There’s a kind of rubbish inside my desks and drawers, stuff that never goes to waste and I don’t even know why. There are shopping slips, old bills, empty envelopes folded in two that keep getting the idea that one day I’ll fix it. It’s just that, like all disorganized people, I dream of cataloging paperwork and books just like in an archive or a public library.
It’s a chimera, a mirage and an inheritance, a genetic defect that I got from my mother. Most have memories of a meticulous mother, capable of making lunch and dinner, ironing, folding clothes and keeping the house tidy. I do not. My mother’s talent, her art was the ability to orient herself in chaos and to do it every day, even when it seemed that that would be the day when everything would collapse definitively.
Lunch was ready, even though disasters were frequent. The rice was burning, but my mother, always racing against the clock and in a hurry with her embroidery, blamed us for being incapable even of turning off the stove. She often felt alone in that immense disorder, lacking help, time and patience. Except for the Feast, when cleaning was done as if going to war. And then what was confusing got even worse.
A hurricane turned the house in Laranjal upside down. The furniture was moved, the drawers were emptied to place them in the sun on the terrace, the cushions were opened and the wool was laid out on a sheet in the middle of the backyard. Without criteria, everything happened simultaneously. The crockery and crystal glasses shared the tables with the clothes and the lamps, while my mother cleaned the windows and doors and waxed the floor and went, at the end of the day, to sing Our Lady in the birth masses of the Visitation .
The Festa was the Festa, it happened once a year and, although it confused her with what she still had to do before the 25th of December, my mother lived as she liked. She cleaned, sowed wheat for Menino Jesus, took care of the shoes, went shopping in town and, finally, when everything seemed to be in ruins, she put up a nativity scene and a tree. And every year when I woke up on Christmas morning, our house would glow, smell of pineapples and tangerines and freshly baked cakes.
And that was when it felt right, sure that everything would happen as before, on other Christmases, with a lunch of our own. My father, my mother, my brother and I, all there at the table in no hurry to go to school or work. There would be pudding and gelatin plus a fruit salad with custard and guava for dessert. My dad would end up sleeping on the couch afterwards while we watched the afternoon session. And the smile wouldn’t disappear on my mother’s face, it was always one of those big ones, the ones that only appeared when she was really happy.