Stripes of Tenderness
Maria shared her earliest memory with me today. She was a child of three, and her family was living in La Perla. Her days were spent on the narrow streets, looking for her slightly older brothers. There had been rain at night, and when she ran by the cages of roosters along the road, she fell. She lay still for a while until a woman bent over her — a lady with a kind smile, brown smooth skin, and green-flecked eyes lifted her up. Maria had been looking down at her knee and seen blood leaking from a swollen wound, and that had scared her. She had never seen blood before.
Maria distinctly remembers the woman looking directly into her eyes with fierce love, wiping a slender finger across her hurt knee and then smearing Maria’s blood across her own cheek. She did the same thing again, on her other cheek. Maria remembers staring at the woman’s face and feeling joy. The woman had marked herself with Maria’s blood, smiled, and let her know not to be afraid. She’d forgotten about it until I asked her to share one of her earliest memories.