The world in a beautiful white serine blanket of cold, cold snow can be deceiving. Looks pretty darn good looking through a thick window with a fire place keeping you warm.
The quiet solitude opens the mind and stories from the past appear like a ghost in a swirl of snow flakes bouncing, pushing, falling, gone, like lost memories.
Grandma told me a story about her younger cousin, Santiago Romero, whose parents had passed on and he was living with grandma’s grandparents, “he knew the ceremony..” Grandma said.
I could tell in her contemplation she could barely remember him. Grandma spoke, “As a young girl, I worked sometimes for Mr. Sua-sage at the mill in Taos Canyon. A rich couple that Mr. Sua-sage knew from Italy would come and visit him in the summer. My grandpa and grandma became pretty good friends with the Italian couple who would visit different places around northern New Mexico. Grandpa would smoke smelly imported cigarros. They would bring presents for all of us and Grandma and the jolly lady would pass them out to us, jackets and shoes mostly, sometimes food from their home, Italian spices and a twisted cracker you cook called macaroni.
The couple didn’t have any children of their own and they would take us many places. Fishing in the Rio Grande, picking blueberries. Their favorite was Santiago who charmed them with his smile and his eagerness to learn Italian which was a bit like Spanish.
Grandma struggled in trying to remember the events. From what I can recall, she said, ” It was one late fall as they were leaving, the Italians asked if they could adopt my cousin Santiago. Santiago was about 9 years old and my Grandma didn’t want to give him up, however, Santiago really wanted to go with them. We would talk about what the Italians would tell him when we weren’t around.”
” Know what Browny?” said Santiago. He always called me Browny cause I was so dark.
“They’re gonna Baptise me in Ee tah leee.”
“Know what Browny?” smiling. ” They eat tasty snake-looking things called spas-geetee.”
“Know what Browny?” looking at his new shoes he said, “I think I want to go with them.”
Grandma and Santiago chose to be in this world when the world was changing into what we know now. Dirt poor – 11 people of various ages living in the our Grandparents small two room adobe house, and in the summer, a one room farm house in the fields.
Sun-burnt, wind-burnt, brown skinned Pueblo kids helping with the corn-fields and the yearly events of life growing up in the Pueblo.
Grandma started her story again, “I remember we were coming home from the bean fields to the north, afternoon summer wind was picking up, Grandpa steered the wagon, pushed the old horses a little harder back to the Pueblo.Santiago’ s leaving today, with the Italian couple, finally bent grandma’s endurable back. Although it would be just for one year – that was the deal one year –
everyone was crying, hugging him like he wasn’t coming back home. Santiago held his Indian suit-case (a paper bag full off misc. things he owned). Those radical can’t-catch-your-breath crying was what big Aunty Lou was was getting into, although everything made her cry. Picking plums made her cry…Even the work horses hung their heads low, brown puppies stuck their heads out of their wooden boxes to see their little man leave.”
Grandma cried, “One year was what they said, but the world war came..”
“A year later the Italians and Santiago never returned to the Pueblo. My grandma kept asking Mr Sua-sage about them, but he had no answers for Grandma. The letters stopped, the Mill burnt down in the winter, Mr Sua-sage went south for the winter. He also never returned to the sangre de cristo’s montano’s…”
When Grandma told me the story she knew that she was the only one left of her time, “The swallows called to Santiago, the men came to talk with Grandpa to initiate him soon. He had a gift and they all knew that he could talk with the insects who knew the old forgotten songs. He tried to teach me but I forgot the ceremony.
Year after year we heard nothing, the war over the ocean was in full force. My body changed, I meet love and got married even the moon had a funny relationship with the morning star – flirting with Venus year after year, soon he was just a memory like the first snow fall so beautiful yet disappears to quickly.”
As i stand on the roof top shoveling snow i think of them and at times in my dreams they come to me, I see them. All the people long before my time: screaming aunties, uncles and elders slowly walking away from their holy-child. He was gone forever, and now grandma is too – along with her fragmented stories.
I bow, I kneel in the cold snow before the sunrise in memory of them all when they were younger, carving out identities just loosing their baby fat. They are all gone forever from this mother- earth melting away in my mind.
….Like a simple elegant snowflake that melts on my Indian skin.