BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
When I was in the first grade, my school began to pull me out of class twice a week to work with a resource teacher. Years later, when I asked my mother why that was, she told me it was because the school was concerned about my social skills because I was so shy and stoic and quiet. And while this bothers me now, the idea that a small brown girl would be pulled out of class to be taught how to socialize, I remember finding solace in those times with my resource teacher. I can’t recall her name, but I do remember she was a white woman with dark bobbed hair that wore the color red a lot.
I remember there were colorful cards with animals and storybooks with thick black letters in typewriter print. It always felt good when I read the words the way I was supposed to and when I would respond with something witty and the teacher would praise me. One day, the teacher sent me home with a manila envelope stuffed with things that I should do at home. There were coloring pages, chubby sticks of reddish brown clay, a sheet of puffy stickers, and a small journal with a hot air balloon and defined clouds on the cover. In the book there was a slip of paper that gave instructions for its use. It said that I should use the journal to write weekly letters to one of my guardians, to which they should respond back in writing. My parents were separated by then, my father living out of town, so I began the journal with my mother.
My mother was a kindergarten teacher at the very school I attended, so she humored me in the project. Every week she asked me questions about my school day and the television shows I watched and the books I read. I would respond and then she would write back with more questions. My mother had very lovely handwriting, and I had messy handwriting because I never could catch onto the pencil holding lessons that were drummed into me at school. I was realizing that my small motor skills weren’t the best and I had told my mother so much. I had attempted to sew the same dress in three different prints. She knew about this already, but she acted surprised when I told her about it in the journal. I wrote in big letters, taking up space on the crisp white pages and within a matter of weeks, we had filled up the journal. I believe we intended to start another book, but we never did.
I didn’t understand that I wanted to write until I was in my late twenties. It had never occurred to me that that was something that a woman could do, that it was something that I could be good at. When I was six I knew that I liked writing in that journal. Writing in that journal with my mother helped me to articulate myself, to say things to my mother that I hadn’t been able to otherwise. It helped her to do the same. This morning, my mother sent me a long text message. She put an offer on a new house that she wants to live in. She feels anxious about it, excited about it. She tells me she plans to put in little red shutters in the windows. There is a rose quartz fire pit in the garden. She asks me how I feel about this. After I moved out of her house fifteen years ago, she has always lived on the other side of town, far away from me. I realize that my mother has never stopped writing to me. Asking questions.
Monique Quintana is the Senior Beauty and Wellness Editor at Luna Luna Magazine and a pop culture contributor at Clash Media. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Queen Mob's Teahouse, Grimoire, Dream Pop, Winter Tangerine, and Huizache, among other publications. Her novella, Cenote City is to be released by Clash Books in 2019. She blogs about Latinx Literature at her site, Blood Moon. You can also find her at moniquequintana.com