I have unpacked every box but one. Heavy, I am afraid to open it: probably the right one, it either does or does not contain my parents’ ashes. This too horrifies Mexicans, that gringos request that their families burn their remains. Hence my secret from Mexico.
Mom’s capricious artist’s eye goaded us around old Mexico’s fantastic palette. Dad’s Jeep and trailer meandered ribbons of asphalt all but devoid of automobile traffic, dodging oxcarts and donkeys. Saints marched in and out of their pueblos dressed in white beneath serapes, smiles flashing from broad, dark shadows beneath sombreros. Somewhere along the way our own dreams plied rivers of lore about the ghosts of Alamos.
Her journals testify of a big-eyed little daughter of wonder. Imagination enhanced by smeary glasses, the little girl was confused as to why anyone built church ceilings to obscure the dream castle clouds billowing up into the eternal ultramarine zenith. Hallowed be the name all the gringos shout out in pain or passion; Mom would have known if the church in question was in Oaxaca where, peering heavenward into a dim, candle-lit cornucopia of hope for the dead which carpeted the ceiling, her little daughter may have peed her pants from astonishment. Amid a galaxy of plastic flowers, carved masks, inutterable mysteries and unnameable faces, dolls’ eyes stared flaming daggers from every direction long before I understood what “virgin” meant.
So my dollies were abandoned to dust in favor of horses, horses, horses: ceramic, glass, or plastic. Or the tickly black mane of Koko the pony.
Some fifty years later Mom’s officer’s widow’s pension was denied, something about Dad living through Catch-22. The family farm was condemned to real estate while she begged for liberation from “elder care” —escape to Mexico. Mom did not survive to see the road ever rushing away behind us in a mad dash to discover our lost family farmstead and pines and raspberries a little too far south on the continent. She did not top every hill to see yet another of her watercolor landscapes transformed into a shopping mall. Or paint the modern robin’s egg blue heresy of a geoengineered sky. Nor bask in the rarified company of the rich who inhabit the proverbial movie set who are or are not reincarnated pharoahs (mere academic triflings for a land bristling with pyramids). She never ceased wondering about reincarnation. Perhaps it is better that she didn’t acquaint herself with the hordes of ancient parentage, their faces illuminated by hieroglyphic cell phone keypads—a judgment day stripped of white garments, wrapping even the girls in blue jeans. Only her ashes traveled among possibly reincarnated slaves’ dreams come true: fleet personal chariots for all, cheap credit cars scurrying along ancient trails, mules banished to drug service in the sierra.
Once upon a panteón—Dad and Mom would know if it happened in Alamos—the flashing hooves of a runaway rental pony leapt over graves, its furious owner dashing vainly to catch the reins behind a little girl’s squeals of delight.
Mom said time is not linear, as modern society supposes, rather moving in cycles. She said there were no accidents. So why do I anguish over whether those two black canisters last sighted outside Guadalajara are in that box? It is highly improbable their remains escaped to anywhere else than their beloved Mexico.