By Anyiné Galván-Rodríguez
The 2020 pandemic impacted us all at different levels. In the blink of an eye, our lives changed, we quarantined and had no idea of what would come next. Whether or not we were considered essential workers, we all had to get acclimated to a new way of living. The majority of us were confined between our homes and the grocery store. In the midst of unprecedented times, we began to find value in things we once found trivial or took for granted – a hug, church Sundays, or even family gatherings. During the quarantine, small moments became special moments and special moments became key to carrying us through the pandemic.
My mother has never been athletic, unless you consider merengue and bachata dancing a sport. But in the spring of 2020, the quarantine was not the only lingering worry my mother carried with her. As a diabetic, any task given by the doctor is to be taken seriously. So when the doctor informed her it was a non-negotiable to incorporate exercise into her daily routine, my mom took it to heart and got to walking.
By late spring, my mother’s daily commitment to her health through walking inspired me. So I replaced naps with walks and began to walk alongside her
At first, she asked me to join her several times. I recall thinking to myself “ Lady! I don’t have time to go walking!”, although I would not dare say it aloud. Instead, I would make up excuses and complain how tired I was from a long day of working from home. The truth is, I had time but I was in a quarantine funk that I could not seem to shake off. I was finding it extremely hard to adapt working from home. Maybe I was a mess. Maybe I was depressed. Yet, while I was taking late afternoon naps after work to calibrate myself, my mother walked to calibrate her health. I napped and she walked. By late spring, my mother’s daily commitment to her health through walking inspired me. So I replaced naps with walks and began to walk alongside her.
We walked, talked but mostly we laughed. Sometimes we talked about the latest family chisme and other times we talked about love and pain. Oftentimes we talked about the irony of life. There was no walk that passed by that she did not put a smile on my face. Her humor is priceless and admirable. She can provide you with the most wise advice possible and make you laugh out loud at the same time, no matter how serious the situation may be. She has a magical way of making you laugh with gusto with her Spanish refranes. As a true Latina mom, she always has the most accurate refran as a closing statement.I think that’s one of her super powers. That is my mother. Sometimes she would get a little tired and we would pause so she could take a break. I would wait patiently until she gave a nod to signal she was ready to push forward.
During our walks I began to ask her to tell me memories about her grandparents. Everytime she shared, she unveiled a new layer of her personal narrative and that of our ancestors. She told beautiful stories about her childhood in the countryside of Dominican Republic. She shared how every morning, her grandfather would walk by her parents’ casita before he went to work the land. He would yell out a greeting call to make it known he was passing by. Some children would run out the small wooden house and wave hi to their abuelo and some would pause with comfort that it was indeed a new day. It was her grandfather’s morning ritual for his grandchildren, day in and day out. I was amazed at how she still recalls that small gesture by her grandfather so vividly. Those small moments became special moments. Moments that she would carry with her forever and passed on to me.
She spoke about her abuelas and their strength and courage. Her paternal grandmother was disowned by her Spanish family because she fell in love with a black man, that although had land and assets, he would never meet their expectation of being a white Dominican. Nonetheless, she pushed forward and married him. Together they worked the land, had children and lived a life that was worthy of praise because it was grounded in love and dedication. She survived him for many years after his death and had to continue managing the cultivos they built together.
She shared about her maternal grandmother. She was a beautiful tall black woman.
She shared about her maternal grandmother. She was a beautiful tall black woman. She too, widowed early and had to manage keeping up with their household. She did not see her maternal grandmother as often because she lived in another pueblo, although not too far, was difficult to travel to. Yet, she remembers her being loving and kind, despite the struggles of being a mother of fourteen children. “Eran fuertes mis abuelas”, my mother says as she looked into space during one of our walks. It was almost as if she was a young girl again and she was back in her abuelas’ presence. Maybe she was reminding herself of her abuelas’ strength and connecting to it. Maybe she had a recurring epiphany that the strength of the women that came before her have carried her through. As I listened to mami while we walked, I also felt as if we were channeling them and felt their energy among us. At that moment, two women in my lineage, whom I had never met, felt present through memory, thought and spirit.
“Eran fuertes mis abuelas”, my mother says as she looked into space during one of our walks.
My mother and I continued to go on walks beyond the spring. The fresh smell of spring soil transitioned to warm summer evening breezes. The summer breeze swirled into hues of Fall and frigid winds. The cold days are making it harder and harder for us to go on walks now but we look forward to when the weather permits. In the meantime, my mother and I still lean on each other to embrace what the future holds.
In my case, beneath that standard lies the appreciation of small moments that allow me to cultivate joy.
The quarantine is long gone but we feel it lurking around the corner as there is no end in sight for this pandemic. A new standard for the “new normal” has settled in. In my case, beneath that standard lies the appreciation of small moments that allow me to cultivate joy. I now savor and indulge in small moments. I have learned that I can only embrace their full essence when I’m fully present. The pandemic has taught me that small moments are priceless. Small moments have the potential to turn into special moments that carry us through unprecedented times and give us the strength to push forward. Today, in memory of our foremothers, my mother and I continue to push forward in their name.
Today, in memory of our foremothers, my mother and I continue to push forward in their name.