By Rosalie Tirella
I saw this little girl today, she was walking down Millbury Street with her mom, and I fell in love with them holding hands, making their way through the inner-city, daughter dressed in butter yellow tutu, mom dressed in a grey burka. They reminded me of my mom and me decades ago … holding hands as we walked “under the tunnel” after having mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on Ward Street … we were walking home to our Lafayette Street tenement.
When I asked to take their photo – together, holding hands like when I first saw them – Mom declined to be photographed … was adamant about not being in the pics. She stepped back a couple of yards to make certain I didn’t even get a teeny bit of her in the frame of my photos. But she allowed me to take a bunch of pics of her little girl, me high spirited and smiling, her little girl tentative, yet definitely enjoying being the center of all the attention in the middle of busy Lafayette Street, the cars zooming by, big kids walking to Crompton Park.
I had given mom a copy of CECELIA when I first stopped my car and ran out to introduce myself to the pair – and to ask for a photo or two. To be published in the next issue of CECELIA. They made such an interesting pair! The American Dream writ large! Child in bright yellow tutu, the buttercup of Green Island, posing for pictures, open to the world around her. A little American. First generation American. Mom, a Muslim woman: quiet, modest, covered head to toe in conservative garb – a grey burka. Over her shoulders a navy blue cape. She was a mystery to all. Half her face – mouth, chin and cheeks – ensconced in a swath of grey cloth. No words for me, just nods and a shake of her head NO when I tried to coax her into the pictures. She pointed to her little girl as if to say: she’s the one! she’s the future! The mother seemed to enjoy the attention her child was soaking up like a sponge. I imagined her smiling when the corners of her eyes – her only facial feature exposed to the world – crinkled as I explained my job to her: writer! editor! owner of a newspaper! Mom seemed impressed – and game! Yet the layers and layers of cloth to hide her body from the world – as well as her face – were a wall between us. A pretty smile, an elegant nose? We’ll never know. How long was her dark hair? No one could tell on Millbury Street. Big-breasted or flat-chested? Her loose-fitting burka swirled around her like a tent. She was a triangle – in motion – not a woman. Yet she was a woman. Which is the point. Her culture wants her modest … and still there she was – herself. I liked her. And her daughter was the innocent buttercup waving to mom who was standing behind me. She was smiling at her mother who, she knew without having to see her lips, was smiling right back.