My mother passed away in 1999. March 5 is her birthday. Although growing up, birthdays were not a big deal in our family, I share this post as a tribute to her memory. She visits me in dreams every so often. Lately, less so. As such, I write this recurring memory I have of my mother, albeit a nostalgic sentimental recollection. There is much more to this woman than what little is written here; she has inspired us — her children — to reach for the stars, to adhere to a strong work ethic, and to be kind with a heart full of love for everyone around us. I love you, Mom.
The first thing I hear on this morning is the static coming from the old little brown radio that sits atop the refrigerator. That static of changing stations and the rhythmic buzzes of the refri lull me to awaken.
Un rinconcito en el cielo plays on the Tejano station. The stove huffs its breath of fire to life, the pots clank onto the burners, and I hear my mother hum along to the trumpeting accordion melody. A little corner of heaven.
Lying on the sofa, I stretch my seven- or nine-year-old legs and arms yawning my big dorky grin. I must have fallen asleep in the living room the night before, not sure if it was because of the cold, or we had a reunion with other family members, or maybe that was just the way things were.
Barely squinting, my eyes open slowly, but I do not want Mom to know I am awake. Otherwise, I would have to get up and start getting ready for the day, or for school. Or was this a weekend?
The sizzle of diced ham hits the pan. The aroma of strong heavy brewing coffee hovers in the air. Mom does not look at me, so I watch her — eyes squinting — as she moves across the floor in her simple blue dress that is almost aquamarine, her favorite color, which is covered by that pale, thin, overly used yellow apron.
She slices tomatoes and onions on the cutting board. She checks on the coffee. Looks at the clock every few minutes.
The radio announcer then stops the music ,and the daily morning prayers begin.
Padre nuestro, que estas en el cielo— She shuts it off. We were, at that time, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and there was no need to recite such chants, such prayers.
She walks past me. The scent of her flowery perfume, corn tortillas, and black coffee trail behind her, lingering as she crosses into the hallway and into the bedroom.
“Cositas,” I hear her say. That was her pet name for Dad, “little nothings.” I guess it could be compared to the phrase in English, “sweet nothings.” They always said sweet nothings, cositas, to each other. “Ándale, ¡ya son las cinco!”
It is five o’clock in the morning, and Mom was up to make Dad his breakfast to get him ready for work.
I hear them kiss, and I giggle to myself. I could still hear their inaudible whispers in Spanish about what the plans were for today, and then Mom’s loud laugh. She walks out of the bedroom, and she sees me, wide eyed and grinning from ear to ear. I cover my face with the blankets.
“¡Ey, tú! ¿Que estas haciendo?” she playfully scolds. “You don’t have to wake up till later. Close your eyes.” She pats my forehead with her strong, soft hands, then brushes my face down with her palm to close my eyes.
And she walks away to the breakfast table, which is later also a dining table and a desk for homework. The plates clink. She tends the items on the stove. I can smell ham and eggs, frijoles a la charra, corn tortillas, and dark sweet coffee.
Soon Dad, now out of the shower and dressed in his butcher’s uniform, walks to the table. I shut my eyes pretending to sleep. He reaches for his butcher’s knives, “I need to sharpen these.”
“What?” Mom asks. “No, no, no. It’s time for breakfast, and I don’t want you waking up the children.” I can feel Dad looking over to my direction.
Mom sets two identically served plates, one for him and one for her. Dad serves his coffee and sits. Mom brings some steaming hot tortillas off the comal and sits next to him. They look at each other and smile, then start to eat. They talk about their day, and I close my eyes to the rhythms of their chatter and hushed laughter.