Threads of Memory

With a sigh of contentment, I settle into the familiar hug of my loom’s backstrap, with the front bar of the loom hovering over my lap.  Today there are a few hours of quiet and I have eagerly snatched them for my weaving.  In front of my eyes, the vertical web stretches, ready for colors and ideas to spring forth in the bright colors of my yarn.  Here, at my loom, I feel completely in control and a peace settles over me.  Often, as I am rushing around for my business and going to all kinds of meetings, my thoughts are like the tangled pile of sticks and strings that make up my loom when it is lying around…but as soon as I lift it and put it on, my mind becomes as clear as the straight lines of thread.

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Today, I start with a bright green, the color of the plants in my garden.  I start to weave, and it is a little bit like starting my day with our green herbs at breakfast.  Each morning, after I pray to thank God for another day, I prepare the morning meal for my husband and all five of my children by rolling out the corn tortillas, making the beans, and readying the leafy green herbs that are a bit like spinach.  As I am proud of my indigenous heritage, I have worked hard to preserve the preparations of food with good ingredients, especially the herbs.  We all sit down together at the table before each of us has to go off to work or school for the day.  Usually, breakfast is kind of quiet as all of us are thinking about the day ahead…challenges at work or challenges at school.  For my husband, it is a bit of both, as he is a teacher at the local school.  By dinnertime, though, everyone is more relaxed.  We linger over the table, talking over our day and talking about our dreams.  In our family, we bring up our dreams almost every day, but we also tell each other what we are doing to make them happen.  This way, we can all support each other, give advice, and keep pushing each other when it gets hard or we want to give up.  Also, these talks help us all to wind down from our hectic lives and get ready for sleep, knowing that the next morning it will all start again…and the green herbs will be there.

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Finishing the strand of green, I want to transition to another design, so I choose black yarn, one of the common background colors.  For a while, I weave along silently, without a thought in my mind, but the repetitive dark color, flashing back and forth in my hands, starts to lead me back into the memories.  They are always there, lurking beneath the surface of my everyday life.  The black shadows of the trees as we hid from the soldiers, the black strands of my aunt’s hair falling in her face the last time I saw her before they murdered her, the black black black smoke of the fires as they burned our homes and all our food.  I have lived longer in peace, now, than I did in the war, but that does not mean that I can forget.  They feel like a dark liquid poison that is always pressing on my insides…we have an expression where we say it is like a noodle stuck in our throats, this choking sensation as we try to tell our stories.  Tears sting my eyes and I pause to press my fingers to my eyes to control them.  But these days, it is good, because I find myself telling these stories more and more.  Just this month, I have been very busy with many meetings with government officials.  As a part of the national reparations program, the government arranges for us to meet with experts on farming and income.  Instead of just paying out money, they are helping us to cultivate coffee with the 400 hectares of land that our village owns.  They have also given us guidance for times that the crop production is low, such as using the time to weave our traditional textiles.  Like now, I think, as I finish the troublesome black thread and tie it off for now.

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Next, I pull a sky blue skein from my yarns, wanting to cheer myself up with a happy thought.  This month, we had Guatemala’s Independence Day on September 15.  Every year, we try to save a little money for that time, because everyone wants new clothes and nice new shoes to show off at the parade that winds through town.  Of course, I was a little worried about the expense, but I cannot help but smile to think of all five children looking sharp as they gather with their friends and chat with acquaintances all around town on the special day.  This year, my fourth daughter was honored by carrying the Guatemalan flag at the head of the parade, due to her getting the best marks at her school.  I nearly burst with pride, seeing my girl leading all the others, and I feel a thrill that I can give her this education that I never had.  She was so beautiful, holding the flag aloft, the two sky blue stripes and the one white one fluttering over her head.  I had eyes for no one but her at that moment.

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With a satisfying little tug, I finish the sky blue thread and look for another cheerful color to add. My eye catches on the tan thread.  This week we had workshops at the Wakami office, down in the city.  I had been very anxious about going, because the offices had moved to a new location.  It seems a small thing, but I like everything to be in its familiar place.  I hate feeling lost.  I have been lost enough for one lifetime.  Guatemala City is also a large and chaotic place compared to the simple streets of the villages, so it is a big challenge for me.  Anyways, I got over my fear and found the right place after a while.  At the end of the meetings, they showed us the new Wakami packaging.  And one had my story on it!  Just as they promised.  It is always hard for me to trust, but seeing the new products that will go to the USA and other countries looking so beautiful and one had my very words printed on the tan box, then I started to believe in them in a way I had not dared to before.

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I hear the door open and realize I have just let time slip away from me.  I should start working on dinner, so I finish the tan line and take my loom down to work on another day.  As always, my head feels a little clearer and calmer after weaving, like I have left some of my mind’s traffic there on the loom.  In my village, I am known to have some of the most beautiful textiles…but I don’t tell the secret that it is not just made of threads, but I also weave my feelings, memories, and thoughts into the cloth.  Let them believe it is just my magic touch.

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