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Powerful Memories

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Powerful Memories

Do they haunt or heal you?
Victor  Villaseñor
Victor Villaseñor More by this author
Mar 31, 2011 at 10:00 AM

My mother decided that we should plant fast-growing pine trees and palms all around the house so we wouldn’t have to see the mobile-home park below us every time we looked out a window or went outside.

My parents could no longer afford to hire help, so the three of us were working together planting trees behind the house when my cousin Jose Leon showed up one afternoon with a great big truck full of watermelons that he was going to sell on the roadside for 50 cents each. The day was hot, and Jose quickly cut one of the huge watermelons open with his machete.

“Put it in the shade,” said my dad. “Remember, Jose, how in the old days we used to work together in those boiling-hot fields, we’d cut a watermelon in half and put it in the shade of a tree or truck, and it would get as ice-cold as if we’d put it in a refrigerator.” He grinned.

“Yes, of course, I remember that, Tío,” said Jose, smiling. “Those were good days.”

“I didn’t know that you two guys used to work in the fields together,” I commented.

“Edmundo, there are many things you don’t know about your father’s life,” said my cousin Jose, laughing with gusto. My dad laughed, too, and they kept talking, remembering the old days.

My mouth was watering at the sight of the sliced-open, great big watermelon. All day I’d been running up and down the bluff behind our home to get this tool and that tool and then carry down another little tree.

“Can’t we just have a slice right now?” I asked.

“Sure, go ahead,” said my dad to me. “But it will taste like hell,” he added, with more laughter.

Jose winked at me. “Edmundo, have patience and you’ll see that your papa is right,” he said. “These big melons have been in the back of my truck all day, and they’re hot and will taste awful. But if we wait a few minutes while the melon cools because of the evaporation, it will be a real pleasure to eat. Your father and me, we ate a lot of watermelons out in those fields, with the temperature over 100 degrees. Eh, Lupe, tell your son that a man and a woman learn a lot by working out in those fields, bent over like mules.”

“Yes,” agreed my mother. She was dressed in Levi’s and a large, loose, man’s long-sleeve shirt, with a handkerchief tied about her head, holding her hair back. My God, she looked like every woman field-worker I’d ever seen, and here we were laboring at the foot of a mansion.

“Yeah, I think you’re maybe right,” said my dad, sitting down on the ground in the shade right next to the cut-in-half melon. “We had nothing, nothing, and yet we were happy because we had no confusion.”

“Oh no, Tío, we had something. We had plenty of sweat and hunger!” said Jose, laughing..

“Oh yes, those we had lots of,” said my dad, laughing, too. “Oh, this reminds me of the greatest meal I’ve ever eaten. I was running up the railroad tracks in Montana like a lost dog, after these two Yaqui Indians and I escaped from prison in Arizona.”

“Papa, is this when you went to prison for stealing $6 worth of food?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I’d stolen $6 worth of copper ore from the Copper Queen Mining Company in Douglas, Arizona, to . . . to sell so I could buy food.” Tears came to his eyes.

“When the Yaquis and I parted, they went to Mexico, and I headed north because I knew that they’d be looking for me to the south. I ran day and night, not knowing where I was going, catching rabbits here and there to eat raw most of the time. Then one afternoon I was running up these railroad tracks, which I later learned were in Montana, and this is when I saw a little brown paper bag in the middle of the rails up ahead of me. I stopped and walked up to the bag slowly, thinking maybe I was seeing things and it was just a mirage because I was so tired and hungry and ready to die.

“Getting to the bag, I glanced around, saw no one, and reached down and picked it up and found that it was real. Quickly, I tore it open and there inside was the oldest, worst-smelling, rotten dried-up ham-and-cheese sandwich I’d ever seen. I took a bite and it was heaven! So I sat down and ate every delicious bite, chewing so slowly and thanking God for such a fine meal. When I finished, I felt strong once more and took off running again like I’d done almost all the way from Arizona.

I was astonished. “You mean, Papa,” I said, “that you ran all the way from Douglas, Arizona, to Butte, Montana? My God, that must be a thousand miles.”

“I hopped a train once,” he said, “but, yes, I ran most of the way. Like I’ve always told you, mijito, when you got fear pushing you and love pulling you, a man or woman can do incredible things. And why? Because everything is possible when the hand of God is guiding you,” he concluded with power

My mother got up. “Excuse me,” she said, “but I have to go to the house and check on something I left on the stove.”

“I’ll go check for you, Mama,” I said, wanting to save her from having to climb the bluff and then having to come back down.

“No, I’m going!” she insisted.

“Okay,” I said, “then let me help you up this steep part of the hill.”

We’d no more gotten out of sight of my dad and my cousin than my mother broke down crying.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Didn’t you see the miracle?”

“What miracle?”

“Jose just brought your dad back from the dead,” she said, tears pouring down her face.

I held my breath and then breathed.

Then I saw that my mother was absolutely right.

Something miraculous had, indeed, just happened. This was the first time in over a year that my dad had laughed, and his eyes had changed, too, taking on new life.

“You’re right, Mama,” I said. “I hadn’t really realized it, but, yes, Jose brought life back to Papa with all those old memories.”

“Always remember, mijito,” said my mother to me, “that memories for us humans are like the cud to the cow. And it is when we humans bring them back up with joy that we are able to stop the sour juices that poison us and we can live.”

I took in a deep breath. Wow! This was really, really true. Even in my young, short life, I could already see that at times I poisoned myself with my memories, and other times I gave myself strength. It was a choice. A chill went up and down my spine. “Oh my God, Mama,” I said. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right.”

About Author
Victor  Villaseñor
Victor Villaseñor is the author of the national bestsellers Rain of Gold, Thirteen Senses, and Burro Genius, the latter nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; as well as other critically acclaimed books, such as Wild Steps of Heaven and M Continue reading