“Fragmented moments remain–moments ingrained with things pained. Shocking my being with images past, keeping them for eternity to last. Moments like when my parents told me that it was important to understand that to wear la panoleta–that darn scarf that made be barf–meant commitment to the patria, the fatherland. This was something that could not be, to wear that panoleta since my mother and I, we would be leaving the island soon to the land of the free, but if I wore that panoleta, America I would never see. That’s what I thought then in 1960, a six year old Cuban female exile to be.
On that quite strange day, in the first grade, when still a young child living in Santiago de Cuba, our plans to leave the island almost went astray. At school, while preparing to go on a school trip, all students were told that if they wanted to go, they were required to wear that panoleta. This included me who was as terrified as could be–terrified and wanting desperately to flee to that land of the free!
Mrs. Garcia had politely said, “Here you go Juanita. Por favor, ponte el panuelito.” She handed me that panoleta, telling me to put it on. Panic. Anxiety. Things I could see were so wrong, especially if I didn’t play along. My parents’ prior words echoed loudly in my head, pounding me with dread. The predicament I was in looked very grim–my chances were truly slim. Panic. Gagging. Breathe. Respira. Breath. Respira.
My teacher yelled for help, “Socorro! Socorro!” This girl is turning as purple as a beet; please call her parents, quickly, they live just across the street. Feeling my mother’s presence, easing up as she hugged me and uttered the following sentence, “Mi vida. No te preocupes. Ponte el panuelo. Si podras salir.” “My dear,” she had whispered, “do not worry. Put on the scarf–go on…hurry.” In the background, dad had looked on, smiling a reassured warmness. Softly he had said, “En este caso, mi amor, segimos nuestros pasos.” Father was certain that in this case, we would continue our pace. “Go and have fun. Go on. Run.” All was okay. Put on the scarf; we will leave–don’t dismay.
Sobs. Sniffles. Silence and onlookers. Twenty minutes of coaxing, hesitantly, putting on the darn scarf. Confused, but feeling better. I went on the field trip, wearing that panoleta y despues la tire para el suelo–And, later…I threw that darn scarf on the floor ’cause I did not want it no more.”
~Copyright 2013 by Iliana Hakes-Martinez
- Un Fragmented Momento (hakescafe.com)