When I Held My Mother



At first appearance, a wall seems to do so much. It quite literally separates two worlds, gifting a feeling of privacy and safety to the two opposite entities. A wall, however, can at best muffle sound; but the tones we speak, heard through sound vibration that penetrate the deepest of barriers, say enough.


We hear through walls. If we can hear then we can also see because our imaginations are talented like that. Walls are just a figure of our imagination that provides the illusion we ask of it. They do not separate anything.


The brick wall in the backyard of my childhood home did much, it seemed. Green vines spread their arms twenty feet in diameter on the wall, providing shields for street rats crossing to and from the shopping plaza down the block. The tan bricks were footsteps on a ladder for us in our youth. We hopped that thing like it was nobody’s business, like no one could stop us, not injury, not fear, not no one saying anything at all. This wall was backdrop for hundreds of memories, of fruitful conversations and embarrassing interactions, of love made and love lost.


On the 21st year of this home’s life, a group of women gathered in the backyard. Our skin exposed to the warm sun show colors of canela, home made almond milk, mahogany wood and Abuelita’s Chocolate. We stood in a circle, waist deep in the cool waters of a saline pool.


At the head of the circle was Rocio Navarro.


She was here to lead a water ceremony on day two of a weekend long training for birth workers of color. She was here to make us vulnerable -- that sweet, secret, sometimes feared gift of humanity – and to lead us in remembering the water that runs through our bodies, the water that gave us life, that gives us life, permitting us to stand witness to the beautiful birthing bodies of our community.


She wore a dark swimsuit that reminded me of the slick, shiny skin of gentle marine life; her hair, short, dark, brushed back, away from her eyes, away from her cheeks so nothing would obstruct our bodies in her hands.


One by one she cradled us, pulled us up close and then pushed away, never letting our bodies float away from her grasp. Our heads immersed in the water, our necks gently swaying like the large palm leaves in the wind above us. I watched as she danced with each of us.

Movements guided by spirit, her physical strength equaled by the strength of her radiant soul.


When each dance was through two sisters would take a hold of the body in Rocio’s arms and slowly assist to have them stand again in order to bring them back into the world of air and noise behind the wall: traffic sounds and skateboards over concrete cracks.


Many women cried as they came back.

Tears are release.

They are the physical form of emotion and feeling;

too are they the physical act of letting go

of what must no longer sit inside of us.

We are washed when our tears fall.


Now it was my turn to be held.


I often fear that my spirit is closed to divine intervention. I fear that my atheistic tendencies may hold my soul hostage, a punishment for disbelieving. This always proves to be quite the self-destructive move because I know that fear is the paralysis of all.


Luckily the moves of the greater spirits flying above and through me can zap fear away, make it turn real quick into a dissipating cloud, because right there, in the water, Rocio’s hands holding me, I could feel the greater touch.


First I saw myself nursing my baby, his eyes slowly closing into a peaceful slumber. Suddenly, I shifted and I too had become a baby and I nursed from my mother. I was remembering an actuality, a memory, a life giving moment that was as real as the hydrogen oxygen molecules that swam around me.


My body was alive.

It was whole.

Because I now knew without a single doubt in my mind

that I am loved.

Deeply, impenetrably loved.


I soon began to feel my eyebrows kissed, not in this beautiful dream memory I had tapped into, but in the present moment, in the salt pool, in the circle of strangers turned family, in my backyard with the wall behind us.


When I opened my eyes, my mother was holding me. Again.

26 years after I had latched onto her breast for my very existence.

I was being held again gently and in love.


It was my mom’s turn next.


Julia is soft beautiful.

She is Vitamin C, lungs laughing,

ruby red shining perfection.


She is tough too.

She holds her head high in Keds and high heels

in office spaces where white men fear her power.


Rocio was most gentle with her.


We all sensed it and we all supported it in our gaze and in our minds.

Gentleness grew as her dark brown hair spread around her head creating a crown resembling dozens of mountain peaks in the summertime.


She smiled.


She was swayed to and fro, to a song only she could hear. She floated, a task she could never accomplice otherwise; I know because all my life I have seen her try.


My mother, mi mom, the one who taught me to hug tight and to pursue wild dreams.

The one who taught me far before I carried my son in my womb what it is to be a mother.


Rocio passed my mother’s body into my arms.


I wondered if she felt my arms thin and frail as they were. I wondered if she knew I was holding her close, as close as I could to my heart, to show her that my love for her too was endless, as endless as they sky’s stars and the sunset’s horizon.


Tears began to fall from her closed eyes.

Her body shook as she suppressed sobs.

And then she let go.

She was washed by her tears.


I kissed her eyebrows as she had kissed mine in that pool, as she had kissed mine a thousand times before.

I held my mother for the first time in her life that day

the way we must all be held always:

in freedom.

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