Traumatic Period: Childhood (I)
A traumatic period. That’s the way I describe the “Special Period,” the lost time that started when I was 9 years old and now after 29, still has not ended. There wasn’t a day or a month that marks the date that it began. And there is no hope for when it will end. What is certain is that it marked an indelible line in my childhood memory.
Empty shelves in shops and markets and a reduction in our subsistence ration. The result: a radical change in dietary habits and in how we dressed. There was a past, when you could buy candy for 40 cents: baby coconuts and pastries (for 5 cents) and ice cream for 15 cents. Very quickly, apples, loaves of bread, candy and even paper bags disappeared.
I remember my grandfather sitting in the living room smoking cigars (tobacco leaves). He smoked them and tied them with a string of hair to enjoy them to the very end. Poor thing, he was always left unsatisfied.
In the kitchen, my mother stretched the rice as much as she could with little pieces of potato, beans, squash, cabbage … so there would be enough for everyone. And I would cry at the front door of the house, and she with me, because I didn’t have milk to drink and my teeth were going to fall out.
And then our sad and only bread of the day would arrive, we would stand in two or three lines that started at about one in the afternoon, so that at seven in the evening we could get the left over bread, two per person.
In the butcher shop, if anything came in, “It was as though Fidel was going to give a speech,” as we used to say back then. Word spread in the neighborhood and people would run to the butcher shop. It didn’t matter what was there, we stood in long lines even for “goose paste” which, when you cooked it salt water, yielded a kind of “not-pork”. That was the only way to digest it.
Cats almost became extinct, there are people who say the same of rabbits. “Out of sight, out of mind”: neglected dogs were taken to the butchers and burned sugar used for tomato sauce.
From time to time, I close my eyes and put myself back in those times. I remember it all. It was the end of “I want” and the beginning of “This is what there is.” Without any previous introduction or adaptation period. All of a sudden, things changed. A punishment even though I had done nothing wrong.
Photo: Burza-snieta, Flickr