Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Mama’

His Mother’s Arms – Part 2

Hist Mother’s Arms – Excerpt from Children’s short story collection Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

Hist Mother’s Arms – Part 2

The nurse, Bea, washed Jon’s forehead with yellowish-brown betadine that ran behind his ear. Bea’s brown face was surrounded by straight, thick black hair. The rest of her body was covered in white. She kept smiling and repeating, “That’s a good boy.” Her soothing voice put him into a matriarchal trance, as name-calling, rocks and falling took an afternoon nap.

Grace stood close by, rocking Mary side to side, like mothers’ of young children do. She was trying to put on a good face and comfort Jon, but he could sense her aversion to looking at his wound.

A tall mustached man, in a hospital coat, suddenly loomed over Jon.

“This is Doctor Patrick,” voiced the nurse, in a hasty introduction.

“What have we here?” he questioned, without expecting anyone to answer. He took the pad off of Jon’s eyebrow.

“Don’t touch it!” Jon screamed with fright.

The doctor ignored his outburst and stated matter-of-factly, “Pretty good one there buddy.” Turning towards the nurse he said, “I’ll need a butterfly suture set.” The nurse already had it ready and placed it in his hand.

Jon eyed the doctor with the hair on his lip, as he opened the suture kit and seeming to speak to the plastic tray said, “Son, I’m going to give you a little poke. It will sting.” Nurse Bea handed Doctor Patrick a small syringe. “Then I’ll stitch you up so good you’ll never know what happened.”

Doctor Patrick moved closer. Jon could feel his height. He looked at the doctor’s black belt and buckle, when his white coat fell open, then felt a sharp sting. He started to cry.

“The next part won’t hurt,” the physician’s monologue continued.

“It’ll just feel like someone tugging on your eyebrow a bit.”

“Son,” Jon repeated to himself. It sounded like his father’s voice. He knew his dad would want him to “be tough” so he bit his lip, counted backwards and closed his eyes. He longed for his mother’s arms and cried out “Mama!”

“All done,” chuckled the tall, black-belted, mustached man. “You can open your eyes now.” As he put the tweezers back in the tray, Dr. Patrick turned to Grace, who had just opened her eyes and said, “You have a brave little guy here.” Jon wiped away the tears with his dirty sleeve.

Before Grace or Jon could say a word, the self-absorbed doctor had gone to the next bed and disappeared behind a sliding beige curtain. Bea looked at Grace. “He’ll need to come back in a few weeks to get those removed.” She gestured towards Jon’s forehead and smiled her bewitching smile.

“I’ll tell his mother,” Grace replied, then helped Jon off the gurney and held his trembling hand out to the car.

CONCLUSION TOMORROW

His Mother’s Arms – Part 1

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His Mother’s Arms – Part 1

His Mother’s Arms – Excerpt from children’s short story collection Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

His Mother’s Arms – Part 1

The squeaking bicycle wheels turned with mechanical persistence, as Jon pumped triumphantly across the neighborhood asphalt and rounded the bend towards home. It felt like the sky swooped down and pulled his excitement into the air. He was flying down the flat, familiar road of his substandard, military housing project.

It was Jon’s second week on a two-wheeler and his sixth year of life. He never, ever believed he would be able to ride his bike without the help of his loud, grating training wheels. “Baby wheels!” The older kids would tease.

“Now, they’ll see!” he said to himself. “I’m not a baby!”

As the cracked, weed-filled driveway to Jon’s yellow-walled, dilapidated garage came into sight, a flurry of devilishness was unleashed.

“Hey, four eyes! Over here!”

Jon glanced to his left and saw fifth graders Biff, Manny and Dennis rising behind the barren bushes of late winter, arms flexed like baseball pitchers in their windup with fistfuls of delinquent angst headed his way.

Fear jumped through his arteries, as his legs strained to provide escape. Rocks and gravel pummeled his head, neck and shoulders. The bike seemed to melt away, as the gutter made friends with his face. Anxious, laughing voices hovered nearby. “Let’s beat it before he goes crying to his mommy.” They mocked.

He looked up through a fuzzy blur. Something wet and warm was dripping down his forehead and into his eyes. He felt for his glasses but they were gone. He looked at his hand and saw red streaks on his fingers and palm. Pain made a dramatic, sharp entrance, as tears merged with the stream of bloody discharge cascading over the side of his nose and cheek like a miniature waterfall. Before he could cover his mouth, a cry of nature erupted. “Mama!” A long, sick silence followed; then he heard it again, “Mama!” and felt his lips close around the last vowel.

Without his thick spectacles, everything looked lopsided and out of control. He stood with a groan and fifty pounds of embarrassment clinging to his back. Without knowing his camouflage pants were ripped to shreds and his bike a modernist rendition of mangled metal, he carried his torn body up the driveway, through the garage and into the kitchen to find the comfort of his mother’s arms. “Mama! Mama!” he cried, moving urgently from room to room. Leaking blood along the hall carpet he finally smelled his mother’s presence and opened her door.

Clarisa, Jon’s mother, was lying quietly with her eyes shut softly when Jon entered. Her forehead wrinkled with pain at his sudden intrusion.

“Mama!”

“What?” she said, without moving or looking his way. “I’ve got one of those awful headaches again.”

“Mama!” Jon sobbed. He walked clumsily towards the bed.

Clarisa turned her head slightly and reiterated. “Please, be quiet.” She reluctantly opened her eyes and exclaimed. “Oh my God!” Jon’s face, hands, arms, shirt and pants were covered with blood and dirt. Clarisa flinched involuntarily. “Don’t move!” she said sternly.

“But . . . “ Jon pleaded.

“Don’t move!” she repeated.

As Jon froze in mid-step, Clarisa began to rise. Her head seemed to contain a ton of throbbing iron. She inched, like an antique tray of china, to the bathroom. Jon stood shaking; restraining his primordial need to throw his arms around his mother’s waist, bury his head in her soft belly and wail.

She returned with a rolled up green towel and pressed it gently above his left eyebrow to stop the bleeding; making sure to keep her freshly washed red and blue blouse from her son’s crew-cut head of filthy, oozing fluids.

Clarisa was awash with agony. Jon’s bloodied entrance had cracked the temporary sea wall she’d erected in her quiet bedroom harbor, to keep the stormy waters of her aching head at bay. She called her neighbor, Grace, and asked if she could take Jon to the emergency room.

Grace, a stout, big-shouldered woman in jeans, was there in minutes, her one-year-old, Mary, clamped on her hip like a spider monkey. After her initial shock at seeing the dazed and dripping boy, she donned her best Florence Nightingale tone of voice and whisked Jon away with repeated self-assurances. “Everything will be OK Jon. Don’t worry.” Jon laid in the back seat of her car and held the towel tightly to his forehead. “It’s nothing,” Grace continued. “We’ll have you fixed up in no time.”

Once Grace had left with Jon, Clarisa sank back to bed with guilt and blame bombarding her already shattered head. “What kind of a mother am I?” she thought. He looked so scared.” She moaned in pain and placed her hands on her temples. There was nothing she could do. Her migraines crept from the back of her skull, like a creeping vine, thick with thorns, once or twice a week and literally dropped her to her knees. They had increased in frequency since Jon’s father, Alex, left for another six-month naval tour in the Indian Ocean.

She never mentioned her ailment in her overseas letters. They were always short and sweet, filled with everyday occurrences and concerns. “We’re fine. Jon is riding his bike whenever the weather permits. He’s getting much better. It won’t be long until we take off the training wheels. He’s doing pretty good in school. They learned the cutest song last week. I’ll try to remember to have him sing it for you when you get home. We both miss you tremendously. Take care sweetheart. Love Clarisa.”

Clarisa’s potent fear of what her “migraines” may reveal, were batted away like an annoying mosquito. Her father had died, at the age of fifty, from a cerebral aneurysm. Her mother had soon followed suit with a number of massive strokes. She had only been nineteen when her father made his quick exit and a tender twenty-three when her mother was ungracefully removed from her life. She viewed doctors as messengers of death and hospitals as corridors of contaminated grief.

CONTINUED TOMORROW

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Grandson Jupiter

He’s almost 2 years old, has beautiful blond curly hair, is very smart, strong and huggable and has more energy and spunk than a supersonic jet on speed!

That is not Superman, but our grandson Jupiter. You could say I’m biased and of course, that would be completely mistaken. I am more than biased, I’m prejudiced and will fly hundreds of miles to hang out with this amazing bundle of energy and cuteness manifested in human form.

His parents have combined their DNA, experience and compassion and love to give this little tyke a dream home that his wee friends can only droo.l over and watch with envy. It isn’t that their parental units or unit is inferior or not good in many ways, but Jupiter’s Mama and Papa are really stepping up to the proverbial plate of parenthood and surrounding their son with limits, support, encouragement and love.

Let’s see, how many other thousands of words can I use to gush on about Jupiter Gabriel Constans. Oh yes, he has the coolest middle name in the world and calls me Gapa. I’ve got to stop writing right now and go peek in on this sleeping beauty who looks like a cherub in human clothing.

No Smiling On Thursdays

Excerpt from short story collection for children Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

No Smiling On Thursdays

Papa said, “No smiling on Thursdays!”

I kept my head buried in Mama’s shoulder. My tears were getting her shirt wet.

Papa asked Mama, “Isn’t today Thursday?”

Mama said, “Yep, Thursday all day.”

I looked at Papa, then at Mama and put my head back in Mama’s shirt. Papa got down on his knees, went behind Mama and peeked at me over her shoulder.

“No smiling on Thursdays!” he said smiling.

My sniffles stopped. My face felt happy. A big smile jumped on my lips.

“Hey!” Papa said, “This is Thursday! No smiling!”

A giggle ran out my mouth, then another and another. It was a giggle race. I couldn’t stop.

Mama and Papa both had pretend mean faces on and said, “Stop that! This is Thursday.” Then they smiled and laughed.

***

At school, my friend, Ben, ran up to the teacher crying. He put his arms around her leg and his face on her pants.

I went behind the teacher, looked between her legs at Ben and said, “This is Thursday.” He looked at me funny for a second, then put his head back on her leg. I said it again, “This is Thursday Ben. There’s no smiling allowed on Thursdays.”

Ben stopped crying. “What?” he asked.

“There’s no smiling on Thursdays,” I said again. He smiled and looked up at the teacher, who smiled back.

“Hey!” I said, just like Papa. “Stop smiling!”

Ben started laughing, let go of the teacher’s leg and tried to catch me.

“No smiling!” I shouted, as we both ran off to play.

***

At bedtime I heard Mama and Papa yelling. Papa came into my room to help with my pajamas. He looked sad.

Then Mama came in. She looked sad too.

After Papa buttoned the last button on my pajamas, I went behind him and said, “Don’t forget Papa. No smiling on Thursdays.”

He looked over his shoulder at me, then up at Mama and smiled.

“What?” he said. “Is this Thursday?”

“Yep!” I nodded back.

“You’re right!” said Mama. She smiled at Papa and kissed him on the cheek. She looked happy. “How could we forget?” she said.

Mama and Papa started tickling me all over.

“No smiling!” I said in between laughing, yelling and giggling. “It’s Thursday!”

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Framed

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

We flew in from Montréal, with a stopover in Chicago. I combed my hair and smoothed out the incorrigible wrinkles in my pants, before stepping out from the hot taxi into the dry heat of New Mexico.

Bending over to pick up our bag, I noticed the large stain covering the underarm of my white shirt. “Just what I need,” I fretted. “Wrinkled pants, hair that won’t stay down and stinking to high heaven.”

My face felt naked. The sun was beating it into a hot iron. Something was missing. I felt in my shirt pocket and found only damp vacancy.

“Have you seen them?” I asked Rosalita, my lover and confidant.

“Maybe there, in the bag,” she nodded towards our luggage.

“Should I put them on?”

“Go ahead,” she replied. “Take a chance.”

“You sure? You know how some people are.”

“Don’t be so paranoid,” she smirked, laying her hand on the small of my back.

“I’m trusting you on this,” I said, bending down, carefully pulling them out of their hard, plastic case in the side of the bag and placing them firmly on my face.

“How’s that?”

“Fabulous! Come on, let’s go.”

She took the sacrificial lamb by the arm and led me to the slaughter.

Sweat dripped from my forehead like a steam bath. I thought about home. It was a refreshing 42 degrees Fahrenheit when we had left that morning. Calm, sunny, delightfully cold weather had embraced the landscape, requiring long-sleeve flannel shirts to keep out the chill.

“I’d rather freeze to death, then live in this baking hell,” I thought, as we approached the adobe style home in the suburbs of Albuquerque.

Rosalita’s parents met us at the front door. She introduced her mother and father, Carmen and Francisco Morales and announced lovingly, “And this, this is my sweet Jacque.” I felt her hand guiding me forward.

Her parents looked stoically at their future son-in-law, blinked several times to clear their vision and realized I wasn’t a mirage or distant heat wave. Her mother recovered first, stepping forward and extended her large, brown-skinned hand.

“Buenos tardes Jacque,” she smiled sweetly, as if she was about to give someone on death row their last wish. “Mi casa, su casa.”

“Our house is your house,” Rosalita translated, seemingly oblivious to her parents’ demeanor.

“Thank you,” I replied to Mrs. Morales. “It’s a pleasure.”

Rosalita locked eyes on her father, who appeared to have been jolted into a sudden catatonic state of unknown proportions.

“Papa?” she said. “Papa!” Her raised voice hit him like a whip. He turned, forced a strained smile and shook my hand as if it had a sign reading, “Wet paint.”

“Come in. Come in!” her mother insisted, putting her arm around Rosalita. Her father followed robotically, carrying our bags as balancing weights to keep him grounded. I could feel his eyes flinging poisonous darts at the back of my head like a blow-gun.

It was refreshingly cool inside. “Ah. This is nice,” I sighed. “How can you stand the heat?”

“We kind of like it,” her father said brusquely.

“I guess you get use to it.”

“I guess so,” he said, turning abruptly. With our luggage in tow he walked slowly down their clean, whitewashed hallway. He had large, rough hands and moved as if he was in a military parade.

Mrs. Morales followed her husband. “Let me show you your rooms. You might want to freshen up,” she added, glancing back at the clothes hanging on my body like wet laundry. “Here’s yours,” she motioned to Rosalita, then turned to me. “You can stay in her brothers’ old room. he bathroom’s down the hall. Come out to the back patio when you’re ready. Lunch is almost done.”

“Merci . . . thank you,” I replied.

She nodded, “De nada.” then spoke to Rosalita. “Rico and Junior will be here any minute.” She kissed Rosalita. “Oh no, the enchiladas!” she exclaimed, running to the kitchen in her light green fluorescent pants and pale yellow blouse with ironed on lace.

I looked to Rosalita for an explanation. “Rico and Junior?” I’d heard of Rico and her brother Francis, but no Junior.

“My brother. Francis was named after Papa, so we just call him Junior.”

Mr. Morales squeezed between us. “Excuse me,” he mumbled and disappeared out back.

“This is a disaster,” I said out loud.

“It will be fine. Just give them a little time, OK?”

“Time’s not going to help. Did you see those looks? They don’t even know me and they hate me.”

She gave me a hug. “They don’t hate you. They’re just scared. It’s not every day their only daughter says she’s getting married.”

I tried to ignore my gut. “I hope you’re right.”

“I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She swayed coyly towards the bathroom, her long braided hair rocking in unison with her heart-shaped hips.

After drying off and changing my stained garment to a casual short-sleeved blue dress shirt, I took my skinny self and ventured out to the back patio. A gorgeous garden of blooming cactus filled the yard, with a vine-covered trellis covering the patio from the blistering sun. Her father was hand-watering a small patch of grass between the cactus and patio. He had on a large brimmed, white cowboy hat. He didn’t notice I was there until his wife came out with a basket and offered some bread.

“Have some homemade bread.”

“Thank you,” I replied and proceeded to devour three pieces in a row. “This is delicious.” I licked my fingers, seeing that she was making a religious effort to be cordial. “What is it?”

“Cornbread . . . Jalapeño cornbread. You’ve never had cornbread?”

“Never,” I innocently replied.

“How could you live without cornbread?” Mr. Morales interjected loudly. “Rosalita has surely made you some of her mother’s famous cornbread?”

“No.”

Her father looked accusingly at Mrs. Morales, who frowned back, shaking her slightly rouged cheeks in utter dismay.

“We eat out mostly,” I explained, “or I cook up something at home. I’m pretty good with a little sauce and some wine.”

“You cook?” Mr. Morales exclaimed, as if I’d told him I was a serial killer. I nodded. “I need a drink,” he exclaimed and headed towards the house. Before disappearing he stopped and turned. “You want a margarita, beer or something?”

“A margarita?” He shook his head in disgust. “Water would be fine, thanks.” He nodded, visibly vexed and went inside.

“Please,” Mrs. Morales motioned towards the flower-decorated picnic table laid out methodically with shiny silverware and maroon and turquoise ceramic dishes. Before the bottom of my fifty/fifty percent nylon and cotton pants touched the wooden bench she asked, “Where are you from Jacque?”

She plunked down directly across the table, leaned forward and waited for me to continue. Her well-rounded, bronzed face had wrinkled crowfeet protecting her knowing eyes, bordered by thick black and gray hair. She sat like a voyeuristic priest, waiting for a secret revelation or confession.

“Montréal. Actually, a little town north of Montréal. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. It’s called Saínte-Thérèse.”

“I’m sorry,” she smiled. “I don’t know Montréal.”

“It’s in Quebec province. Do you know where that is?”

“It’s in Canada, right?”

I nodded, bemused with Americans’ ignorance of geography.

“But where are you from originally?” she persisted. “Your family . . . your people.”

“We grew up in Saínte-Thérèse. Our parents moved to Toronto for awhile in the early sixties, but didn’t like the crowds, so we moved back to Saínte-Thérèse.”

“No, no. I don’t mean where you grew up.” She shook her head. “Your parents . . . your people?”

“My parents met in Quebec,” I offered. She shook her head and was about to give up when I smelled Rosalita’s sweet fragrance. She hugged me from behind, sat down, looked over at her mother and saw her frustration.

“What’s wrong Mama?”

“Nothing,” her mother said, looking away.

“Your Mom was wondering where I was from. You know; my family and stuff.”

“Mama, shame on you!”

Her mother got up and went towards the house.

“He’s from Iceland!” Rosalita shouted. “Or is it Sweden?” she said to her mother’s back. “One of those bleached white, Northern Anglo families!”

An involuntary sigh escaped from my throat. “I should have seen it coming.”

She gave me a squeeze. “It’s just ignorance.”

“Perhaps,” I replied sadly. “Whoever said ‘ignorance is bliss’ must have been pretty stupid.”

Angry sounds drifted from the kitchen with unintended clarity. We could hear bits and pieces of jumbled distress. “I am not!” her father exclaimed. “You don’t like it any better than I do!”

“Don’t say that!” her mother shouted. “It doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Shhhhh . . .” her mother countered.

“How long are we staying . . . a week?” I asked. “By then I’ll have been drawn and quartered or systematically tolerated to death!”

CONTINUED

Quilting Mama in Rwanda

Daisy Gale doesn’t take any guff and is a straight shooter or should I say straight quilter? About her trip to work with children at the ROP Center for Street Children in Kigali Rwanda, she says, “I’ve been trying to get here for sixteen years. Four of my children are adopted. I look at the kids I’m working with here and they remind me of my own. They can be a pain in the butt, but I love them to pieces.”

Daisy, a Salt Lake City mother of eight “that look like the United Nations” and master quilter, has been volunteering all of her life and quilting since she received her first 1928 White from her grandmother at the age of fourteen. Along with a team of medical personnel, trauma specialists from the Association for Thought Field Therapy and community organizers, Daisy ventured to the other side of the globe to share her skills with some of the 150 children who call ROP Center for Street Children their home. Most of the children at El ROP (Rwandan Orphan’s Project) are survivors of the 1994 genocide or their parents died from the AIDS pandemic.

For almost three weeks Daisy worked day and night to set up a quilting program for some older students, who would soon be leaving the orphanage and have no other means of support. The beginning days were challenging, as many of the machines were broken or malfunctioning and some of the young men “had no idea what they were doing,” Daisy says, “but they took in everything I said and were determined to get it right.” She taught them the basics of machine maintenance, safety, cutting, sewing, block assembly, sashing, applique, color use, hand quilting, as well as how to infuse their personal creative genius and design. “I swear,” she says like a proud mother, “that these young men’s quilts will become collector’s items.”

She and her students also went on a fabric safari, “which was a trip in itself,” Daisy snickers. “With all that finagling and bargaining, they were yelling and screaming as much as I do back home on the soft ball field!” Their persistence paid off when they found a shop in the capital (Kigali) to buy natural inexpensive one-hundred percent African cotton fabrics and arranged an ongoing relationship with that supplier.

“Each of these young people have their own strengths,” Daisy states. “One is good at cutting, another at design and yet another at sewing. Language is our biggest barrier, even though Marseilles is a great translator. I have people taking the class that speak Kinyarwanda, French and Swahili and Marseilles can speak them all!” She claims that the boys have their idiosyncrasies and quirks, “But who doesn’t,” she laughs.

Daisy helped set up bank accounts for the children, taught them how to manage their business and connected them with another quilting teacher from Kigali, who continued their quilting education. Other women from The U.S. (including Suzanne Connolly and Dottie Webster), also play a major role in supporting and marketing the young men’s quilts. “They’ve already sold several at Hotel Rwanda,” states Suzanne Connolly, “and have had buyers in the U.S. who want to buy everything they make.”

“I’m hoping what I took away from there and what I left will keep going,” says Daisy. “If these young men and women leave the orphanage without any skills, they’ll end up starving and being back on the streets in the same position they were before they got to ROP.”

“This entire project was the result of an idea by Sandra Bagley, who used to be the medical officer for the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda,” says Daisy. “Sandra helped me adopt my kids and asked if I could teach the children at ROP how to quilt.”

“I don’t care if people know anything about me,” Daisy clarifies, “I want people to know that it doesn’t matter if it’s these kids or somewhere else. It doesn’t matter how much you get involved or where, just get involved! Give a little each paycheck; donate time and/or energy. You don’t have to travel overseas. Go ahead and get your hands dirty.”

Daisy Gale not only got her hands dirty, she got her heart split open every time she saw one of the boys faces light up with understanding or they did something that reminded her of one of her sons back home. Like most languages, the word “mama” is the same in Kinyarwanda (the native language of Rwanda). Daisy Gale has now added to her Utah family of eight and become Mama to a new generation of Africans she birthed into the quilting world.

If you would like to contribute to this project please contact The Rwandan Orphan’s Project.

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