Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pan dulce after midnight

"So the guy kills his wife.  BLAM!  Shoots her dead.  Because she had other boyfriends besides him," I say.

I am eating watery oatmeal. I like it like that.  Milky and hot.   It is 11:30 p.m.  I have only moments ago finished reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Bella has come downstairs.  She is grumpy and bleary eyed.  Is having a tough time completing mounds of homework due tomorrow. I am happy to see her although I know she should be in bed.

"You want some oatmeal, honey?  I'll make you some..."

She nods.  It is a disgruntled nod with a fluffy ponytail.

As I stir the pot Bella wraps her arms around me. I hold my 11 year old baby tightly.  She sighs.

She sighs that sigh we sigh when we were in need of affection and have suddenly had that innate necessity filled.  There is undeniable satisfaction in a warm, solid hug.

The energy of a hug is powerful beyond human comprehension.

I make her oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins to soothe her rumpled soul.  She eats it with furrowed brows and dark demeanor.

I play with her curly hair and scratch her head.

"It's like a rug," I say.  "A very thick, curly rug."

She smiles in spite of herself, and croaks, "It's very spongy, like a pillow, when I lay down on it."

She then eats her oatmeal in silence.

"Sometimes men get all crazy and kill their wives,"  I say.  "Like in my book.  You see it on the news all the time.  Some guy kills his wife or girlfriend in a jealous rage... just because she has a new man.  Some men think they actually OWN the woman in their life.   Like a pet or a pair of socks.  So when she strays they lose their minds.  I'm sure they think it's out of love...".

I keep rambling on about the plot of the book.  Then I tell her some gossip I heard today about people at church.  It's good stuff.  Truly juicy.  Dripping with juice.  Oh man.

"Now don't go telling anyone about this, Bella.  I'm treating you like grown up here."

"Ok.  I won't tell.  ...I'm too tired to do my homework, Mommy."

"Okay baby.  Don't do it.  Go to bed."

"But you gotta tuck me in...".

I wonder how many more times in her life she will ask me to tuck her in.

I tuck her in and say prayers with her. I stub my toe on a stool in the dark and stifle a bad word.

Now I am here typing. And it is far too late to be here typing.  I will come to regret this.

When I was a child/teenager/adult my mother used to love to sit and chat at me in the still of the night behind a glass of milk and some pan dulce.

I was the Bella then.

I thought of that tonight as I talked at Bella.  I remembered the hundreds of times I have sat at a kitchen table in the wee hours of the morning and listened to my mother talk.  She has never yet run out of things to say.

Bella didn't say much but the enormous chocolate lakes in her head she calls eyes soaked it all in.

My mother has always healed my heart after midnight with her talking when the house is still and owls call to us.

 It was her stories of Mexico and real live ghosts and wild Apaches and our Mestizos that have helped time and time again to mend the broken pieces of that constantly beating and bleeding organ.

My mother has taught me the importance of warm food in the healing of the heart.  Empanadas of her baking.  Cream of wheat.  Tortillas con frijoles.  Queso con salsa de chile verde.

Some people say it is bad to eat so late at night.  "It will go straight to your hips" they say.  The better to sway them with, my dear.

Only food and an understanding soul filled with Love can soothe the troubles of the world once it has gone to sleep.

My mother once told me the story of the boy in Mexico she dated.  She had hopes of a future with this boy.  He had  a car.  My mother had muddy, bare feet.  The boy with the car was not very nice to my mother.

At night my mother sat at a kitchen table with her mother.  Drinking coffee and eating pan dulce in the wee hours.

"He will be sorry, Mi'jita," said my wise Abuelita.  "One day he will be be so sorry.  He will wish he had chosen you."

My mother is beautiful, successful and the most intelligent person I know.  Of course he is sorry.

When my heart had been broken by boys who did not appreciate me as they should have my mother would wisely sip her herbal tea with a touch of  honey and say,

"They will be sorry.  You will see.  They will be so sorry they did not choose you."

They are sorry.  I see now.  A sorry sorry lot.

Food and love and talking and listening at unreasonable hours. Stories with sound morals and demons and angels.  These things, I have discovered tonight, flow through my veins.

I look forward to the day Bella sits at a kitchen table with a mug of something hot and says to her own daughter,

"He will be sorry, my love.  You will see."