After sprinkling me with holy water to ward off evil influences, grandma would sometimes light another cigarette and sit beside me while I fell asleep, which I always pretended to do. Then she would begin the ritual that meant so much to my child’s heart. I peeked out of the covers to watch. First, she opened her Bible and read a few verses by the light of her Lady of Fatima night-light. Next, she pulled the tight rubber band from her bun and allowed her hair to fall along her weary neck. Standing erect,she relaxed her shoulders, marked with indents from her 32-DDD bra. That was a lot of bosom for someone who stood no taller than five feet on her tip-toes, but to me she was perfect: she was my grandmother.
Against the wall was her sacred altar, and behind it, the large crucifix that hung directly above Mother Mary’s head. Now raising her arms wide as she faced her shrine, she began her silent prayers. I stayed silent, but wondered if she, or even God,could hear my breath beneath my sheet.
She remained in that precise position for what seemed like an eternity, until I found myself drifting off to sleep. As I rolled over, the last thing I saw was her shadow on the wall, enveloping me in a sense of the sacred. Not that I understood what sacred meant, but I had the feeling of being peacefully sheltered by some power that was capable of mysterious and wonderful things.
As she stitched together my latest rescued doll, she began to tell me the story I had heard so many times before. From the soft look in her hazel-colored eyes, I understood that the recitation itself imparted a sense of peace to her. Our tiny bedroom held such a serene feeling of calm when she was about to retell this story. Sitting cross-legged on my bed, holding one of my many repaired dolls, I gently rocked us. Barely restraining my anticipation, I urged my grandmother to begin.