With the news came more rain, soft and slow as I can ever remember in this City. It is nothing like our neighborhood back home.
I remember a few things I enjoyed about growing up there, not the least of which was mowing and raking Helen’s lawn. It was an excuse to force us kids into working, not for the money, but for the experience: pleasure and pain. A job well done is it’s own reward, and all that stuff. Mom’s usual psychology worked magic around our growing minds, but it was also a pleasure it was for Helen, to have two growing kids on which to dump her chocolate covered macademia nuts and Shasta Cola in between raking and mowing her lawn on brisk autumn days. Everyone was better off because of it. What a saint.
Growing up in the posh end of the East Bay didn’t give us many chances for this sort of thing as people are usually secluded and dead long before they ever die. Helen never gave that seclusion a chance. Like Bill, the firefighter and gardener across the street, seeing her out walking up and down that stretch no matter how slowly was a cherished routine. It helped assure us that things were as they should be, and going well at that.
Helen died today.
I just learned of it through a message I had been ignoring all day. They’ve already had her funeral back home, half a world away. She would have liked that it was done so soon after her passing, though. She may have moved slowly but she liked things to be done, and I can’t remember her ever being shy about it. I would have liked to have been there, of course, as I’m sure it was full of people celebrating her life, with smiles as bright as the summer that approaches, and plenty of tears as light as her white hair.
It’s comforting to remember that I will always have the fig tree, though. She used to give us loads of figs that she couldn’t handle off of her aging tree that apparently had learned over the years to produce the really good stuff. Later, she saw we liked them so much that she gave us a branch of her tree and we planted it in our front yard and watched it grow with inordinate speed. Already it produces such sweetness as hers and towers over our front yard. Already it has given a branch to another tree in our backyard. One day it will offer me another branch, and I will plant it with the care to which it is accustomed.
Life goes on, I suppose.
I would have liked to be kissed goodbye one last time though, as she invariably did, even if it was to cross the street on her way home.
I would have liked to hear her say one last time, that I’m a ‘good kid’, because she would say it with meaning whether I was doing what I could to make my family happy or bringing her some pao de queijo, or just telling her that the figs she gave us were out of sight. She was the kind of person that didn’t see the difference in the actions because the motivation was the same… I’m a ‘good kid’ and that’s that.
I will miss her dearly.
I perceive that but for the rain, the river Tiete is dulled and motionless, like a festering lagoon by the freeway. The sounds of the City have smoothed out a bit now and a fog has fallen over it such as to make San Francisco envious. It is not silent, nor is it still, but for a fleeting moment, or series of moments, all the noises – somehow in sync – go unheard.
An idle night for an idle day, it seems. Who knew so much peace could be had in a moment?
Maybe I will sleep tonight… maybe. Who knows?
Estanplaza Hotel, 12th floor balcony, Sao Paulo – March, 2006