We are the quiet ones.

This is my mother at 15 looking on as her sister waits to be called to walk down the aisle for the first time.  At five, she was summoned from Chile to join her widowed mother in Washington DC where she had relocated to find work and escape the pious judgments afforded an irrepressibly intelligent and irresistibly tantalizing single woman.  Upon her arrival, she didn’t speak for a year and when she did again, English was all she knew.

This is me, pregnant at 28 and mystified by the dress-up girly-girly games of my niece. On April 4, 1968, I was hospitalized with a grapefruit sized growth that had appeared over the short course of an afternoon nap. I was seventeen months old and had been admitted just as Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. My emergency became inconsequential as Washington was set on fire by rioters and intermittent tides of quiet carried tempest parents with injured children to beg admission at the locked and guarded doors of the hospital. With no time to diagnose, I was placed in isolation with promises and crossed fingers. Every four hours my mother, this woman that knew all too well the deafening language of silence, would be allowed, masked and robed, 20 minutes to hold me.

This is my son at 11, eyes riveted to the mirror that remembers the cutting of his waist length hair. There was no rioting, no death, no language barrier, no ocean voyages, universal grief, injustice or ethos that made him so.  Yet, you can see it in the tender curve of his cheek, the forehead tilted to meet the unfolding reality of the moment, the perspicacious eyebrow preparing a succinct rejoinder if, and only if, it be necessary.

We are the quiet ones.

October 4, 2010


One Response to “profiles”

  1. Amihay

    I was touched by the text you wrote and the photos are beautyful


Leave a Reply