What My Mother SavedDidi Menendez
Las Trenzas: Two braids placed inside a little golden box after they were cut by one of the tenants of La Francia, Anita who was the neighborhood hairdresser and lived in La Francia which was the name of the apartment building my abuela lived in Little Havana circa 1971 even though there was still a good mix of Cubans, Columbians and Americanos living in Little Havana at the time and Peggy whose real name was Margaret and originally from Baltimore lived next to La Francia in a little studio apartment and whose varicose veins stuck out and bought Avon products from abuela who sold Avon, Fuller brushes and babysat to make extra money so my sister and I could take piano lessons even though we really did not want to learn to play the piano at all but it was a Cuban tradition to learn to play an instrument or take ballet and my abuela did not want to let go of Cuba and only spoke Spanish and Peggy only spoke English and I or my sister would have to translate back and forth to my abuela who lived in Miami for forty years before she died without once having to learn English and Peggy who would come over with her heavy legs to visit and check out new Avon samples that concealed her blue veins sometimes her legs looked orange but abuela would sell her another bottle anyway and offer her some café and sometimes Peggy just came over listen to us play on the brand new Wurlitzer abuela had bought with her Avon, Fuller brush sales and babysitting while Peggy sat for a while resting her sandaled feet against the cool just mopped original wood floors of La Francia which was built in the early 1920s during the art deco era and sometimes abuela would just leave us alone with Peggy so she could finish the laundry and Peggy, my sister and I would sit in the little living room staring at each other waiting for abuela to come back from the flight of stairs from the laundry room and once Peggy brought us little relics that belonged to her only daughter such as a statue of St. Mary whose cloak was the color of the Miami sky and Peggy gave it to my sister because my sister reminded her of her only daughter who at 15 hitched a ride with a Hippy and Peggy never saw her daughter again and her tears caused the Avon mascara to smear and when las trenzas were cut by Anita, my mother saved the two braids in a little golden box because I was turning 11 and my breasts were starting to swell and I had just begun my cycle.
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