MOTHER’S DAY – A ZOMBIE REMEMBRANCE
Its not easy being a zombie these days, especially when you’re Mexican. Said another way–it’s not easy being Mexican in the United States, but if you’re also a Zombie, heck you’re a minority within a minority and, yes, you got a lot of headaches ahead of you. But, hey, this is not me bellyaching about me being a zombie No, this is about Mother’s Day and my dear, dear ‘ama, que en paz decanse.
Mother’s Day makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I think of my dear ‘ama, and how much I owe her. My life for starters–twice. And just a little sad because it also reminds me that without my mom, heck I wouldn’t be who I am….a zombie!
It began when I was five and came down with a walloping case of malaria. Malaria in Los Angeles? Yep, it happens. Surprised the heck out of the doctors at the Children’s Hospital (yeah, the one over on Sunset Blvd) who were really taken aback. Mom tells me que I lasted for two weeks before I finally succumbed. Of course, my poor mamacita was devastated. They tell me she threw herself on the coffin before they lowered it into the earth. “No, mijo, not you! Not you!”
Yeah it was me. Of course I didn’t remember any of that. Heck I was already dead! Last thing I recall was looking up at the ceiling in the intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital and wondering how long it must have taken the carpenters to glue the pockmarked tiles to the ceiling.
But my mom was not going to give up on me! Hey, do I need to tell you about Mexican moms? Apasionadas! You gotta love ‘em!
So the next day– lo que me contó despúes– she looks up a bruja at a botanica off of Whittier Blvd. Cuban woman, it seems, steeped in the practice of santeria–you know, gods like Yemaya, Chango, Oshun and such. So they make a deal. My mom hands over the dough and next thing up, she and Ms. Bruja are down at the Evergreen cemetery where they have deposited my mortal remains. It’s the middle of the night, of course, and they are digging my coffin out of the earth. Ms. Bruja chants up a storm of mumbo-jumbo in Spanish, Yoruba and who knows what other languages. And damn if it doesn’t work!
Next thing I know, I’m crawling out of this way-too-tiny coffin, stretching my legs and feeling the fresh breeze in my face, loving the night and noticing that–Damn! I’m famished! Wonder what’s for dinner?
From then on it was always about hush-hush. You see I’m supposed to be dead.
“Mijo,” my mom sez the next morning, as I gobble through some Cherrios and feeling like something is really missing in my diet. “Mijo,” no vayas a decirles a nadie lo que paso!” I look up at her, with her deep loving eyes, so trying to protect me. “A Nadie!” she reiterates,
emphatically, the way only Mexican moms can. Okay, okay. gotcha mom. Not a word to the world.
And so it began.
It wasn’t so bad growing up with this zombie thing. A different childhood–oh yes, for sure! Very different. To begin with I really didn’t know I was a zombie until I was six or seven. Prior to that I went to school like every other Chicanito. Okay, I was more pale than the rest, heck, I could easily pass for a gringo. I was really pasty. But I got over that when my ‘ama took to smearing a little make-up on me before I went out to the world. It worked. I looked just like any other Mexican kid. And yes, been doing that ever since!
Every now and then I would take a bite out of one of my playmates, but my oh-so embarrassed mom would quicky come to my defense. “Hay que verquenza!” she would say, trying to cover for me. “Disculpe, fúe un accidente!” I got away with some tasty bites that way! As I got older I began to realize that my palette was different from that of my friends and my family and that perhaps I should keep some of my preferences to myself. My mom would have one of her comadres over for coffee and she’d bring a cute little baby. Mom would nudge me, “Mira que chulo el baby, mijo!” And I’m thinking, “yeah, looks delicious to me.” But I soon learned that if I was going to survive in society, I had to behave myself. So I did what any sensible person would do–I assimilated. Zombie, what zombie?
Well, to bring a long cuento to an end, by the time I was nine years old I had learned how to keep my diet proclivities to myself, or at last under the radar of my friends, and to survive in society. I owe that to my ‘ama as well. She taught me to love myself, “Mijo, you should not be ashamed of being a zombie. You are just as good as anyone else! I’m sure there are zombies who have made great contributions to society! But mijo…” And I would end the sentence for her, “…don’t tell anybody!”
Nowadays, I try not to draw attention to myself. Make -up in the morning, extra-strength deodorant, and I keep under the radar of law enforcement. Heck, I guess all us Chicanos have learned how to do that! But of course, like all other Latinos, I have to cope with the stereotypes.
Zombie stereotypes? Oh yeah, that we eat people left and right. That we go for the brains. That the only way to kill us is by bashing in our heads. That we smell to high heaven and that we have no soul, no heart! Baloney! All that you see in the movies and TV about zombies is nothing but a lot of baloney!
Just like all the stupid things they say about us Mexicans.
First, I don’t go around eating people. Sure, when a tasty looking arm or shoulder walks by me, now and then I’ll get an urge. But I put it aside! Remember, I gotta live in this world. I can survive quite well on a regular human diet–though I do prefer my meat cooked extremely rare. And, okay we’re being honest here, occasionally I’ll scarf down some recent road kill–just for laughs, you understand. No, no, I don’t make a habit of it.
And you don’t have to go for my head to kill me. A well aimed bullet in the heart will put me down just as quickly as the next guy. And yes, I can be a little wiffy but I do my damnest to keep myself hygienically presentable. I resent “dirty Mexican,” but really hate “smelly zombie” even more! And as for not having a heart or a soul, I leave that for you to judge.
On this Mother’s Day, this zombie is going to place flowers on the grave of his mom. And kiss the earth, and think of all the great things she gave me. And yes, maybe even cry a little. Happy Mother’s Day, mamacita, from your loving son.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions inc.