Sarah A. Chavez
Dear Abuelo & Grandpa,
There is only one hummingbird coming to the bright red bulbous feeder in the yard. I positioned it outside the window of the kitchen nook (a weird little room just off the kitchen proper, by the backdoor) so that when I checked email and drank my coffee in the morning, I would be able to watch them place those impossibly thin, fragile beaks into the plastic flowers at the base. D bought a feeder too, which sits outside his office window. He bought organic natural dyed food for his. I melted one-part white cane sugar in two parts hot water, like Dad suggested. He has a loyal band of hummingbirds that visit throughout the morning all the way through to the evening. When I stay the night at his apartment and sleep on the blow-up bed on the living room floor, the incessant buzzing of their wings is a like a gentle alarm; I figure his recipe must be a good one.
Normally, I wouldn’t be able to watch for the birds in the morning, wouldn’t be able to stare into the backyard uninterrupted. It’s this pandemic, you see. It’s allowed the privileged part of the world to work from home and relegated much of the working-class to joblessness, also taking place in their homes. Depending on the home I suppose, my privilege probably looks like another’s laid off. See? I told you both all those sacrifices would pay off. It only took 15 years, four moves to four different states, missed birthday parties and Easters, missed summer bbqs, and missed Sunday dinners, for the true benefit of graduate school and job applications and so may flights back and forth across the country to pay off. I’m here, back on the west coast. With health insurance. In a house. With a backyard. Drinking coffee. Writing and posting things on a machine neither of you understood in life. We have flour and toilet paper—oh, if only you two could have seen the irrational frenzy over toilet paper! I can see both your heads shaking, can picture you in your respective lazy-boys, reading the Merced Sun Star, keeping track of which stores are best stocked and by how much the number of deaths rose in the previous 48 hours. Though you’d be watching different 24-hour cable news channels . . .
Video messaging was the only way to safely “see” people for months and months. If only I could Zoom with you. Or Skype or Facetime or video chat using the Messenger function in Facebook. However, there is no current technology that allows us to the channel with the dead, even though you do not feel any further away than Mom or Abuela—I suppose neither of them use technology well either . . .
You’ll both be glad to know that I am cooking more, which I know you both view as “women’s work.” My enchilada rolls are less sloppy, my chocolate cake a bit more moist, and I’m experimenting with things you never purposely ate, like bokchoy, brussel sprouts, and kimchi. But that’s it domestically, despite the threat of continued illness anchoring me home, I’m not really doing much more in the way of chores, decorating, or planting flowers, I have no instinctual desire to birth a tiny human (as some of my friends have decided)—I keep telling you all, I’m pretty terrible at being a woman, at sitting still, at being quiet, and nurturing. Neither years on this earth, enough money to not live paycheck to paycheck, nor the pandemic has changed this fact. Full disclosure, there is literal dirt under my fingernails right this moment. Dirt and paint and ink, no polish. I can’t stand the site of the white moons which lengthen at the end of my nails and cut them off as soon as they are past fingertip skin. Mom shakes her head at this. When I was there for the funeral last month (as I know you both know, there have been so many funerals), she took my left hand in her’s and said (frowning slightly), “you have your father’s hands.” Which I suppose are also your hands.