April 9, 2007

The Mother of All Mothers

part III

We leave the valley passing by Lolo's cabin. It's most outstanding feature is his eighty-three year old mother, Audelia. More than the rest of the family, she loves a visitor. On a brisk day she layers her best summer dresses over each other, puts on bangles and earrings and hopefully remembers to put in her hearing aid.

She holds visitors hands, pats them, smiles. This can last hours. For those unaccustomed to touch, it can be disconcerting.

"When are you coming back?" she asks. Even if you've just arrived.

The question flummoxed Tara, who was probably thinking to herself the chances were indeed slim. But how do say this when your host emptied her jewlery box to greet you?

Given, Doña Audelia is hard to understand. She speaks in a murmur. Her words step over her daughter's. They come confident and swift. Snatches of stories grab me--that her father was a huesero (a bone healer) or that she used to grind the grain racing horses in circles to crank the mill. She was once the fastest rider of all her siblings. Now she's the only one. Only one other family lives further up valley. Visits are scarce.

And though I can barely understand her (sometimes her daughter will shout translations) I'm fascinated. What other stories remain?

She putters around on a cane decorated with crochet. She eats well. She drinks three cups of powdered juice with lunch. "You'll get drunk!" teases her husband. She ignores him. I find myself wondering, who was this plucky woman as a girl? How did she survive with her tenderness intact?

The family is united around the fire. "Mom, we're selling you to the foreigner," Lolo shouts, hugging her.

"Bueno," she concedes.

Who knows how long this will go on? I tell her I'm coming back soon.

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