"Abuela Mía" - Your Story 53 Finalist

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"Abuela Mía" - Your Story 53 Finalist

Postby TiffanyLuckey » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:41 pm

Abuela Mía

The found quarter must be a sign. A double-take glance reassured Sofia as she bent over to pick it up. The almost obscured coin caught just enough noontime sun to be noticed as she ambled across the browning grass of the Sancta Maria Memorial Gardens. Why Sofia put the coin in the Wal-Mart gumball machine was as much a mystery as what tumbled out into her outstretched hand: a human tooth.

On the way home from her grandmother’s funeral and burial, her mother realized more meat, cheese and veggie trays were needed for the family gathering. That’s when the lure of a gumball helped the not-so-shiny coin finish burning a hole in her pocket. But, this tooth. Was this another sign?

Abuela Lucinda was Sofia’s favorite relative on her dad’s side. Sofia had every reason to believe that she had been her grandma’s favorite, too. That her mother was only half-Mexican didn’t seem to matter. Sofia didn’t even know most of her mom’s family; they all lived five states over and three states north.

Being only 11 years old, Sofia was still a bit confused by the whole death thing. Twice in the last two days, the priest had said “life is changed, not taken away,” but neither time eased the sorrow she felt deep in her heart. All she was sure about was it wouldn’t only be grandma’s sopaipillas she’d miss.

Finding the quarter in the cemetery was a surprise and a puzzle. Was it from her grandma, a sign that all would be OK? She had heard her Tía Maria say that folks sometimes found pennies here and there as mementos put there by deceased loved ones. I guess this is an example of what they mean by “inflation,” she thought to herself as she put the coin in her dress pocket (she had just learned that word in sixth-grade social studies).

Sofia’s teacher, Sister Rosario, was the last of the nuns at Our Lady of Guadalupe School. She had become an institution over the 35 years she had taught the sixth graders there. Her mind had not diminished even if her body had. With her walker, she could keep up with the 11 year old girls, to say nothing of the boys. A twist of her head and an ironic smile was all she needed. Order would be restored, a reprimand effectively delivered.

Last Tuesday Sofia stayed behind when her classmates left for recess. Sister Rosario was all ears—and heart—hearing of her grandmother’s passing the night before. The spirited nun put her hands on the girl’s shoulders, and with a soul-mating gaze, wordlessly comforted her charge. If the cumbersome walker had not been in the way, there would have been a hug, too. 

If so, the hug would have reminded Sofia of her cherished grandmother. A human touch, which would have allowed her to softly sob. Alas, the setting was just not right. The tears did not come; the spell was broken.

“Thanks, Sister,” she managed to say, as she sought to join Maria and Lupe on the playground. Her friends each had both of their grandmas still living. Lupe’s mother, though, had died of lung cancer over the summer. Maria’s dad was gone from the family after being caught up in an ICE raid. For both girls, their abuelas were south of the Rio Grande. In her present sorrow, Sofia knew these two friends would be kindred spirits. As 11 year olds, though, they didn’t quite know what to say. They did know how “to be there,” however.

When Monday arrived, the extended grieving family had dispersed. The holy angels, they had sung, would bring Lucinda Cruz-Lopez to God the Most High. Things were, now, supposed to be back to normal. Sofia trudged off to school, the mysterious tooth hidden in the pocket of her blazer—just under the monogram of Our Lady of Guadalupe and near her heart.

February 9. Of all things, it would have been Abuela Lucinda’s birthday. The saint of the day listed on the board as Sofia walked into the classroom was Saint Apollonia—patron of dentists. Sister Rosario told how this holy woman had had all her teeth knocked out just before she was martyred. Sofia’s eyes widened in wonder. She touched the tooth in her pocket and knew it was, much better than the legendary penny, a special gift just for her.

Gracias, abuela mía.

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