My mother and I moved from Puerto Rico in June of 1976, to Hollywood, Florida. My older sisters had moved there. The middle one was going through a horrible divorce. Mom and I were in a tiny efficiency for a few weeks. She heard shooting and bangs. We heard screaming and chaos. I was 8 years old. She put me in a closet by the tiny bathroom and she hid in the shower. The more “shootings” we heard the deeper the fear. I screamed. She begged me to be quiet. She was crying and praying. I was biting my lips and trying to remain calm. It was a long night. There was no phone in the place. She feared for our lives. Finally it was over. We were wet with sweat and exhausted from the trauma of possibly being shot to death. The next morning she figured out the date. It was the 4th of July. She had so much going on that she never even thought about it. They were firecrackers, not gun shots. They were celebrating outside, not shooting each other. To this day when the fireworks begin I think of my little inner child fearing the possibility of dying or someone shooting my mother. I didn’t speak English. I didn’t know where my sisters lived. I knew no one. But I held my Mami that night, while she slept in. I held her hands and caressed her hair thanking God for not taking her. I was angry that we moved to a place that would end our lives. There was so much violence in my little world that night.
Last night I remembered this so vividly. And I am aware that traumas rarely leave us until we face them. I’m not phased by fireworks. I don’t mind them. I am, however, shaken when I hear screams or feel that the world is in chaos. This is why I reach out to strangers when I know they need someone to just acknowledge them. You never know the fear they are moving through. It’s there until you surround them with love.
Today I hold you. Tomorrow might be your turn. Thank you.