mama: the umbilical cord is unbroken

last night i learned the meaning of when my lover said “and we are spiritual beings too.” themes and dreams of mama kept floating in my head. some of them good and some of them so deep inside of my inner, emotional self. i was crying in my dream. i was crying in my wake state as well. intimate conversations with the ancestors. intimate conversations with mama. mama, a woman whose name i have not spoken about or written about in 15 years. she was my other mama. she raised me from the time i was 3 until the time i was 13.

as i think of her, it is as though i am driven to baldness with fear, driven to an infantile, “primitive” state of mind. i feel it. i feel mixed emotions. sadness and joy. i spoke to her last night or it was more like i listened and she spoke. i did not see her but i heard her talking to me, looking out over me, advising me; it was more or less like a station-to-station call. i just heard her voice talking to me without the aid any mechanical devices. move over ma bell. i could not remember what she said but i remember the softness of her voice, the softness of her voice, the gentleness of her hands. the message, whatever it was, was calming.

i remember. i remember mama. she loved me for who i was, regardless of what i did. it was 319 hamilton avenue, paterson, new jersey where she lived. she owned the grey painted, two family house across the street from us. whenever i picture the house, a place where I spent much of my youth, i always picture it in the dawn of sun light. i remember mama loving me when i was a child. i remember how i was an example of what a good disciplined child was supposed to be. the truth of it all is that I never got caught. besides, why should I, the perfectionist that I was. I think she knew when I got away with stuff, but she was softer on me because of Id face the tyranny of my insane mother. most of all, i remember how she loved me for who i was not what i was and i was something special, something different. she knew it. she saw the signs. she saw the signs. mama to me was the calm that even my maternal mother did not seem to have. she was safety. her home was sanctuary. she loved many children. she adopted many foster children and was caretaker of many others on the block. we were all brothers and sisters. it was there too, that i learned to eat. before then, i was a scrawny looking thing that detested food at all cost. i guess being around all the children made it okay to eat. it was there too, that i learned how to play with other children, responsibility and love. i loved and still love mama saffey.

she died of cancer in 1975. the same year josephine baker died. josephine baker reminds me is some ways of mama, the way she loved so many children, so many bleeding hearts. mama was much older than my maternal mother, delsey. she knew my own mother was strict and would tear up my behind if i went out of line. she knew not to tell my mother of certain things about me, the naughty things. mama also knew of my gentleness, my softness, my femininity. she was a witness. she used to tell the other children how i kept my nails so clean; how neat and mannerly i was. i was an example of how a good kid was supposed to be.

i woke up this morning afraid and shaking. afraid that she was physically in the house waiting to talk me. and you know something, i am still afraid but lesser so that i am writing this dream.

i dreamt too of my maternal mother, delsey. this time it wasn’t so pleasant. delsey was scaring me. how you might ask? she was hitting and abusing me. i was running away from her. i was running away from her. i was very afraid. i was crying. i love her but i was or i am still afraid of her simultaneously. this love/hate thang. this mixed double-blind emotions that signifies the instability of what mother meant to her. i am less scared of her physically today than i am emotionally afraid of her. i was afraid to trust her with my emotions for fear that she will abuse them as she has done so as recently as mother’s day during a telephone conversation. she was steadily manipulating, controling, and scheming ways to cause more schisms in the family. it was the only way she knew how to express her love, so it has been said.

i remember ultimately getting delsey to talk to her sister, whom she has been jealous of for the past 60 or more years, on the telephone. finally, it seems, they were able to partially reconcile. and i was glad about that. delsey always had a bug about aunt eloise, as long as i can remember. i think it had to do with her jealousy over aunt eloise being raised in a very loving family; the type of family delsey couldnt begin to fathom.

delsey was stingy. she always felt that if she gave you a bone 20 years ago, then you owed her your soul for life. in fact, when she gave you a bone, she expected you to bark to the beat of her tunes, but her tunes weren’t always so melodious. besides, us tung-drooped, tail-waggers get tired of salivating for stale bones any way. you see, i figure if you’re going to give a bone, then give it. give it with all your heart and expect nothing in return. delsey always expected gratitude but rather she confused gratitude with her need to control.

i dreamt of you too fuega. i, your agua was outside in a crowd, surrounded by a bunch of strangers in a semi-circle. something was going down. i can’t remember what it was though. i remember feeling all alone in the crowd of those folks. and fuega, i just wanted to tell you that last night before i went to sleep, you told me on the telephone that you’d meet me in my dreams. well, guess what girlfriend, you were there with all of your fiery self. you showed up out of nowhere, unexpectedly as you usually do. i remember you greeting me. i remember seeing you. i felt again, very safe. i again felt your love, a special kind of love that will never go away.

as i sailed through these dream worlds, my destination was mama and i found it at all cost. mama is holistic, sustaining, everlasting sense of the word. mama is me, deep inside of me. mama is you. mama,her love. mama, her milk. all i have to do is call her up and she is always there. mama, i return to you. mama, the umbilical cord is unbroken.

martina downey
1991

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