It was about a year ago, on a spring day like a lot of spring days in Chicago, the sky overcast, the color of slate, the color of mourning doves. The wind was blowing cool and damp, making me shiver. I was standing in Queen of Heaven cemetery looking down at a mound of dirt, an unmarked grave. It was where Rita Alvarado, my mother, was buried. So much had happened between us, so much said and unsaid. I laid down on top of the dirt and opened my arms to try to hold her one last time.
I am looking for you mother,
looking for you everywhere.
In the corridors of dreams,
I look for the door
that will lead me to you.
I look, but I never find it.
People have asked me how would I describe my relationship with her. I tell them this. A little girl and her mother are flying on an airplane when something happens and the plane starts careening toward the ground. In a rush, the mother searches for a parachute and finds only one. Placing it on the girl, she carries her to the open hatch. The child wails and screams, begging her mother not to let go, but the mother, with infinite love, takes that last step, and releases her daughter to the open sky, to the world, to her future. Everything I am today is because my mother gave me a parachute. This is my love letter.
It’s winter Mamí, and I’m thinking of you. Not Mother’s Day, not your birthday – it’s an icy, white, nameless day in the heart of winter. Through the cold seems like it will never end, my thoughts turn to you and that memory - the last happy time.
We’re in Geneva, near the Wisconsin border tobogganing with abuelo and silent, angry Daddy. I’m four, I think, and you are kneeling in the snow, your hair in a French braid, your fur coat billowing around you as the wind blows. I’m in my blue snowsuit, chubby and smiling and loving you, loving you so very much. How could I know that you would soon start to leave me by degrees?