As a teenager there wasn’t much that my mother didn’t know. It was not because I felt compelled to tell her it was just that she would look at you and she just knew. Growing up I thought it was just weird. Lord knows how many times I went through my early teens and swore that someone ratted me out before I got home, but that was never the case.
Mommy was one of those woman who kept to her traditions. She was born and raised in the campos of Puerto Rico. She would spend times reminiscing talking of the dirt roads she would run on. She would get lost in telling me how she climbed the mango trees and ran in the fields. It sounds all great but she also told me it was extreme poverty. That’s why when mommy made it to New York her determination was unstoppable.
When she came to New York she also came with the secrets of being a curandera. Now for those that don’t know what that is it’s a person that can heal with things that grow from the earth. We are talking plants and herbs. She would make concoctions like rubs or teas and cure an illness or take care of a symptom before it got worse and when she couldn’t she was OK telling them to seek medical help.
Growing up I saw many things that to be honest people would outright say I have lost my mind. I have seen my mother heal people when doctors didn’t even have a clue as to what was going on with them let alone have a cure.
Finding out about what mommy could do was in my pre-teens. She took out every Sunday to help those that would show up at our doorstep. It was never a thing that she advertised either. People would find out from word of mouth. What was amazing is that mommy would know who was going to show up and what the help they were seeking before they even showed up. I was the one mom would use to assist her.
Mommy always would tell me, “Andres you can move mountains with a candle and a prayer.” To be honest she was right. That was all she would use, a candle and some prayer. Of course she laid hands on the sick but through the whole thing she would pray from beginning till they left. She also would never charge for her services as she called them. People would come and bring with them a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk but to give her outright money, NO! Mommy wouldn’t accept it. She would just tell them to make sure they go to church and light up a candle and pray to GOD.
I write this and a smile comes to my face as the memories of Sunday become vivid. the smell of fresh coffee brewing from the colador not a coffee maker. We talking old school here people. then the smell of French fries with sunnyside eggs for breakfast. Then she would send us to the room while she cleaned the house which was usually a mixture of incense, King Pine and a cigar. We knew to stay out of her way during these times of cleaning. When she was done she would call us and then the visits would commence. Sometimes it was a lot of people sometimes it was just a few but Sunday was the day. I also remember Mommy would heal babies more than anything. She just had a thing with it. These babies were not even a year old. She would lay them on the ironing board and like I said with a candle and a prayer she would make miracles. So many of these parents at their wits end not knowing where else to go and land at my mother’s doorstep. she would grab these babies and just talk to them the whole time as she would go about doing what needed to be done. I also remember that Mommy never turned them away. She helped all those that were seeking a cure with the saddest of eyes or the most troublesome of situations. Mommy would tell them to sit and say a word. By the time they left they were smiling and have sense of hope and ready to go to a church and pray. My mother was no joke with it.
She stopped working the obra when she met my step-father, he was too scared of it all.
It was also with this gift that Mommy knew things. There wasn’t much that got away from her and I am more than sure there was a lot of things she knew and just didn’t bring up. Mommy just had a way of looking at my brother and I and she knew what we were up to. It would boggle my mind and the times I did get the nerve to ask her how she knew her answer was always- Un Pichon Me Lo Dijo,(a lil bird told me). This gift to her which was annoying to me in my teens has saved many of us from fatal danger.
There was this one time that I had plans to go out to a club. The club was the Underground which I went to religiously every Friday. Well here I am getting ready in my room when Mommy comes right in and says, “Andres do me a favor and make sure you come straight home. No cierre el club. Don’t stay till the club closes.” I was doing my hair, I remember clearly. I looked at her and just knew that there was more to the story than she was letting on. I guess my expression said it all because she continued to say, “Something bad is going to happen.” Now you know with her impeccable track record I had to put caution to her words. With that being said I go to the club and after a few hours dancing this strong feeling of anxiety came over me. All of a sudden I just felt real uncomfortable. Something was telling me to leave now. It was a real urgent push within me. I told my homegirls let’s go and though reluctant they did. When I get home there is Mom sitting at the table real calm. She looks my way, “ Tu va ver. You’ll see.” It so happened that same night when the club was closing there was a huge gun fight outside the club at the same exact time that my friends and I would’ve been leaving the club.
There are so many stories I have of this Pichon that would tell her things but from then on I knew that when she said it I paid heed to it.