oil on linen
These stories and recollections have surfaced as I work on my book, Dreaming in Havana. Abuela plays a very prominent role in this book as well as the longhaired creature that I was as a teenager. She used to say that I looked as if the wolves had raised me.
In the book the teenager is forced by a recurring dream to withdraw dangerously close to his Abuela’s force field. To survive they learn to negotiate the differences between the dreams that fate has cast upon them, and those that they intentionally will into existence. They strike a deal to help each other end the dreams that haunt them and then run away to Havana to dig a talisman out of a wall that she buried forty years ago. If Abuela were around to read the finished book I think she would laugh.
"It's like they say here Abuela, Who woulda thunk it?"
Abuela Speaks of Doctors, Uva and other things.
"By the tender age of sixteen I managed our large house and controlled the day-to-day finances of our family. My brothers, too busy enjoying the many layers of pleasures that Havana offered, were not at all interested in such trivialities as balancing a check book or making sure that the bills were paid on time. I’m not sure if the word tender best describes the creature that I had become in my short time here on earth. When I was thirteen, my mother, god rest her soul, took to her bed with a bewildering combination of symptoms. The Doctors poked and tested while doing their side-glance inventory of the family silver. Had I known that their creativity and zeal to find a cure was directly related to their estimate of wealth in the coffers of the unwell, I would have replaced the hand carved chairs, hidden the paintings, and silver candelabras.
“Although none of the doctors could offer a conclusive diagnoses, each had the definitive and costly cure. At first, I was so impressed by the flair and swirl with which they slipped into their virginal white cloaks that I saw them as magicians rather than physicians. I went along with their suggestions, paid their fees, even sent the servants out to scour Havana for the exotic ingredients for their concoctions. One day it would be fine powdered gold from Peru, the next, a monkey gland infusion made by the African alchemists across the bay in Reglas.
“The cook, incensed by his sudden demotion to delivery boy, warned that he could not concentrate on his art if he was chasing black butterflies in the dusty alley ways of Old Havana. Unfortunately he was right, his Frijoles Negros became dry and flavor-less. The Caldo- Gallego, his best dish, was no longer the perfectly balanced wheel of flavors it had once been. It wobbled off-center from the hasty choice of too bitter greens and the wrong chorizos.
“Gradually I began to see through the spotless facade of the doctor’s two-faced thievery. Once I decided what had to be done, it was not difficult to enlist the cook to help.
“Every day at three, the magicians gathered in my mother’s room to discuss their real estate investments and speculate on the sugar crop while we served them coffee and pastries.
“We waited for them to drain their cups, finish the last cangrejito, and then light up their cigars. When they were lulled by the heat and nicotine, we struck!
“After the cook swept the charlatans out of the house, I threw their coats out on the sidewalk after them, and then slammed the big carved wooden doors on their profession forever. That very evening Uva appeared at our door. She said that she had come to care for my mother. Uva watched over me and then when my mother passed she cared for my children, and then their children. Although she rarely spoke, I knew her soul, and she knew mine. ”