Of all the toys I enjoyed as a young child, play-dough was one of my favorites. I loved how it felt on my hands and even more that I could manipulate it into any shape and form I willed.
It all happened when I was about five years old. I was playing with my play-dough on my grandmother’s coffee table. I was making a Happy Meal. I formed the patty, created the bun, chopped some lettuce and formed a tomato. I slapped it together and showed off my creation to my sister. “Doesn’t this look yummy?” I asked.
“Mmmhmm” she wasn’t that impressed.
“I want to eat it!” I pretended to take a bite.
Then I couldn’t resist. I took bite, a BIG bite out of that play-dough hamburger.
I wasn’t impressed- I mean did I really expect it to taste like a real hamburger?
A few days later I started to feel awful.
It began with losing my appetite. Then stomach pains. Then I stayed in bed.
The details of the events that happened after this are a bit murky- but you know how there are some events in your life that are so big they are unforgettable. Well, this is one of them.
I remember going to see a doctor- who then admitted me to the hospital.
They poked me. I screamed. I mean I really did scream.
I would wake up in the middle of the night in pain- they would poke me again.
No matter what they pumped into my body I wasn’t getting better, I was getting worse.
One of the distinctive memories I had during that time were the visitors I had. My little sister wasn’t allowed in the hospital since she was under the age of 14. So my grandparents brought her to my bedside window. I remember her frilly dress and look of confusion in her eyes (some things never change). I waved at her. She waved back.
My mom would stay by my side all through the night. I remember waking up screaming with pain and my mom would get the nurse. When I saw the nurse getting the syringe I would pretend I was fine so I wouldn’t get poked. That trick didn’t work. They would pull down my underwear, hold me down and stick it right in my ass.
The next day the doctor ordered some tests. They brought in some kind of machine to look at my heart. Remember I was too young to comprehend what was happening. I remember my parents and grandparents being in the room with me, and then when the nurse rolled in the big machine, all I could hear was the confrontation between my family and the doctor.
The next thing I remember is Pita (my grandpa) taking out my I.V., picking me up and carrying me out of the hospital. Yes, that really happened.
It was a tiny house hidden among the brush and trees. It was older and well kept. The furniture was outdated, but clean. The smell was distinct, maybe vinegar, or maybe it was all the herbs and spices that the old lady had in her kitchen.
She was small. No, tiny. Her face was so wrinkled I barely saw the color of her eyes. A deep wisdom of brown, with knowledge so old, you knew you were in the presence of a holy witch.
She welcomed me into her bedroom. She undressed me, completely. I laid naked on her bed as she began to rub my back with oils and minerals. Slowly she began to pinch and pull certain areas of my back, I could feel the cracking and aligning of my spine. She lit candles and placed glass cups over it to create a sort of suction and began using that to massage my back. When the session was over, she had me dress and meet her in her kitchen.
I sat next to my mom. My grandma was across from me. The old lady was making me a drink. It was a small glass of orange juice and she mixed it with castor oil. I took one sip and REFUSED to drink the rest. My grandma told me to pinch my nose shut while I drank it so that it would go down easier. She lied!! It doesn’t matter if you mix it with orange juice or pinch your nose shut, castor oil is NASTY SHIT!!
So we sat there, until I was old enough to vote by the time I finished that glass of orange juice.
Just when I thought it was all over, she hands me a mug. Coffee. As you probably guessed, not an ordinary cup of coffee. The old lady mixed baking soda in it. BAKING. SODA! What The F? I took one sip and it came out quicker than a jack rabbit on a date. What’s crazy is that even though I projected vomited into a the bowl that was on the kitchen table, she still made me drink the whole thing. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking at the time, but I imagine I wish I was back at the hospital being poked in my ass rather then drinking this stuff that tasted like zombie brains! It took me years to finally tolerate the smell of coffee. If it wasn’t for sugar and creamer I may never have developed an addiction to that crack.
When I was finally home, I slept. And slept. I remember feeling so tired. The next day I went to the bathroom and my bowels were white! W.H.I.T.E. or maybe it looked a little like play-dough. Hmmm.
I woke up the day after that… hungry- no wait, I was starving since I haven’t really eaten anything since this whole ordeal. So I looked at my dad and said, “I’m hungry.” He smiled and I saw a tear roll down his scratchy cheek.
“What do you want to eat?” he asked.
“A Happy Meal!” Of course!
I got my happy meal, watched an episode of “Three’s Company” (remember that show?) and everything was back to normal- so fucked up but funny.
I didn’t realize until a few years later that my visit with the old lady was my first and only encounter with a Curandera, also known as Medicine Woman or Holy Witch. If you have ever read the novel by Rudolfo Anaya “Bless Me Ultima” you have an idea of what a Curandera is all about.Holistic healing- using natural foods, herbs and spiritual ceremonies to heal the sick. In fact when I read the novel for the first time as a middle schooler, I was fascinated, and had no idea that what had happened to me all those years ago, was a cultural and spiritual event. It is now one of my favorite stories.
This little story became my families little joke about me eating play-dough, I still hear it to this day.
I lost touched with that little old lady, and last I heard she passed away peacefully. I can’t even remember her name. All I remember is her strong touch, her ability to heal me, and how her presence had a long term effect on me. It’s amazing isn’t it, when we use our talents and gifts to help others and how far it reaches- the good I mean. Sometimes we get too caught up in competing with one another or focusing on Social Media crap, we forget that life is all about touching and healing each other- metaphorically speaking of course. I am so grateful to have had that experience and that a little old lady took me in for a pile of wood and gave me life.
Don’t take your health for granted my friends and remember to let your light shine- you never know how far the light will go.