We came to North America. There the people laughed less and Mami, you seemed to laugh more. We lived in an empty house with plastic chairs. It was very hard to fill it because we didn’t have any guests. Instead of singing boleros in German, you cheered up by dancing the cueca and the tango and by passionately remembering all that you had left behind. When other children made fun of my height you would say that they were poor little things because they didn’t know that I was magical, a relative of Thumbelina. And when they laughed at our accent, you said that they were less fortunate than we were because they spoke only one language.
In the house in Georgia you planted boldo, bay leaf, cilantro and violets, and we smelled your familiar fragrance once more. We learned to love this new land that provided us with shelter and human warmth. Miraculously, we survived once again, and learned to name other stars. Our happiness was hidden, less exuberant, but we survived.
Now in the USA, I tell my children stories. They think I make all of them up, even though some are true. Sometimes I say: “Children come close, I want you to listen to me. Be my confidants. Come, bring the pillows from Casablanca, elixir from Córdoba and the fans from Madrid . . . Once upon a time there was a mother who lived in a country with five thousand volcanoes and many penguins . . . a beautiful and luminous country with blizzards and archipelago islands. That country had a wise ruler who died in a palace set ablaze by a powerful, conceited dictator. Like many other citizens, we left and crossed the mountain range in search of safety. Life is full of wonders, mysterious cliffs and miracles . . .”
In those moments, I know that you were close to me, Mami, and I knew why you had to hide your stories. You are like a bridge to all those secrets. As I call you, the room begins to fill with the scent of violets and jasmine, and you tell me that it is time to leave the dead behind, to bid them farewell, and to sit down to eat at the table of the living.
The years have passed and you have remained near us in the earth that we seed, in the birds that visit us at daybreak. Above all, we have preserved your memories and your voice in this both strange and familiar room, in the foliage of the trees. Your stories have marked the path for all the possible returns, and here in the yard behind the house we see you hanging out the clothes to dry. We see you pruning the rose bushes, saying: This is where my responsibilities end; now it is time for you to tell me a story.