Her grandmothers adobe house had only one distinct bedroom. There was a kitchen where there was a door. On the other side of the house was another door that, although it seemed like a front door functioned more like a back door. In between was a hallway with the bedroom and then two other rooms, large, one with a bed and other one set up more like a living room.
She slept on the large bed in the room with two beds, and her uncle slept in the bedroom. She was there because she needed to know where her mother came from. She needed to know who she was and who she was going to be.
She woke up early and rummaged around some bookshelves. She found some photo albums. She could tell if any of the women in the pictures were her mother. She heard a strange noise outside. She’d heard it all night. Like a buzz.
She walked out towards a lone apple tree. She kept hearing a buzz. And then she found it. A cicada, a male, flapping its wings. She reached down for it. And it buzzed like electricity.
“Weird,” she thought. The bug was big and ugly with big translucent wings.
It flapped around. She knew lightening bugs from home. She’d never heard this before. She reached down and the bug climbed on her finger. She walked back toward the house.
“That’s a chicharro,” her uncle said as she walked toward him with it on her finger. “A cicada.”
She marveled at it.
“That’s a male,” he said. “He makes those noises to attract the ladies.” The he laughed.
“Let it go,” he said.
“He attracted me,” she said.
“You’re too smart,” he said. “Let it go for now. There’s plenty more where he came from.” He laughed.
She flipped up her hand and the big bug flew off.
“Let’s go check out the Santuario,” he said.
“What’s that,” she asked.
“It’s a church,” he said. “It’s Sunday, right?”
They piled into his big grey car and drove along a winding road. She saw so many fences and then little houses clustered together near big fields. Once and awhile her uncle would wave at the people driving the opposite way on the road.
“Do you know them,” she asked.
“Maybe,” he said and laughed. “Around here, it’s so small, you have to be nice to everyone like you know them, even if you don’t.”
She understood. It was just like home.
“What’s that you’re listening to,” she asked.
“That’s Vicente Fernandez,” he said “Your mother loved him. All the ladies do”
“What’s he saying?” she asked.
“I left you,” he said. “And that was stupid. And now I’m going crazy.”
She listened closely.
“And I’ll return, return, return to your arms once again,” he said.
“What’s that yelling in the background,” she asked.
“El grito,” he said. “It’s pain. Love hurts. It sucks.” He laughed.
“It reminds me of the cicada, the chicharro,” she said.
“See, you’re to smart to be from here,” he said. He laughed and tousled her hair.
They pulled into a parking lot that was almost full. She suddenly felt self conscious. She wasn’t ready for church. And what wa this kind of church anyway. It was an adobe building, as brown as the skin of the people waiting to get in.
It was like her church in Kansas, but people kneeled when they stepped into the pews. Then they’d move their hands back and forth across their chests and then kiss their hands. And there were so many statues. They were so creepy, like dolls but shiny and stiff. They gazed down on her and her blue dress and dirty face.
They found a spot and what she saw marveled her as much as the cicada. There was so much movement; kneeling, bowing, up and down. And she couldn’t see or hear everything. But it was exciting. Those faces staring at her, the languages she didn’t understand, the singing, the dark faces with dark hair and eyes staring at her like she stared at them. This is where her mom was from.
When it was over she was so excited and awake and disturbed. She had so many questions. She walked to one of the statues and touched it. She felt it with both hands.
“Hey,” her uncle said. “Over here.”
There was a room full of people reaching toward a hole in the ground. It was a hole with dirt. All around the room were crutches and crosses. She was overwhelmed with a kind of happiness. This was where her mom was from. But it was so strange. But she was swept up by it.
An old lady with a wrinkled face was sitting in a corner in the room. Her uncle talked with her. As he talked her face warmed, she began to smile at her.
“She wants to tell you the story of this place,” he said.
She started to speak. Her face was like baked, dark, bread with wrinkles and edges. But her eyes were green and they were piercing. She loved looking at her face. She started telling the story in Spanish, with her uncle translating.
“One night a very faithful man was praying near here, very hard. And he saw a light. It was disturbing his prayer, his concentration.”
Her uncle became a bit dramatic, acting out the mans annoyance at the light.
“The light wouldn’t go away. So he went to find out what it was. So he walked slowly toward the light, stepping over branches and weeds. It was moonless. And dark. But this light. And then..”
Then her uncle said, loudly, “Boo!”
She was startled. Her eyes got wide.
“Stop!” she said.
Then they all laughed. The old lady laughed hard.
Then she spoke again.
“Well, what he found was light coming out of a hole where there was a crucifix buried. And it was a crucifix like that,” and he pointed to a cross with a black colored Christ on the cross.
“So he ran back to the priests in the village. And they took this thing to Santa Cruz, miles away. And they put it there. Then this man, was praying again. And he saw the light again. And there was the cross, in the hole again.”
“So it moved back to the hole?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said after translating. “Three Times this happened. And priests being lazy,” then they both laughed. “Said let’s build a church over the hole.”
“Eso es!” she said as she pointed a finger at a small hole where people prayed and took dirt.
She said something in Spanish to her uncle which made them both laugh.
“What?” she asked.
“She said, ‘Thank goodness for lazy priests!” he said.
She walked toward the hole and put her hand into the dirt. She grabbed as much as she could. She put the handful in the pocket of her dress. She stepped back.
“They say that the black Christ came from Guatemala,” her uncle said.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“It’s a place very far away,” he said. “They have this too.”
“The dirt is supposed to heal people,” he said. “It’s like magic. See all the crutches people have left behind.”
That night she heard the cicadas. She put the dirt in a cup she found. She stirred her finger in it. She wondered about her mom. She wished she was there to explain this world to her. Then she curled herself up as tight as she could and cried until she fell asleep.