La Pascua, Part IIIb: The Weeping Woman

First off, thank you for waiting on this post. The sore throat started on Sunday night. Monday was a long walk through haze. By Tuesday, a slight fever had set in, and I honored my body’s need to rest. Sore throat is still here, but the fever is gone, and I feel like Michelle–a raspy voiced, low energy Michelle, but still, Michelle–again.

Writing Home

Next, a public and huge THANK YOU to Galería de la Raza and Sandra García Rivera for hosting Cathy Arellano, Andréa Serrano and me at last Tuesday’s LUNADA Literary Lounge and Open Mic, the Bay Area’s only full moon literary and performance gathering. Gracias, también, to Cathy for first suggesting ‘Burque to the Bay, Arts of Aztlán for supporting, Arturo Sandoval and Center of Southwest Culture for fiscal sponsorship, and all of you ‘Burqueños and Missionistas for blessing the mic with your words and our trip with your donations and good wishes.

And, finally, thanks to Lisa Gill and the Local Poets Guild for inviting me to co-facilitate a bimonthly series of Writing to Heal workshops. A dozen of us met on Sunday to write and read (and color!) and discover that, not only is writing fun, it’s good for you. Next one is in July. Stay tuned for details.

And, now, continued from La Pascua, Part IIIa: The Weeping Woman

Blue Mural, The Mission

I must have gone back to the baby pool. At five years old, I didn’t have language for the shame I felt at having been kicked out. Even though it was a misunderstanding, even though the lifeguard apologized, I thought it was somehow my fault that he’d mistaken me for an older child. I thought it was somehow my fault that I was bigger than the other kids. I don’t remember the rest of that day, if I’d saved money for candy at the little store next door, where the Gonzales twins ran the register while their father complained about all the water we tracked onto his clean floors. I don’t remember who picked us up, if I told my parents what had happened.

I hope I said thank you to my older brother. If not, I am saying it now. Thank you, Frank or Tim or Mike. Thank you, Frank and Tim and Mike. I can’t remember which one of you came to my rescue that day. Memory blends you into one. Water beading on Frank’s thick, curly hair as he bent over me to ask why I was crying. Tim’s straight, pale back, indignant as he walked to the lifeguard to right the wrong. Mike’s dimples as he chuckled with the lifeguard over the misunderstanding and tried to get me back in the baby pool. And what I am left with is gratitude over how you protected me that day, and many days. I haven’t forgotten the fight on the school bus a year later when Lenny and Johnny ignored your warnings to stop picking on me, or decades later, your telling the drunk guy at Judy and Jose’s wedding, “She said she doesn’t want to dance with you,” even though he was bigger than you and kind of scary. I haven’t forgotten all the times you said in jest, “You want me to kick his butt?” when some guy broke my heart. Reading this, some people out there might think you were big football players. You weren’t. You were skinny band guys. You weren’t violent. Other than that time on the bus, I never saw you fight. And yet, I felt protected by you.

Balmy Alley, The Mission

The tantrum and talking with Henry and writing and spiritual direction have all led me to this: it’s time to stand up for myself. I am not a wimp. I am sensitive and tough and wise. That project I wanted to start got delayed because of a bureaucratic misunderstanding, someone in charge following the letter of the law and telling me to wait until I went through the proper channels, even though this had not been required of me. Like the Smith boy all those years ago, he blew the whistle and told me to leave. Only this time, without my brother to protect me, my ego said, “Screw him. I don’t need him. I’ll go around him.” I do this a lot, work around barriers, rather than facing them. Often it’s a matter of choosing my battles, knowing that I have limited time and energy, and I would rather spend it creating art than fighting someone who might never see or understand me. But sometimes—and tantrums are a good indicator—I avoid the barrier because I am afraid to do for me what my brother did all those years ago.

Blue Mural, The Mission

That’s a lot of power to cede. The giveaway lies not in being told where I do and do not belong, but in internalizing that message and allowing it to shape who I am and what I do, where I will work and play and create. It’s time I said it out loud. I belong here.

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow! Powerful! You go, mija. I love you.

  2. Beatifully said Michelle, deeply honest and a powerful growth. Oh that we all would be so reflective – it would be a different world!

    • Oh that we all had such trusted friends and guides like you, my friend.

  3. Querida michelle, gracias, hermana….as i read it i could still hear ur voice a la lunada….reminded me also to check myself so i dont repeat the lifeguard’s mistake being one myself….u are truly a gifted and intelligent storyteller making the connections from past to present…..i aspire to get there some day….please send the link to el cuento de l@s abuel@s u read a la lunada……con respeto y rezos…..el pocho de san pancho 😉

  4. No need to say thanks, Michelle. It was our responsibility.

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