Present absence

Nonna en Otono

I wish I had known you. I met you, I remember you. The honey flavored candy you used to put in the glass vase in the middle of the living room. Your green and yellow dress. Your hugs. Your delicate gestures. Your perfect Spanish with a hint of a foreign accent. The sugared water you used to give to my brother and me. After mixing it, you would slightly touch the spoon with the glass twice. “Tin-tin”. I automatically do the same every time I make myself some tea- and with a smile, I always remember you.

But I wish I had really known you: I would have liked to discuss politics, history or arts with you, share opinions, to learn your native language. I would have liked to hear about your life, the good and the bad. I would have liked to get a few advices from you – the kind only people who have lived several decades can give.

I’ve been told that you were a very bright girl with an admirable ability to learn languages. You spoke Russian, Polish, French, German, Spanish and English. You also had a talent for music: you could sing, play the piano and even compose.

Despite belonging to a generation of territorially and culturally fractured countries, I heard that you were blind to origin and religion when beginning a friendship. You married young like everyone else in those times. How did you meet your husband? I don’t know.I would have liked to hear it from you.

You were caught by the war. I believe you wanted to study and I’m sure you would have excelled in any career choice. Nonetheless, history got in the way. You had to leave your hometown with your family, escaping a system that opposed everything you believed in and that left no space to free will. You arrived in defeated lands as displaced people with no nationality, so the monster would not get you back because of a simple paper. How was that for you? Leave it all behind. I wish you could have told me.Nonna y Ana

You became a mother- not in the most stable conditions, but you were a beautiful family and had the support of your parents, your sister and many other friends. Yes, they were hard times for having a daughter, but maybe she helped you cope with difficulties- or at least I like to think about it that way. I would have liked to ask you that.

You married an innovative and creative man, who discovered that immigration to Venezuela was feasible. I can only imagine your reaction: “Venezuela? Show me a map!” You did all the errands and in fact, you were welcome. Rumor has it that in the Venezuelan Consulate they were more than happy with the new citizen acquisition: “Ah, race improvement!” they said just when they took a look at your blondish light-eyed daughter. You were horrified by the statement, but what could you do? You did not have much of a choice. That story sounds interesting. I would have liked to hear it from you.

Erase and rewind. After a bumpy ride, you arrived in Venezuela and each member of your family was given ten dollars. You tasted a banana and hated it. It wasn’t like any other fruit you had eaten in your European life before. I imagine your first impression of such a different country. The sea, the heat, that chaotic social dynamics, the diversity of a visibly agitated people, and that wall of mountains you had to cross to get to the city. I’ve been told that as soon as you arrived in Caracas, you bumped into a rally of the PCV (the Venezuelan Communist Party). The ghosts of the past left behind suddenly sneaked in without any warning. I think you cried. I am not sure. I would have liked to sit down as long as it took to hear that story from you.

With a lot of work and positive thinking, you progressed and took advantage of opportunities. You built your house, your street, practically your whole neighborhood. Not satisfied with that, you also built a beach house to enjoy the sea, one of the many kindnesses offered by the new land. I’ve been told that you were always grateful to Venezuela. Especially at this moment, I would have like to hear that from you.

Nonetheless, life threw a bucket of cold water on you. Unexpectedly, you became a widow and never got married again. If you had needed to talk about that, trust me I would have been there.

You were smart and stood up. With a self-made carton keyboard, you learned how to type and you became an executive assistant. I’ve been told that you were not good at parking, so you left your house very early every the morning in order to get the simplest and most comfortable spot. You worked tirelessly. You earned your spot and they gave you that other one in the parking lot as well. I would like to tell you how much I admire you.

Those are bits of your life that I’ve heard over the years. They say that sometimes I do things that you would have done. I like to believe it. That somehow you and I are connected and that maybe I am a channel that keeps you present. That we don’t have to rely on photographs solely.

You have no idea how much I would have liked to really know you. But well, I decided to arrive in 1987 and you decided to part in 1994.

Nonna estudiando

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