Ana Marina Alcantara | Broken Childhood Memories: Brazil

Brownish-red bricks held together by clunky grey cement, neatly shaping the wall behind the large stove and counter. The sink was directly across from the stove. White but stained, the ceramic floor felt cold beneath my tiny feet. I stood on tippy-toes, trying to stick my hand inside the sink, but my height betrayed my efforts. The more I tried, the more my naked body would rub against the counter, causing me discomfort. As I threw in the towel [[GAVE UP?]]  I felt my grandmother’s hand wrap around my stomach, lifting me up and into the sink. [[ALL OF YOU, OR JUST YOUR HANDS?]] I welcomed the warmth of the water and the soapy feeling of bubbles.

My palms are sweaty. I have been tightly clutching the rope all morning. The rope is attached to the door of the metal bird cage, which is about ten feet in front of where grandfather and I sit. Grandfather woke me up at five this morning. Five o’clock in the morning means nothing to me. All I know is the sun has just begun rising. “Vamos pegar um pombo hoje,” grandfather said. I looked up at him from my bed and asked why I had to catch a pigeon.

It smells bad. The chickens smell bad. They are walking around bobbing their heads for no reason. I grab one of them by the neck so it can stop bobbing and turning its tiny head. The movements bother me. The chicken begins to panic. It pecks my wrist repeatedly until I let go. Tears begin forming at the corners of my eyes and I hear laughter. My cousin is laughing at me. He finds humor in my traumatic experience.

My nose is stuffy and my face is wet and hot. I can see the children playing outside. They call to me. I shake the gate but it doesn’t open. I grab the lock; it’s as big as my hand. Grandmother tells me to come inside but I beg her to let me play outside. She says a young lady doesn’t play outside and leaves me crying at the gate.

It’s the first day of first grade. My uniform is green. We say morning prayers and then class begins. I start learning how to write in cursive my very first day. My pencil point keeps breaking and the teacher smiles and tells me not to press so hard.

I am crying, crying so hard I can’t breathe. I hear my grandmother saying, “I love you. I’ll miss you. Don’t forget me.” I hear grandfather telling her everything will be all right, that I will return home some day. I hear my cousin calling my name and my aunt telling me to have a good trip. I hear my uncle telling my mother to remember to call as often as possible. I hear my dogs barking. I hear my grandfather’s birds singing. I see tears flowing down my grandmother’s face. Her pale blue eyes are soaked and her face is the color of the inside of a watermelon. I start crying and calling to my grandfather. My mother begins to tell me everything is okay; that we are just going on a trip. My uncle picks me up into his arms and takes me to my grandmother. She kisses me repeatedly and tells me I’m her angel. Grandfather wipes my tears and tells uncle to bring me to my mother.

I see planes. They are so big! I get excited and I see my mother smile for the first time that day. She no longer looks unhappy. Uncle is unloading the bags from the car. After the last bag is placed on the cart, mother asks me to get close to uncle for a picture.

 

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