Buenos Dias Hermano,
I hope you are keeping safe and healthy from the pandemic
I’m enclosing a short story about mom for your consideration
Please take good care,
My friend Fidel Moreno, whom I met in Aurora, Illinois back in the nineties invited me once to see his work as an artist. At the time, he had been contracted by a protestant church to decorate the front of their place of worship with a mural thematic to their faith.
I showed up this one night to see what Fidel was working on and I caught him up on a ladder plastering the back wall of the hall with a mural in progress. It was easy to get the gist of the theme but I also liked that I found it very colorful, as opposed to something sad or lugubre. As I remember, it had a sort of happy pastel tone, not to the point of looking like commercial art but just a happy tone.
As we were talking, in came a woman member of the church board who began to ask personal questions to my friend and in an aggressive tone also questioned his work. One of the items she questioned about the mural was the dimensions on some of the subjects in the biblical theme scenery. I remember thinking all along, the lady was undermining Fidel and his work because she didn’t expect to find a Chicano artist working for a White church.
She specifically questioned a hill in the painting which according to Fidel was the Mount of Olives. She said it looked out of proportion and the road up was too steep and crooked. I am a very patient person but at that point, I was getting tired of the lady’s bickering but in all honesty, I think the lady had a good point. To Fidel’s credit, he remained cool and respectful throughout but most important, what I remember was his response.
He said something like “there is a reason for the road up the mount being steep and crooked and that is because not anyone is cut out to follow that road other than someone like Jesus.” In other words, that steep road in Fidel’s interpretation signifies sacrifice, which implicitly is never easy nor comfortable.
I vividly remember when I used to visit mom at my sister’s house in Houston where she spent her last couple of years. Almost every time I was there, I saw her doing her laundry and since her bedroom was upstairs, she would walk up and down the stairs carrying her basket of laundry.
Mom was around 90 at the time and she suffered from injuries in both her legs due to a couple of accidents, so anyone can imagine mom’s painstaking effort to go up and down the stairs with a basket of laundry no less. Each time I offered to help and never, not once she allowed me to help her. Her response was a determinant “N0, stop bothering me !” to the point of scolding.
I think of mom’s laundry routine and remember her struggling with each step she took up that staircase and think about Fidel’s words describing the steep road up the Mount of Olives. Mom’s routine up the stairs to me is a graphic representation of her long life until she left us three years ago on the early morning of April 25.
Norberta, like her mother Josefa and grandmother Agustina, survived mostly doing domestic work and pulled their families through against all odds. But never as I recall, did mom lose her pride and dignity, at times working two jobs to make just enough money to pay the bills. She once asked for a raise to a woman after having worked for her family for many years. She told me, not only was her request denied but asked if she thought she deserved it. Mom left and never went back despite multiple calls from the family members pleading for her to return.
Indeed, life can be a rough journey for many like mom, and judging for their endurance they have to be very special people to withstand the challenges along the way. Like many of our parents and grandparents, she lived a life of deprivation, limited opportunities, marginalization, and based on gender, abuse, and neglect.
As people say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so perhaps all the challenges made mom the strong person she was if only those behavioral traits were transferable.
I recently had a dream that I was walking along what seemed to be a trail. It was a short dream that ended as I saw up ahead a change in terrain from a flat dirt path to one uneven and curvy with patches of natural rock slabs.
I could interpret the dream as a sign that there are hard times ahead or maybe it was a cautionary reminder from mom that we must always work hard for things we aspire to achieve or maybe, it was just another dream ….
We miss you mom …