Mora, The Woman I Knew

Personal Blog

February 2019

The family crowded the waiting area at the hospital. I sat silently, unsure of what to make of everything. Guilt riddled my bones as my mind was racing. A phone call once a week was all she wanted. Distance and life got in the way. That should have never happened.

Everyone around me was exchanging their favorite memory. I fidgeted with my elephant charm while picking up bits and pieces of their conversations. My curiosity got the best of me. 

“Mora?” I unexpectedly interrupted.

“Mora is the name she went by in the Dominican Republic. When she got to New York, people started calling her Nora.” One of my aunts explained.  

The somber chatter faded as I carefully walked to the doorway of her room. She was peacefully resting. Mora. That name stayed glued to the back of my mind. It felt as though I were seeing her for the first time. I saw Mora in a different light. There, I envisioned my grandmother and her life with me. 

Summer of 1991

An uninvited odor crept through the window and stealthily danced around. That day it caught her by surprise, and sadly, it was a smell too familiar. Seconds later, she was startled by an aggressive knock. 

“Nora! Hay Fuego! Saliense!” The neighbor shouted. 

Without skipping a beat, Nora scooped her months old granddaughter, into her arms. She held her firmly while others nearby were staggering down the stairs toward the exit. 

Across the street, she digested the scene. Orange flames tore through the top floor of her building, hurling clouds of black smoke towards the sky. The spread was inevitable. The fire was hot, hostile, and it showed no mercy. 

Nora exhaled, relieved everyone left unharmed. Her granddaughter buried her face into her neck. She placed her palm on the back of her head to shield her from the scene. The adrenaline coursing through her veins didn’t allow her to focus on anything other than getting to safety. Nora did just that. She marched for blocks cradling her chunky grandbaby until she reached the nearest relatives house.

Spring 2015

Nora’s granddaughter buzzed her apartment to no avail, leaving her no choice but to look for her elsewhere. She made her way around the side of the building. Peeking through the window, she found Nora playing bingo with her friends. 

Nora’s face beamed with excitement when she looked up. Her granddaughter waved and motioned toward the door. In the middle of her game, Nora got up and shuffled her way towards the entrance. 

“Hi Grandma, Bendicion!” her granddaughter said, surprising her.  

“Dios te Bendiga Mija! Es mi nieta!” Nora declared.

Everyone there greeted Nora’s granddaughter as if they’ve known her their entire life. 

“She talks about you and all of her grandkids.” One older woman would explain. 

“I knew you when you were just a baby.” Another would say. 

A long period of time had gone by since they last saw each other. Together they boosted with love. Nora, a bingo champion, left the game unfinished. She left everyone hanging with her departure without notice as she grabbed her nieta’s hand and walked out of the community hall. 

The ride in the elevator was short. Nora was walking much slower than her granddaughter remembered. She will be reaching 90 soon, she thought to herself. Together they entered her apartment. Everything was just as it was before I left New York. This included the elephant décor that anyone walking through the door couldn’t help but notice. 

“Por que tu no me llamaste?” Nora interrogated.

“I’m sorry, Grandma. I will call you more.” Her granddaughter said as she pursed her lips, knowing she would have a hard time meeting this expectation. 

“Uh, huh, okay,” Nora responded with one eyebrow raised slowly, pacing herself to her spot on the couch. 

After catching up, they decided to watch TV. Nora’s granddaughter rested her head on her shoulder. Together they took a short nap. 

February 2019

The silence in the room was deafening. All I could hear was my heart thumping uncontrollably in my chest while cautiously approaching. Grandma laid in the hospital bed, seemingly content.

“Bendicion Grandma, it’s me, Jasmin.” I grasped her hand. 

Her eyes narrowed while she smiled in a state of medically induced bliss. My nerves prompted me to glance at my aunt for guidance. 

“Tell her.” My aunt nodded. 

“Grandma, I’m pregnant.” I said, gently placing her hand on my baby bump, “Estoy embarazada.”

“Uh, huh, okay. Que?!” Her eyes opened, “Estas embarazada?!”, she asked as happiness began to pour out of her. 

“Si!” 

Grandma Nora was overjoyed. Her happiness filled everyone, and her love brightened the room. The knot in the back of my throat was telling me to let it out, but for this beautiful moment, I knew better.  

“Te voy a dar un puño porque ya tienes dos.”

Her laugh was contagious. No matter the situation, Grandma was sure to pack her sense of humor. I realized that it was her way of showing love and concern. I smiled and nodded my head to reassure her that I would be okay. However, what I didn’t know, that would be the last words she spoke to me. 

Late February 2019

“This was everyone’s home.” My older sister said.

I smiled at her before my eyes could water. I was flooded with emotions that I tried hard to suppress. Memories were made here. Life happened here. Life was growing inside me, a baby she would never have the chance to meet. Separately, we toured her apartment one last time. 

I picked up an elephant trinket. A mother elephant and its baby snuggled by her side. The elephant is a symbol of unobtrusive strength, and it is just one of the qualities my grandmother exemplified. In every direction, an elephant trinket would remind you of just that. The sala was where she would stir up her pot of wisdom. Her advice always came at the right moment (even though she knew the chances I would probably do the opposite). I placed my hand on my baby bump and sat on her spot on the couch. Her imprint was everywhere.  

Mora, the woman I knew, at times struggled but never settled. She taught me the importance of knowing self-worth and never giving up.

Mora, the woman I knew, was stronger than I could have ever comprehended, and braver than most people I’ve ever known.

Mora, the woman who held a love for her family that was so great. Whose heart was complete when she saw all of her children in one room, “Esto me da alegria,” she said. Her love knew nothing of conditions.  

Nora, the woman I miss. The woman I wish I could have with me just a little longer to tell her how much I love her. How much she still inspires me to this day.

Grandma Nora, gracias por todo que has hecho por mi. From taking me out of a burning building to always welcoming me with love and open arms even when my efforts to maintain contact were weak and inexcusable. 

I prepared myself to leave for the last time. I Love You, Grandma, Bendicion.

I felt her love wrap around me. Grandma’s voice was loud and clear.

“Dios te Bendiga. Llamame!” 

Motherhood

Personal Blog

No alarm clock can compare to the sound of my three and seven-year-old jumping out of bed in the morning. Those tiny little feet pounding the hardwood floor is their trademark superhero landing after conquering another successful night’s sleep. And if that doesn’t do the trick, my rightfully demanding 7-month-old will be sure to spring me into action by using a scream taken straight out of a Jurassic Park Movie. 

Motherhood is, without a doubt,  terrifying.  It is like pulling on a door while a sign with flashing lights is screaming at me to push. It is met with frustration, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and the endless reminders to my kids to put their Legos back into their rightful place. Most of all, I am continually confronting myself with the question, “Am I doing this, right?”. 

Every day I remind myself, “there is beauty in chaos,” and children are chaotically curious with imaginations that have no bounds. I know that one day the chaos will fade. The trail of Legos will shockingly vanish, and the walls of my home will shine as if tiny little fingers never marked their territory. And that is the part of motherhood I am dreading. 

For now, I will bask in the chaos and enjoy my little ones while they are still small. Motherhood is terrifying, but the unconditional love that comes with it triumphs all. Mothers are not biological vessels with the sole purpose of raising flawlessly obedient little humans, and children don’t stay children forever. Motherhood is a complex, spiritual, and emotional journey. In it, I’ve discovered a strength I never knew existed, all thanks to my wonderful little boys. In the future I’m sure the question will remain, “Am I doing this, right?”  

JasminKateri.com©2020

Rosa

Personal Blog

There I was, 14 years old, relentlessly trying to blow dry my unruly hair amid the most dramatic tropical climate I’d ever experienced. My grandmother and I were attending a party that night, and I desperately wanted my hair to be straight. One minute the sun was glaring and the next? Torrential downpour, accompanied by thunder and lighting. Mother nature did what she wanted when she wanted. Halfway through my mission, I heard my grandmother calling for me.

She called me multiple times with eagerness. I stuck my head out of the bathroom into the hallway with my hair a frizzy mess. My eyes met hers at that moment. I can still remember her smile, and her eyes filled with excitement. She practically dragged me outside that day, in the pouring rain. My hands struggled to keep the minimal cover I had to shield my hair.

The pipes from the roof of the house were expelling heavy rain. I was confused at first. Why am I outside in the rain? I thought to myself. It wasn’t long until I got my answer. My grandmother stood underneath the pipe, letting the rain soak her hair and her clothes. All I could think was no no no! Before I could protest, my grandmother placed me under the downspout. Thoughts quickly ran through my head as the heavy rain splashed on the top of my head. My hair! I will look crazy after this, for sure. I spent an hour on this!

After taking a breather, I had the chance to look at my grandmother with her sister. She was laughing and practically dancing in the rain with childlike energy. Her happiness made me smile and filled me with an unspeakable joy. My hair didn’t matter at the moment. Nothing did. All that mattered was what was happening right then and there and rather fight it, I joined in.

Looking back on this memory, I could tell she was waiting for this exact moment. I can still remember that day like it happened yesterday. I can still hear the hard rain smacking the concrete, the smell of the tropical storm, and how happy grandma was spending time with her grandchild. She relived her most joyous moments growing up in Puerto Rico and had the chance to share that with me. That memory is one I will always carry with me.

En español

Tenía 14 años y implacablemente tratando de secar mi pelo rebelde en medio del clima tropical más dramático que jamás haya experimentado. Mi abuela y yo estábamos asistiendo a una fiesta esa noche, y quería desesperadamente que mi cabello fuera liso. Un minuto el sol estaba deslumbrante y al siguiente aguacero torrencial, acompañado de truenos e iluminación. La madre naturaleza hizo lo que quería cuando quería. A mitad de mi misión, escuché a mi abuela llamarme.

Me llamó varias veces con entusiasmo. Metí la cabeza fuera del baño en el pasillo con mi cabello un desorden encrespado. Mis ojos se encontraron con los suyos en ese momento. Todavía puedo recordar su sonrisa, y sus ojos llenos de emoción. Prácticamente me arrastró fuera ese día, bajo la lluvia. Mis manos lucharon para mantener la mínima cobertura que tenía para proteger mi cabello.

Las tuberías del techo de la casa expulsaban fuertes lluvias. Al principio estaba confundido. ¿Por qué estoy afuera bajo la lluvia? No pasó mucho tiempo hasta que obtuve mi respuesta. Mi abuela estaba debajo de la tubería, dejando que la lluvia empape su cabello y su ropa. Todo lo que podía pensar era, no no no. Antes de que pudiera protestar, mi abuela me puso bajo la caída. Los pensamientos corrieron rápidamente a través de mi cabeza como la fuerte lluvia salpicaba en la parte superior de mi cabeza.  ¡Mi pelo! Me veré loca después de esto. ¡Pasé una hora en esto!

Después de tomar un respiro, tuve la oportunidad de mirar a mi abuela con su hermana. Se reía y prácticamente bailaba bajo la lluvia con energía infantil. Su felicidad me hizo sonreír y me llenó de una alegría indescriptible. Mi cabello no importaba en este momento. Nada lo hizo. Lo que importaba era lo que estaba sucediendo en ese momento y allí y más bien luchar contra él, me uní.

Mirando hacia atrás en este recuerdo, me di cuenta de que estaba esperando este preciso momento. Todavía puedo recordar ese día como sucedió ayer. Todavía puedo oír la fuerte lluvia golpeando el concreto, el olor de la tormenta tropical, y lo feliz que mi abuela estaba pasando tiempo con su nieta. Ella revivió sus momentos más alegres creciendo en Puerto Rico y tuvo la oportunidad de compartir eso conmigo. Ese recuerdo es uno que siempre llevaré conmigo.

©JasminKateri.com 2020