Thursday, July 03, 2008

My place

Yesterday, I snuck away from our routine, dragged Madam and her stroller and assorted paraphernalia into a tight, unwelcoming bus, and went back in time.

Whenever I go there, to Bergenline, I feel like I lose my words and my writing—not in a bad way, but instead I revel in the pure sensation of motion and rhythm and LIFE, at least the way I define it. People crowding each other off the sidewalk, girls sashaying by, mothers laughing while toddlers loll in umbrella strollers precariously balanced with bulging shopping bags. Assault by colors, energy—the shared million million passions of the people who huddle in the store fronts, gazing longingly at vivid plasticy photos of their homelands, “Giros a Mexico, a Peru, a Ecuador, a Colombia.” Or more frequently, striding past them, unseeing. They've made their choice. They've brought those places here, planted in this welcoming soil.

And always, music. Rap, freestyle, old school, salsa, merenge, bachata, reggeton mix into a sonic soup that rules every step a person takes here. It makes me stand a little straighter, look a little more forthrightly around me. This is my soundtrack and I'm on stage.

I want to take it all in, to swallow every careless grin and shouted piropo, eat every delicious sandwich cubano, drink every cup of cafe con leche. And I want to write it, this place where I first learned that I was me, and me was all of these people, too. Every interaction here means more than it means, to me. I feel superimposed onto old photos, like I'm speaking in this moment, yes, but also as that girl I was when I lived here. Here, the lines blur.

For better or for worse, this is my soul home. This is the place where I can move almost from instinct, guided only by the phantom pressure of steps taken a million times before.

This is where I grew up.

Whenever we go back home, we search first for those landmarks that were important to our youth. Look, there's the baby clothes store, where my young mother, flushed with pride, handed over way too much money for the most beruffled baby dresses, complete with panties frothy with pristine lace. No Salvation Army clothes for me, never. Never mind that we lived in a one bedroom walk up, that my parents were barely legal (papers still going through), that any money we had should have been going to the lawyer, or back to Colombia. I needed to look like the ideal Gerber baby, if the Gerber baby had been brown.

She was as old then as I am now. And I glance at my own Madam as we walk past, feeling a historical pull to purchase something for HER in that store. Something too expensive to show her that she is also cherished, wanted.

Am I trying to convince her, or myself? Who was Mami trying to convince? Was she assailed my kind of voices, the ones that whisper that maybe, just once, it would be nice to walk down these street as a free girl, free to heedlessly spend all of her money on herself, instead of hoarding, hoarding for splashy baby clothes, for those giros back to the motherland?

But then the moment passes and the store is just a store, and I am grateful that it's still there—even if it's still strange to think of myself in the mami role, instead of as the girl in the stroller, curious and alive and hanging onto mami's every word.



Blogger Sacred Suzie said...

You are such a good writer and truly tell stories with heart in your posts. Going back home stories always touch me, maybe because I can't really do it and I don't really have a home anymore. I'm glad you can, that is so important.

7:38 AM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Jessie said...

oooh! such a juicy slice of life! isn't it strange how "home," wherever that might be, makes the senses come alive? for me that's not my childhood home, but the woods beyond. oh, to feel so alive!

love ya!

8:30 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Earnest and Game: Heather said...

Oh, Miss, thank you for being such a wonderful tour guide of your spiritual home--wow. I have a kind of corollary when I eat at this Korean place near my home, I say to myself, "this is the food of my people." And I feel so nourished and happy. Funny, right? Sending hugs, H

3:25 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Becca said...

You took me right there with you, and I could see and hear and smell everything special about your old neighborhood.


3:39 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Amber said...

I agree with Jessie-- juicy. Rich.

I always feel that pull when I go back to where I did my growing up. I think we all do. I would really give anything if we could move back, because I know I would feel so grounded and "me".


7:22 PM, July 13, 2008  
Blogger Jamie said...

This place just comes alive with your words. I wish I could walk in this neighbourhood with you and here your stories. I wish we could chat over cafe con leche.

The phrase "soul home" rung through me deeply. For me that will always be the little spot in Montreal that Suzie and I grew up in, where we ran wild and barefooted and spent ours in the boughs of a willow tree.

10:45 PM, July 18, 2008  
Blogger Melba said...

I read this post earlier in the month...I thought I wrote a comment then, but I guess not. anyway, I was just thinking of you and hoping your summer is going well.


1:56 PM, July 21, 2008  
Blogger bella rum said...

"For better or for worse, this is my soul home. This is the place where I can move almost from instinct, guided only by the phantom pressure of steps taken a million times before."

Beautifully written. I could almost smell and taste it. Wonderful writing. Thank you.

4:18 PM, July 25, 2008  
Anonymous fern said...

I just stumbled back here today, and fell in love with this post. I'm also in a place that feels like 'home'. And while it can be a little stifling at times, there's nothing like the feeling of having roots, of being alive. I feel like the baby in the stroller too.

Miss you,

1:47 PM, August 03, 2008  

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