Sand Dunes


Tia’s coffee cup


Me: (hobbling in to a dark bedroom)

Molly: (sleep soaked, arms out stretched, standing up in her pack-and-play) Maaama!

Me: Hush now, little one, hush now.

Molly: (melting into my arms)

Me: You are burning up. You were far too hot and that is why you woke up. Hush now. (deep breath)

Molly: (exhausted) Maama. (patting my arm)

Me: Shall I tell you a story? Listen to this story to carry you back to sleep. (deep breath) We will burry your Tia Avó (great aunt) tomorrow. You won’t remember her. She was the first person you ever kissed and you haven’t kissed anyone since. (weeping) You won’t remember that, but I will remember it for you. She was so important to me. She and I understood each other even before we spoke the same language. She was my first Portuguese teacher. She used to send me on little errands for things she really didn’t need knowing I’d do anything for her: to get her a dishcloth or deliver some beans to a neighbor or make cookies for an army of visitors only to send them all home for Hank. She called me sobrinha (niece) even though she didn’t have to, but because she wanted to and I was, her niece, born in a far away land now home at last. She and I understood each other because we were alike in so many ways.

What I may never tell you is that my life has never been easy. My life has been like running up a sand dune: equal parts elation and stubborn need to succeed. And now… now I have all these new limitations which will just add to the challenge (deep breath).

Tia’s life was like a sand dune. She was the keeper of stories, the first one to cry of joy and sadness. (smiling) She used to go out in the middle of the night and white wash the villa (village) and laugh quietly while her neighbors would take credit. When she made bolo folar (easter cake) she slept with the dough, spooning the ceramic bowl so it would rise. She blessed your wounds with holy water from the priest, ate like a bird and drank carioca (watered down coffee). Her life wasn’t easy, but she never gave up and kept climbing until…

Tia’s legacy is love, real and ever lasting. The kind that would immaculately sprout an olive tree or revive a failing fledgling and she gave that love to you and to Hank and your papa, to me and her neighbors and our whole family.

Her life was like a sand dune and now… Now she’s sitting at the top… And there is nothing better than that.

Molly: (deep stuttered sleep sigh)

Me: (rocking her back and forth, crying into her curls)