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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
Vista Grande. The small bedroom she shared with her sister, and a year
with a newborn baby brother. Her dark-eyed sister, Nicole, lay
the twin bed, which ran crosswise at the foot of her own long, narrow
Curled up on her side, facing the wall, with its swirls of white wedding
plaster, black hair in pink rubber curlers, her older sister slept,
Some unidentifiable murmur in the dark and distant garden with its
fruit trees and brick edged, moss covered, herring bone pathways, had
awakened her, terrified her. She lay there shaking under her thin
sobbing into the softness of a feather pillow, encased in its delicately
embroidered slip. Sewn by a grandmother who lived far away, but
her nightly, and sent beaded moccasins at Christmas and braid ties and
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,
walls and large picture window. The room they called the nursery. The
glow from the nightlight spilled out into the room, from the crack
the door, with its crystal doorknobs. Shadows danced menacingly
iced walls. There was that sound again. Then the door
opened, and her
mother’s arms were around her. Petting her, smoothing her hair,
tawny bangs from her forehead. Patting her on the back.
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
"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
full of the musky scent of sleep and dreams. Then the small body
vastness of the twin bed, relaxed in her mother’s arms, as tears were
from her emerald, thick lashed eyes, first with gentle finger tips, then
silky corner of a chenille dressing gown.
The young mother slipped into the narrow bed with the child, kissed away
remaining tears, and held her tightly against her breast, until she
off once more to the unparalleled safety of sleep.
Years later, lying naked in a spacious, antique, wooden bed in a
bougainvillea-covered villa, in Tuscany, the woman who grew from the
would tell her lover, this was her earliest memory.