Washing Clothes in the River
When was it? I don’t know if it was one time or many times that I washed clothes in a river on the rocks; the women around me expertly pressing their weight down, rubbing and slapping the fabric against the stone surface. Or did I just watch so intently that I felt I was doing it, or perhaps there were many times I was remembering the time when I had done it, and it all blended together. Whatever the case, it has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember: the sensation of slapping wet garments down on flat rocks in a part of the river where the current is not too strong; wringing them by hand, and making piles of the twisted garments all ready to hang.
Singing to the Moon
Somewhere in Mexico on a balmy night, we were traveling miles and miles down a highway through a brightly lit moonlit landscape. I gazed up from my window in the back of the van where I sat with my legs tucked up under me, gazing at the full moon and softly under my breath I began to sing to her in the most poetic words I could think of, song after song, mile after mile. I imagine I sang of her silver face, her resemblance to a pearl, her soft light illuminating dreams...
Nearly every morning, early, Agueda and I went to the tortillería just down the street to buy fresh corn tortillas. The aroma of fresh tortillas and the sound of the machinery in motion greeted us long before we entered the shop. I marveled at how the tortillas went up the creaking metal interlinked heavy gage wire conveyor belt into an oven where they were obscured from view and came out the other side and down where they were gathered up by the awaiting assistant who asked how many tortillas each of us in the gathering crowd wanted. Señora, tres dozenas, sí?, Tres docenas aquí y una media docena acá, and they were delivered into our awaiting woven tortilla basket lined with one of the colorful bleached muslin cloths we had embroided just for the purpose. They were passed out as fast as they came of the belt; and everyone scurried away as quickly as they had come with their little package or basketful of hot tortillas.
Embroidering on the Porch
Often in the late afternoon or early evening in the long warm days of summer, we women, Agueda, her daughter, and me and sometimes another relative or friend, would gather on her porch facing the street and chat and embroider. It was here in these gregarious afternoons that I learned to the ancient art of stitching handed down through the feminine lineage. I learned the running stitch, the vine stitch, the chain stitch, the blanket stitch, the French knot, the satin stitch, and the cross stitch. These were all that I needed to fill in the drawings of flowers and vines pulled taut on the wooden embroidery hoop. I was usually embroidering a cloth to wrap tortillas in to keep them warm. We bought the hoops, the fabric, and the thread at the local Mercado on Thursdays where Agueda let me choose my designs from amidst all of those in the stall hanging on display or piled high; she let me choose the color of my thread too. She had a favorite stand for buying the hilo. As we stitched, I would sometimes get distracted chatting and laughing and when I got up, on more than one occasion, I had sewn my embroidery to my dress. Agueda patiently snipped it free, helped me to pull the threads free of the cloth leaving the leaf or flower ready to stitch again. No harm done.