Minka says:

That was incredibly beautiful. And heartbreaking. And why is it that things that are often beautiful are often heartbreaking? It seems so wrong. Maybe like you said, it’s in the small moments where pain and beauty co-exist, because the beauty allows us to survive the pain. And also the pain is because we often know, even when we are young, but somehow… we understand intuitively, that the beauty can be fleeting. We must cling to it and appreciate it whenever we can, whenever it chooses to grace our lives with its presence. (which is probably far more than we realize, because we’re all too damn busy being distracted by the bullshit so that we don’t see what really matter. trite but true.)

I think I love you more now than ever. I was a sad little girl and no matter how many years have passed, she is still inside me. Sometimes I want to cry for the girl I used to be and sometimes I’m proud of the woman she managed to become anyway. Just as I am so much prouder of you now (didn’t think it was possible!) — or I should say I am so much more impressed by you….(which I also didn’t think was possible!) because I know what you overcame to become this fabulous giving person.

And clearly, your abuela was a huge part of helping you become the Empress. She would’ve liked that, knowing that you now rule over all you survey… and then some.

You were so lucky to have had her, and she was lucky to have had you. And no doubt your sons’ lives will be filled with many many small moments that they will forever be grateful for, even if they can’t articulate it.

Posted on May 10th, 2011

Wendi says:

This was so lovely. I can’t wait to see you read it on the LTYM video.

Posted on May 10th, 2011

Chrisor (@ynotkissme) says:

I don’t think any of us realize what effect we have on others. Whether family, friends or even sometimes strangers, so many people touch our lives and leave us remembering something they said to us, did to us or maybe even what they didn’t say or do. I enjoyed your story so much. You have wonderful memories to cherish of your grandmother. Life isn’t fair but sometimes I like to think it will try to balance out. Due to the condition of your mother, your grandmother filled a void you desperately needed. You appreciated her more because of your specific situation. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve never heard of the rhubarb water but love rhubarb so glad it has another use! :-)
Chrisor (@ynotkissme)´s last [fabulousness] ..Hair 50

Posted on May 10th, 2011

30ish Mama says:

This memory of a small but special moment was told so beautifully that it made me cry. Your abuela made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. She showed you love in a way that made you feel safe and built your confidence. That is the magic of grandmothers.

Posted on May 12th, 2011

PartlySunny says:

Perfect. That’s all.
PartlySunny´s last [fabulousness] ..Anatomy of a House Party

Posted on May 16th, 2011

Coolwhipmom says:

Oh Alexandra. I wish I could cuddle up that little girl that was you 45 years ago. I am so glad you had such a warm, loving abuelita to hold you close. This is such a touching and deeply powerful piece. On so many many levels. Sending you heart hugs. Many many heart hugs, my love.

Posted on May 19th, 2011

Live Openly | Letters For Lucas says:

[...] piece, The Reach of a Small Moment that Alexandra read for the Madison Listen To Your Mother show, it can be found here. Related Posts:An Author’s Apology Dear Sherri Letter To Me Don't miss a single Letters For [...]

Posted on April 10th, 2012

I Love The Internet | Life with Roozle says:

[...] Alexandra shared her post with me about living in the moment. While she and I have had very different lives, as I read this, it brought me right back to when I was four, sitting on my bunk bed with my mom after a bath, having my hair braided. She wrote this piece for another site, here it is: link. [...]

Posted on November 30th, 2012