If I could have a conversation with the little Estela in the picture, I’d tell her to stop cutting her own bangs. The rest of it, well, it might go something like this:
You will be a mother one day, sooner than you should be. The experience will humble you like no other. You will gain an appreciation for your parents that cannot be learned any other way.
You will spend many nights praying for your children. You will worry. There is no way around this. You will love them more than you know you are capable of and they will love you back just as hard. For several weeks after each beautiful baby is born, you will wake many times at night to make sure their sweet breath keeps the same steady rhythm that was set before they met the larger world. You will tickle their bellies and never tire of that wonderful scent that is the strongest at the top of the head near the soft spot.
I would try to convince you not to do all the things you shouldn’t but know that while it’s not a must, you will. All the twists and bends will bring you to a good place. I can’t tell you too much for fear you will change something that could make you miss the great things you have come to believe in and fight for. And boy, do you love to fight!
Little Estela, embrace the picture. Take our photo from the place your shame and embarrassment led you to stash it. We never get braces and it works– you develop quite a character in your desperate attempt to draw attention away from those teeth that bring you daily terror during their occupation of the place that once held beautiful straight baby teeth. It’s easy to find fault and point out all that is wrong with you and the world. The easy road is crowded and noisy and the walk a part of life. The noise and the walk make us stronger.
There is great love, great kindness, and a world waiting for you to discover it. No one can stop you from doing anything you set your mind to. In fact, every time someone makes the mistake of telling you your idea is crazy, impractical and impossible, it just makes you want to do it all the more. And you do it.
The day you hold your first grandchild, six generations of your family are alive and well. Your mother, grandmother and great grandmother, they are kind with their teachings about life and do it in a way that lets you preserve your youthful ego. When you finally pull together a thimble of their wisdom, too many of them are long gone. It will pain you to think you’ve missed the opportunity to thank them and let them know you see what they meant. After many more years, the thimble holds a few more drops and you come to understand words were not necessary with them and never were.
Dear Tegua, listen more than you speak. When someone is speaking, really listen to what they are saying. Being quiet doesn’t equal listening. Thinking up witty replies or how you will counter a statement you disagree with while the other person is talking doesn’t equal listening either. Learning how to listen changes our life.
My great grandmother in the white surrounded by my great aunts. This is the only group picture where we are the tall one. That’s us on the far right.
Here we are with mom and grandma and below it’s us with grandma and Mary. When the world thought you were crazy, they were among those who stood strong by our side. They retold the story of the whole thing to you in a way that kept you from fearing the future. Your recovery and subsequent success came from the blood that flows through your veins, your daughters veins and flowed into the essence of what we are and will be long before the abuelitas.
There will come a dark and heavy day, sometimes so many in a row you will be sure they happened after our talk. You will go over the talk in your head reconstructing a timeline. After you are certain I would have known about these days at the time we talked today, you will wonder if I left it out because I didn’t want to dishearten you. I know about it. We were never alone and we make it out just fine.
These beautiful rays of light that have walked in front, beside but mostly behind you will remain even when the eyes cease to see what the heart knows is there. One day you will take your place with them as well. That knowledge will not bring you comfort at the time. It prepares you for little you will be able to understand for some time– a seeming eternity. Until it is your time and you realize it’s your turn to prepare your own babies now grown, for the walk.
Little Estela and I would like to thank you for taking time to visit today. I’d love to hear from you and see pictures of the little you– what would your talk be like?