Sal Paradise

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2001-10-26 03:53:16 (UTC)

Just My Mama

As our van drove into the drive way of our apartment, I
saw my Grandmother, better known as Mama Jova, sitting on a
white plastic chair by herself in the darkness at 7:00
P.M. She sat there thoughtfully eating peanuts out of her
five dollar bag which she bought from a man selling them
before entering the 605 Freeway.
My family and I live in one of the small houses
behind Mama Jova’s house. Our home is actually an
apartment, but I just see it as a house, for only two other
houses are attached. So, when entering our house, we have
to pass through Mama Jova’s house. My Mama owns the place
and she is the landlord. Not too big of a complex but I’m
not one to complain.
We normally get home about 7:30 P.M., but today we
were a bit early coming home. I don’t believe anyone else
noticed Mama sitting outside of her two story house in that
plastic chair. When I got out of the van, I put my
backpack in my room and took my favorite drink,
Martinelli’s Apple Juice, and went to her house.
She smiled and turned her face to the left side of
her body, so I could kiss her. I greeted her with a kiss
on her right cheek and said, “Hi, Mama.” She said, “Hi
Son,” and I smiled back. She was wearing a thin pink robe as
she looked out into the sky. There was a moment of silence
as I sat down on the edge of her garden which was in front
of her. Not a word was said for about three to four
minutes. I was humbled by her silence. She was so
beautiful just sitting there, not saying a word, not moving
a muscle, not trying to act in any certain way. “What are
you doing, Mama?” I asked. She faced me and said, “I am
just tired. You know, I just got home not too long ago.”
“What time?” I said, trying to start a conversation.
“At seven.” She responded.
“No, Mama...it is barely seven now.”
“Well, I got home about half an hour ago. So, that would
be six thirty, right?”
“Yep!”
At that, we saw a cow patterned cat walk on the
edge of her garden next to me. Mama Jova began to hiss at
the cat and she looked at it and smile. She then purred at
it. She looked at me under the moonlight and said, “I
remember my dad had so many cats. I hated them all. Every
single one of them!” Then she smiled again. “He had three
or four and the damn cats knew exactly when he arrived from
work, ate, and the exact moment he fell asleep. When my
Pa’ got home, every one of his cats was standing around the
door awaiting for him to pet them and caress their dirty
small bodies. As he walked in the house, the cats would
walk beside him. They’d rub against his old legs purring
at him. I remember my Pa’.....the cats would even sleep
with him. They slept beside him on his bed in Mexico.
See, in our small town, don’t think there were ever air
conditioners or heaters. When it was cold season, the
people in Guerrero would go to sleep early because they’d
sleep in warmth. My papa would never sleep without his
cats by his side. And they were so smart, too. They knew
they had to sleep in the feet of the bed. My brothers and
sisters, including myself, would kick the cats around when
Papa wasn’t around. We despised them. They’d walk between
your legs at any place inside the house and we were all
tired of them. Ooh, if Papa ever saw us kick them he’d
kill us!” And she chuckled her wondrous laugh that made my
whole life better for the few seconds it lasted. It was
the most beautiful thing that came out of her mouth. That
laugh is her trademark.
“Mama, can I use your name for a paper I am going
to write, please?” I asked her hoping she’d have no
objections. “Sure, son. Anything. What do you want it
for anyway?” She answered and questioned me mindlessly.
As though she was still in the place of her life where she
enjoyed and cherished deep inside of her. “I am planning
to enter a contest and I want to write about you.” “Ah,
okay then.” My grandmother’s name is Jovita. I am
uncertain what her name means or who gave her that name or
if she likes it or not. My Mama doesn’t really complain.
She may tell stories that sound as though she were
complaining, but she is only reminiscing.
As we sat in the cold, I asked her if I could
please have some peanuts. She said, “Have them all, son.”
I smiled and said, “No thanks. I just want a bit.” I
talked to her about my grades. She congratulated me for my
two A’s, two B’s, and my C. She said, “With those grades
you could get a scholarship and go to a really good
college.” I smiled and let her know that there’d never be
a chance for me to earn a scholarship with my classes. I
explained to her that I made some mistakes my first year of
high school, causing me to have some low classes. She
grinned a bit. “Well, you know”--
“MAMAAAAAAA!” Hollered my eight year old sister, Valerie
(Val). Val was playing tag with our cousins Irving and
Oscar, and she was hollering “Mama” because they were
chasing her.
“Ah, that Valerie.....” said My
Mama. “Yesterday, we were playing a game, and she took
your mother’s money and your mother threatened to call your
father. Valerie threw the money at your mom and gave her
the phone, saying, ‘there! estas happy? estas happy?”
Estas mean are you in Spanish. We both laughed and I
looked at her attentively waiting what marvelous thing
she’d say next.
“Mijo, I have to take a shower now. I am tired and
smelly.” We giggled together. “Okay Mama. I have to do
some homework, so I’ll let you go.” I stood up from her
garden’s edge and walked toward her and gave her a kiss.
It was so heartwarming. So beautifully angelic. Again,
she turned her head to the left side on her body and I
kissed her softly on the cheek. She smiled at me as I
walked away. I turned around and she was gone. Gone like
the kind of shadows you see through the corner of your eye
when you are alone on an Autumn day. She peaked through
her window and said, “Go! Go home, son. I’ll watch you.”
I felt like a little boy being spoken to like that. The
strange part is that I liked it. And it was two hours ago
that I was still in the place of my life where I enjoyed
and cherished everything deep inside of me--well, not
everything.....just my Mama.


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