Missing Nebaj

by Susana Raymundo

I’m always thinking of my hometown of Nebaj, how I miss it! I miss its cold rain and icy temperatures getting right into the marrow of my bones. I miss seeing hailstones the size of a peach pit without a single drop of rain falling from the sky. I miss my little solitary neighbourhood with only 5 houses made of adobe and wood. I miss the icy water of the rivers, lakes and springs where I would lose my plastic sandals, while my mother washed the clothes of our family with snakes basking in the sun just meters from her.

I used to eat together with my parents and siblings in the darkness around the campfire. We would play tag, or make figures from beeswax, or hear the stories of my parents. And when nature called I would ask for one of my older siblings or my parents to accompany me out into the yard where we planted trees of peaches, plums, avocados and chayote, as well as beautiful flowers that my father grew.

I used to lose myself out on the trails full of tall trees, wedding butterflies and dragonflies, where I was chased by barking dogs that saw me as wild prey.

I also miss the moments I passed in the mountains with my family where we would gather wood, throw ourselves in the river with our dogs, or play in the big green fields where we reared the pigs. I used to make little cakes with my mother, who learned how to make them solely through trial and error, and then we would sell them in the few shops that there were in Nebaj.

You could climb up into the attics of the houses to surprise the pigeons there and try to grab one of them – although they always escaped me. Right from our attic, I used to watch couples falling in love, as the men would wait for a woman who he was attracted to and would flirt with her with the sounds “chit, chit”. If she liked the man she would move her shawl or change it from one shoulder to the other, he would then approach her and grab her shawl. Their looks were full of flirtation, and they would spend hours talking together without touching anything more than her shawl.

I want to feel my feet touching again the wet soil with dried pine needles, while my father made the adobe for our house.

I want my mother to tie me a headscarf with a typical knot, to lie me down on the ground where the roots of the chayote grows, and to pass me the earth that she digs up to find these roots so that I can make cakes of soil.


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