I hear a knock. I am heaving a shower.
“Julieta, could you possibly open the door, I really want to show you something.”
It is Dona Janira the 90 year old grandmother of my dear friend Rafaela.
“Are you ok Dona Janira, I am under the shower. Give me a second.”
“No it is ok. I wanted to show you my dress.”
I actually rush to get out. I think it is so cute. She had told me her grandson was getting married in another state. She had told me she would be walking before the bride.
I open the door naked and wet and she is so happy to be able to show me her dress.
“What do you think?”
“It is beautiful! ”
Vera her daughter, tells me it is not the right colour but she is fixing it, so that though it is kind of pink it will look better. I am actually amazed by it all.
I am in Belem. Bethlehem of Brazil. As they call it, it is the city of mangoes. Mangoes I know, but the variety of fruits in Belem astonish me.
My whole mission to come all the way here was to see Dona Janira. She is so healthy, so active that it mesmerises me.
She is appalled I barely eat. I am appalled they eat too much. And so we laugh. And I sit to hear her life. Rafaela, my friend had told me she loved telling stories. And it turns out that to me she tells me stories of her life that neither Vera nor Rafaela knew about. And so many days later I sit here armed with my notes to be able to accurately tell what Dona Janira has told me.
It is the story that precedes all that they know because Rafaela and Vera are descendants from Frederico.
It goes like this..
“I had a boyfriend. His name was Raimundo. We were together from very early on. My father hated him because he was no one. And so he beat me. And i kept dating him no matter what.”
“Dona Janira were you hurt? How did you date?”
” Yes, I was very heart. I still have marks on my back from that. After my mother died when I was 11 my father became even more protective. At the time we dated through letters. We saw each other rarely. It was a very different time.
One day Raimundo got a job that made him be far for 3 months at the time. And he was so jealous that he always thought I would get another boyfriend. I always told him
it was absurd. And then in the brief time we had together we had huge fights. I was so beaten by my father but I still could bear it. But my fights with Raimundo because of jealousy was too much. So one day I decided to break up
Even before my father had died I was already living with my uncle and aunt. They liked Raimundo. But his jealousy scared me so much. And when my father died he proposed.
“What did you say dona Janira?”
“I said. ‘Are you crazy. Of course not. My father would suffer from heaven’. I returned all of his letters and that was the end of it. We were together for almost 10 years. Soon after that he died.
” And what happened?”
“My family was friends with Adamastor. I liked Adamastor. He took all of us to parties in our city but he never really wanted to be with me.”
“How did you know ?”
” Well, you could not show. So, I went to the parties hoping he would say something. After many parties he brought Frederico.”
” And what happened ?.”
“Frederico invited me to dance and from the first dance he simply never let my hand go. I kept looking at Adamastor. I could see that He ha become sad. But I could not do anything. And I guess, nor could he.”
” Dona Janira but did you like him?”
“Yes. But there was nothing to be done. Frederico never left my hand again. He became my boyfriend. And then he proposed”
“How was Frederico as a husband ?”
” Frederico was wonderful. He never hit his children or me. He always brought me a gift. When there was not that much money he brought me a chocolate and used to say ‘Janira, there is too many people here, this is just for you. Keep it for you.”
I sat there for hours hearing dona Janira. Her secrets kept from her family. I naturally asked her if I could tell it. She told me I could, these were old stories, they were not very important. She said she had had a happy life.
She showed me her natural home medicine. Insisted I should eat more. And she was amazed that I had to go so fast.
It was moved to see the amount of care that Vera, her daughter, destines to her every single day. Dona Janira’s concern with her grandchildren.
She told me
” You are like Rafaela. In love with the indigenous, with little stories, and with seeing the world.”
I felt grateful for her thinking I was like my dear friend. Someone who I admire.?And for her to recognise our admiration for the little things of life though she did not understand it.