This is not a story about my mother,
not even one about your mother
or grandmother. It’s about Mama Cruz,
someone else’s mother or grandmother.
Mama Cruz believed with all her heart that
Jesus shouldn’t wander far from her sight.
At her small church she was the first to
communion, confession and contrition.
Her only sin, she knew of, was an over
indulgence in candy and her own cooking-
eating Florecitas by the handful from the tin;
baking pasteles by the sheet full—
half for herself, a quarter for the church
potluck luncheon, and the rest for
the homeless with their shopping carts
full of clothes near the bodega;
platanos so golden brown that
the hungry sun jealously toasted her
and starving strays nipped at
her heels for the few burnt morsels left.
Each delicious creation given away
was a miracle in her eyes and was
duly marked with the embossed seals
from a papal ring matrix granted to her
by the diocese for her generosity of spirit,
and her charity work for feeding the poor.
The poor’s food was documented with a seal
depicting the miracle of the two loaves and fish.
Those for the potluck had the seal for the
seven loafs of bread and few little fishes.
She, like all good Catholics, knew the
difference between the similar miracles.
The strays remained undocumented.
She just treasured them in her heart.
Mama Cruz lived in a modest white adobe
dwelling in the San Dymphna district,
a not too loud or crazy part of the big city.
She bought the property because the natural
limestone cliffs all around opened up
into an small overhang that formed the
perfect alcove to house her prized Jesus
sacred heart statue— the half body one
with the red heart on the outside of his chest,
hands on each side pointing to it,
and a merino wool stole gently
draped unbuttoned over his shoulders.
She changed the stole for a different color
one each religious holiday. There was a
a white one for Christmas. A gold for Easter.
Purple was for Advent and Lent, but on the
the third Sunday of Lent and Laetare Sunday
it was pink. Red on the feast of martyrs.
A Greening hope for the rest of the liturgical year.
When she was mourning her lost daughter,
Milagro, Jesus was draped in purple. When
a neighbor died it was time for the black stole,
but just for the day of their funeral.
There were a few weeks in ‘82, during the
height of E.T. mania when the neighborhood
kids swiped Jesus and replaced him with
the heart and finger glowing extraterrestrial.
Mama Cruz’s faith never wavered.
She put messiah locks on the over-sized furbie
and kept up the ritual of the changing color stoles.
She never tired hearing the creature repeatedly
say, “Go Home” and ”I’ll be right here.”
Something about those words touched her core.
When E.T. fell from number one, and the mania
had passed, Jesus was put back where he belonged.
Although, Mama Cruz didn’t believe in garden gnomes,
she did believe in angels, specifically the four archangels,
to guard every direction of her house.
The wisdom and knowledge of Uriel held the North
from Satan’s attacks.
Michael with unflagging truth and courage
watched the South.
Raphael’s body, mind and spirit provided medicine
against the malignant east wind.
Gabriel, on the west side of her line,
coordinated with the other three,
relayed her prayers to Jesus
and occasionally showed her
the Lord’s simple answers
displayed in all the wondrous things
North, South, East, and West.
She drove only back and forth to
the bodega, the carniceria, the Iglesia
in a twelve year old heavenly blue Kia Soul
with the cloud interior.
Not a space wasn’t blessed with
holy water, silver crucifixes or rosaries.
The AC vents had tiny crucifixes
attached by discreetly small binder clips.
Rosaries hung from the rear view mirror,
the steering column, and crawled like
undulating snakes from the dash board
to the passenger side window.
Instead of a dash bobble head
there was a pair of ivory colored hands,
forever praising and grateful,
slipping up and down
to the Lord in ritual prayer.
The sweet floral and wood scent
of holy water all around
finished the heavenly mystique.
Mama Cruz had given up on maintaining
the outer face of her Soul.
The neighborhood kids
took delight in defacing
her few Jesus bumper stickers.
The fish outline on her trunk face
had been stolen and replaced
with one that spelled out Darwin
in the blank oval space
between fish head and tail.
Jesus Is My Pilot
was altered to Jesus is My PeePee.
It eventually was pasted over
with another that Mama Cruz
was sure the kids would
love and never deface:
Do You Follow Jesus this Closely.
Since most where choir and altar boys,
and the priest loved them,
Mama Cruz was always gentle with them.
Mama Cruz’s front and backyard
was full of hidden crucifixes.
They weren’t really lost.
They just had fallen out
of the holes of her dress pockets
to never be seen again by her
amongst the growing tall weeds.
She never searched for them.
She believed that the very earth
beneath her deserved
Jesus’ love and blessings-
more so than every living thing.
She just went to the reliquary store,
a non-profit subsidized by the church,
and bought a new one.
Every time she or anyone
walked across her yards
the snap of wood or plastic
could be heard.
Touch her grass
and plastic pearls
and colored gems
would be revealed,
a whole treasure of things
that had been split
from their precious support.
When Mama Cruz was
doing her usual errands,
the poor girls of the street
would comb her yards
looking for mismatched
crosses and baubles
that could be glued together
and worn with a pin
on the Sundays the church
invited and fed the poor.
The priests called them
“Las Nina’s de la
Simiente Sagrada Perdida-
The Girls of the
Lost Holy Seed.”
The priests considered this
the most wonderful
of all Mama Cruz’s
many unintended miracles.
The inside of Mama Cruz’s house
was simple and unadorned.
Only the living room had a television,
a 45 inch flat screen,
that rested on a plain white
IKEA hip high stand
on uneven legs.
She had spent the day
following the illustrations
and semi-successfully assembled it.
From her crushed blue recliner
Vatican TV, her telenovelas
and the Univision news.
The kitchen behind
was small and
always smelling of
pork, chicken and spices.
The only other rooms
were the small bedrooms
that were the size of a nun’s cell
which were similarly
adorned and furnished.
Besides the gold
framed Jesus painting
there was icon size pictures
of her deceased Milagro
and her beloved husband Jose-
old fading and hard to make out from
the austere black and white interior.
Centered just above
the flat screen
was an illuminated
in his finest clothes
and the customary
common to all other
in all the other houses.
Twenty small tables
each with as many
that they can hold
filled the important
empty spaces around.
Each had the phrases
and wisdom of her
engraved on their face.
Of the more than
10,000 martyrs eligible
Mama Cruz had
narrowed it down to
the 123 she could remember.
A lone table near an open window,
however, contained neither
Jesus, Disciples, saints nor angels.
There was just a fishbowl sans fish,
-the kind of bowl a child would
win as a prize from a county fair-
filled with cool clear clean water
sitting lonely on the table.
Above, two inverted roses hung
from a Spanish lace curtain
made from mantilla cloth.
Mama Cruz knew that
the mischievous choir-altar boys
were responsible for this Satanic joke.
Yet, she didn’t mind and left it alone.
She knew the roses would be
pointing the right way by morning.
She pretended that it was
just another Jesus miracle.
From the shadows every night before
she finally fell asleep Mama Cruz
would hear the rustling of
Las Nina’s de la Simiente Sagrada Perdida
scouring for trinkets of faith.
She was glad they remembered and honored
the times they always played and danced
with her Milagro while she lived.
Honored and blessed, even now,
that they were kind enough to
revert the small mischievous
acts of the world in Jesus’s name-
long after the fish had passed-
after La Milagro had passed.
And all that it took for
the miracle to take hold
was to renew a foul-smelling bowl
everyday with cool clean clear water.
The Many Shrines of Mama Cruz
One response to “The Many Shrines of Mama Cruz”
This arouses in me the same joy of reading as did 100 Years of Solitude. Inspired writing. Love this.Loading…