Last Wednesday, as I was driving to pick-up my daughter from her after-school gardening class, I heard a story on NPR's "Tell Me More" about Gabriel Garcia Marquez' biography. The author, Gerald Martin (a British professor of Latin American literature at the University of Pittsburgh), was discussing various milestone's in Garcia Marquez' life, and how One Hundred Years of Solitude is considered the quintessential Latin American novel. After the segment, I reached for my Blackberry and put my finger on the "M," which was my speed-dial for Mami. I stopped before the number dialed, and I began to weep. Mami wasn't going to answer, nor was my late aunt Ele, who was also a huge Gabo fan. I actually couldn't see for a second until I dropped the phone into my minivan's center console and wiped my eyes.
Eventually I called my brother Jorge, but he didn't answer, so I ended up leaving a teary message on his voice-mail. In an instant my drive went from routine to impossibly upsetting. I had no one to share the story with at that moment. I felt angry and sad and putting the link on Facebook wasn't in any way equivalent to calling Mami or Ele up and telling them about the interview or pre-ordering the biography for them on Amazon.
I thought the grieving had slowed to a point where the triggers were manageable. But it's not true. Since Mother's Day, the triggers have surfaced more and more: the recent Times obituary of Colombian vallenato balladeer Rafael Escalona; the grandmother's at D's little ballet recital; the word "Guayabera" on the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee; playing card games with my firstborn; the damned petites section at Macy's, etc. etc. etc. Everywhere I look, there's another reminder of my mother -- another cruel awareness of her physical absence from our lives.
Prompted by the NPR interview and the memories of my mother and aunt, I began re-reading One Hundred Years of Solitude this weekend. My aunt's handwriting is inside the front cover (it's the same paperback I had in 12th grade, when I first read it in IB English), providing a few biographical details about Garcia Marquez. I remember Mami telling me that she and my late father had a group of close friends who called themselves the Macondo circle. I'm not sure if they sat around and talked about Garcia Marquez, because it seemed to me that they just partied Colombian style (drinking aguardiente, eating, and dancing late into the night), but it doesn't really matter. I still see my mother, my aunt, even my father, on every page.