Tuesday, November 06, 2012

the strength of a loving hand

I don't remember how long I spent with grandma and you in the village. I would have been about 9 and should have been enrolled in school but somewhat I wasn't. I have patched recollections of the time spent with grandma and gandpa but none of that helps bring the day to day memories back. Other people tell me that yes indeed I was there and that they had to go shopping for me. They had no sweets, they were my cousins, they were slightly older than I was and in one case a few months younger. How can I ask for forgiveness when I wasn't aware of the reality that was going on. Where was my mind, my conscience? Did I not see that they had no rights to sugar and that they were obligated to get if for me, with no percentage to go to their own sweet teeth? Did I not look at the cravings in their eyes, their mouths, their bellies. I cannot condemn an act that I am not conscious of or can I? A few months later, we were to join my father in France and we were to go on the great adventure. We were to cross the river and if anyone gets visions of crossing the Rio Grand or running through the Sonora Desert, let the thought be put to rest that this was a mere creek and everyone was in on it. Portugal wanted, as it does now for its people to go and emigrate. They would ship money home, they would have jobs that were actually available at home but somehow they did not have the technical know how for and the state would be getting rid of the many mumblings that grew louder by the day. So crossing the river in the Northern part of Portugal was not at all like crossing the Rio Grande. But the fear was there and so was my mother's hand. It was with she that I went. We were to join father, already in Clermont Ferrand, on the Massif Central of France where Michelin had its headquarters. My father would pay dearly for this job many years later but as it was, he benefited from vacations, payed, can you believe that?He wold be able to bring his wife and child. They took no responsibility for how they (us) got there ,but once there, I was given the choice of presents at Christmas, already disappointing my parents by choosing a bunk bed over a sawing machine! But I knew why I wanted the bunk bed. I dreamt that I would get more dolls and they would need to sleep somewhere whereas if I got a sawing machine I would be obligated to do what my mother did which was saw clothes. She hated it so much I figured it must have been a tedious endeavor. She never spoke one way or the other. But now, I am getting ahead of myself, as the tale I want to tell concerns my jumping the river, in this case a tiny creek located in the Northeast of Portugal. father had paid for the transportation by bus to the nearest village and many or a few I do not recall people, mostly women and children and a few men, would join up with the man that would get us across. It was a a joke of sorts. But you paid for the risk it was supposed to be. The communist leader, Alvaro Cunhal, wrote of this many years later under the pseudonym of Tiago Manuel. You can't be the communist leader and have artistic tendencies, although plenty he had. Many years later I sat mesmerized listening to an 89 year old man talking about art for three hours with not so much a mention of straight out politics. I bought a series of serigraphs which I should have better taken care of.  Back to the Northeast and it is time to get off the bus cross the creek, be on the watch out for the farce of the police  and make our way to the nearest train station where we would go directly to the city indicated in our ticket no questions asked. The French were reconstructing the country and they wanted people there and if they came from Portugal the better,. The crossing was tremendously scary and 30 years later I took an art and drew a woman holding a child's hand, as they are on the edge of a creek, with a dark, gloomy and utterly inartistic forest on the other side. The creek was agitated and had many boulders. It took many more years to figure that it wasn't my daughter and me but actually the moment where once again the hand of my mother's hand prevailed. The fear, the anxiety, we were one and we took the jump. I do not remember anything more but again I do remember my mother's fear and my fear both transfigured and increased, but with the assurance that mother provided, her warm hand transmitted, all would be well. It was and we got safely to the place father had rented, of which I will speak later. I still have the need of the feeling that our hearts beat as one at the moment of the crossing, looking around for the para military police, waiting for what, wondering about what. Fear was my mother's, I was somewhat bemused but became very scared when I felt her hand grabbing mine for dear life, as I'd felt before. The hand, always the hand!

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