I am reminded of white enamel from my childhood. My mind smells the kitchen, smells my history. White enamel is my happy memory. Dominican Republic is worlds away in time and space and yet can evoke memories …
We didn’t have much when I was a child, less than my grandparents had. I remember all those years ago going to our version of campo in Canada. My grandparents had a little farm that consisted of forest, pasture, cows and a few pigs and chickens. I remember their house like it was yesterday and the smell and taste of my grandma’s soup. The farm was my sanctuary. I wasn’t allowed to, but I used to climb up to the hayloft and hide for what seemed like hours, laying in the hay and praying the pigeons wouldn’t poop on me. Smelling the musty hay, I’m amazed my allergies didn’t kill me.
I was always a little intimidated by my grandma. She always scowled and seemed harsh. With about 40 grandchildren, well, now I understand. Grandma was also disabled. She had a bad leg that had fused when she had polio as a child. She was a little woman and nothing stopped her, just a little slower than a whole big person.
The long kitchen with it’s big ceramic sink and counter at one end was where life happened at the farm. Doing dishes we could see out the window to the pasture and forest beyond. We broke many dishes in that sink! The house would fill on holidays with the entire family for dinners, and on weekends with whomever was out there. Out to the centre of the dining area and away from the wall, we’ld stretch that table to hold as many as possible. Grandma’s soup served in her bowls with the wide lip, that lip made the soup all that much more special.
I always felt like I was underfoot and out of place. So I spent time with my grandfather, or alone, or looking at my grandma’s meager collection in her tiny china cabinet. The little china cabinet with a wood base and hutch containing one shelf and glazed doors captured my attention. It germinated the seed of love for antiques and china. I would carefully open the enameled doors and gingerly seek out her precious pieces being ever so careful as to not drop them. She never scolded me or cautioned me. She trusted me. When others would arrive, I was asked to close up the hutch. That was ok, the treasures remained safe. I loved my grandparents dearly.
Today, we lost another family member here in DR. And I am reminded of my grandmother’s enameled hutch and by proxy, my own grandparents.
I continue to be shocked as to the sense of community here. The family is devastated. The neighbours take over the care of the family and the cooking for the bereaved and those passing on their condolences. Giant aluminum pots of rice, plantain, yucca and chicken are prepared over open fires. No-one goes without. 33 degrees Celsius and 71% humidity makes it feel like 44 degrees Celsius, and the tears shed, blend with the glow of sweat. As I brush their tears I marvel at how I’m accepted into this family as I’ve never been with my own. Complete extreme opposites. I am blessed.
The old soul lies in the casket in the living room. The wake has begun. Candles burn atop the casket at each corner and natural flowers adorn above. The craftsmanship catches my eye. It’s not the fancy caskets that seem to be the norm in Canada. This is a display casket. I don’t know if the same is used for the burial, I somehow doubt that it is. This casket has a window for viewing the deceased. Not simply an open lid, but an actual window. In the heat with decomposition this must be for the best. Silver moldings adorn the otherwise white enamel casket. I look at the open door the other that closes the viewing window. The flowers obscure the door that’s hinged to open from the chest down. It’s an ornate but simple wood casket that is much smaller than the Canadian caskets. The gloss of the enamel and the kitchen cabinet hinges on it’s little door remind me of my grandmother and her hutch and a little of Disney’s Snow White’s display case and I’m catapulted to my childhood.
I look at it’s new angel, at peace, gently lain in new quarters, flower petals over the eyes, so frail, so vulnerable. This brings intense sadness to my heart. I look around and again, the collective pain of loss strikes my heart.
I sit quiet, not speaking much. I don’t know what to say. All I know how to do is observe and offer support. I am enveloped in sadness for the people I love. Enveloped in the sadness of my memories and my own losses and wishing with all my heart that I could spare those I love from these same feelings.
As the sun sets on another life, I imagine the angel’s wings guiding their novice angel to the heavens, and I wonder, if when my time comes, if their wings will shine like enamel …
Listen to the palms…
© Loca Gringa, http://locagringapoetry.wordpress.com