Mama's Holy Ghost

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

I never knew what religion was. It wasn’t until high school when I’d come home eagerly, ready to tell Mama and Pop about the different religions I learned about that day in World History. I went from not knowing anything about any of them to wanting to create my own religion with a concoction of multiple.

Coming from a traditional family, we’d sit together every evening at the dining table for supper. And any complaints, god forbid, were extremely discouraged. Amongst the silence, I spoke up and talked about the different religions I learned at school.

“Don’t listen to any of that.” My father said. “Religion isn’t real.”

This is coming from a father who was baptized at the age of 13, per his mother’s request. In the Caribbean, religion is a huge deal. But ever since he was young, my father would break rules. In the 1980s, he would sit lay under his bed listening to the radio while trying to catch a signal from the United States. At that time, it was an illegal and punishable offense. I was discouraged.

I asked my father, “Why Pop? Why don’t we practice any religion?” He would put it simply.

“I don’t want to impose anything on you. When you get older and have your own children, you can choose whatever you want to believe.”

All the while, my mother remained silently staring at her plate. Defeated, I refrained from talking about religion with my parents. I kept my beliefs to myself.

It wasn’t until the week my father was gone (he was frequently out of the country on business trips), when I learned about my mother’s beliefs. Usually, we would’ve sat at the dining room table to eat, but we decided to sit on the living room sofa, covering the couch in crumbs. In between the meal we shared, she finally spoke up.

“You know what happened to me the other day?” Puzzled, I said no. “I heard something. I was bent over cleaning the bath tub, and when I turned around, the laundry hamper moved.” She said she was scared, but she knew there was something in the house. She told me about further instances, like when the bag of colored bell peppers fell on its own when she was organizing groceries. Or when she walked through the hallway, passing my room, to see the curtains were closed when she left them open.

“What do you believe in, Mama?” I finally asked her. She looked blankly at the TV that was soundlessly playing in the background. I knew she didn’t agree with the views of my father.

“When babushka was here, she said that house had a spirit.” Back in 2002, my grandmother came for my younger sister’s birth.

“But it wasn’t a bad one. She said she would feel him pulling at her legs while she tried to sleep. He was my guardian angel.”

“Who do you think he was?” I asked. She laughed, “Well, babushka thinks it’s my father. After she told me this, I felt someone’s arms wrap around me in my sleep while she was here.” But she disagreed. Even though they were mother and daughter, they held different beliefs.

My mother believed her father was reincarnated into our bright yellow cockatiel. My mother had this feeling the day we purchased our pet bird; she picked out his name, Sacha, which was her father’s nickname.

“Is that why you picked the name?” I asked. “I felt something, I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t explain it.” Eagerly, I asked, “Does Pop know?” Her mood instantly changed. She shook her head as she picked up the dishes and set them in the sink.

“Do you think that’s why Sacha likes you so much?” I tried changing the subject, not wanting to let go of a conversation I knew we’d never have again. She revealed to me that she thought he was disappointed in her. My mother had three daughters—not one son. She had two miscarriages before I was born. She knew one of them was a boy, but it was too early to tell the gender. And that’s why I was named after my grandfather, sort of. As the first male of our family, she thought her father took that opportunity to welcome himself to our family, and that would explain Sacha’s appeal for Mama.

Each night after that, I kept Mama’s secret, and welcomed her holy ghost. 

Submitted: April 17, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Alexandra Reboredo. All rights reserved.

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