Saturday, January 28, 2006

(by Sharmagne Leland-St. John)

She was on the ragged edge of sleep, in those dark
velvety moments just before dawn, in the small, crowded
bedroom of the old Spanish bungalow on Vista Grande.
The small bedroom she shared with her sister, and a year
later with a newborn baby brother. Her dark-eyed sister,
Nicole, lay sleeping in the twin bed, which ran crosswise
at the foot of her own long, narrow bed. Curled up on
her side, facing the wall, with its swirls of white wedding
cake plaster, straight black hair in pink rubber curlers,
her older sister slept, unaware, undisturbed.

Some unidentifiable murmur in the dark and distant
garden with its tangle of fruit trees and brick edged,
moss covered, herring bone pathways, had awakened
her, terrified her. She lay there shaking under her thin
blanket, sobbing into the softness of a feather pillow,
encased in its delicately embroidered slip. Sewn by
a grandmother who lived far away, but dreamt of her
nightly, and sent beaded moccasins at Christmas and
braid ties and bows for her birthday.

A light went on in the turquoise and gray tiled, deco
bathroom that separated the master bedroom from the
small room with its textured, white walls and large picture
window. The room they called the nursery. The warm
glow from the nightlight spilled out into the room, from
the crack beneath the door, with its crystal doorknobs.
Shadows danced menacingly across the iced walls.
There was that sound again. Then the door opened,
and her mother’s arms were around her. Petting her,
smoothing her hair, brushing her tawny bangs from her
forehead. Patting her on the back.
Whispering ‘shhhh’ into her tiny ear,
“There baby, don’t cry.”
She almost sang the words, tender and somewhat
out of key. Then the sound again.
“Coo-coo coo-coo, ”
"It’s just a mourning dove calling to his mate.”
“Coo-coo coo-coo”
She had not the slightest idea what a mourning dove was,
but she believed her, she trusted her, she had no
reason not to, yet. The child stopped crying as she
breathed in her mother’s perfumed aroma now full of
the musky scent of sleep and dreams. Then the small
body in the vastness of the twin bed, relaxed in her
mother’s arms, as tears were wiped from her emerald,
thick lashed eyes, first with gentle finger tips, then the
silky corner of a blue chenille dressing gown.

The young mother slipped into the narrow bed with the
child, kissed away the remaining tears, and held her
tightly against her breast, until she drifted off once more
into the unparalleled safety of sleep.
"Coo-coo Coo-coo"

Years later, lying naked, in a spacious, antique, wooden bed in a
bougainvillea-covered villa, in Tuscany, the woman who grew from
the child, would tell her lover, this was her earliest memory.

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