It was like a ritual. Every morning, before six, my mother would awaken and begin to pray. The steady, earnest cadence of her voice would rouse me from tousled sleep because my internal clock had already adjusted to alarm and wake me as soon as the first words of entreaty came from her mouth.
My mother prayed in our local Creole. A simple, unsophisticated woman from Canaries, she never bothered to learn even the rudiments of English. By her own account, she found the school environment too structured and boring and although she attended, albeit irregularly, her mind was always elsewhere.
Lying awake on a bed of old clothing on the living room floor, I would listen in awestruck silence to my mother; to the hypnotic rise and fall of her voice that sounded like an incantation; to the unmistakable sound of anguish and pain traveling on leaden wings of misery to a silent GOD!
Sometimes, I would close my eyes and allow the waves of devotion to wash against me while I contemplated a miracle—the miracle of a small boy growing up and transforming his mother’s life. In those days, I believed in fairy tales, and magical developments, and happy endings no matter what the odds.
And my mother prayed for the good of her family, friends, and enemies. I balked at the “enemies” bit. My mother had always been something of a rebel; a maverick who did not believe in the obsequious knee-bending and scraping lesser mortals reserved for those who possessed the outward trappings of power or authority or prestige. She appeared not to ‘know her place’, and her lack of respect for this societal curse earned her the enmity of her “betters” who didn’t waste a thought on her misfortunes.
“Prayer shatters rock and moves mountains,” she always said, and I could not understand how hers never could shatter the hard, unyielding rock of our poverty. My mother prayed with such earnestness and conviction that sometimes, I would become misty-eyed with emotional overload. Sometimes, too, the quiet intensity of her heaven-bound dialogue was like a palpable force that produced an unfathomable echo in my heart.