Life Long Learning

By Maria Hernandez 10/27/2011

When I was six years old, the dirt that my aunts and parents meticulously collected and packaged made an amazing playground for my brother and me. Every Saturday we explored the forest for many hours collecting soil, which we would sell as fertilizer door to door at five pesos per seven kilos. After gathering soil in a chosen site, we had to look for another fertile location. One day, as we walked to find another site, we arrived at a small stream of water inhabited by white carnations, where my mother gathered a few of the gorgeous flowers that adorned the stream.

As the hours passed, we explored the forest for more fertilizer, but dusk was approaching and the fading sunlight impeded our ability to gather more soil. My father decided we had collected enough soil, and we had to leave the forest before the sun completely set or we would be unable to find our way back. We were hardly able to escape the forest, as the sun had almost disappeared. By the time we returned to our truck, the sky was dark and decorated with stars. Suddenly, amid the darkness of the night, I saw a shooting star for the first time. Intrigued, I asked my mother what it was; she told me it was a witch. My mother’s answer was illogical to me. That night, after we returned home, frightened and confused, I could not calm down to fall asleep as my thoughts lingered on the glowing “witch” in the sky that I saw.

The next morning was a Sunday. As devout Catholics, we had to attend mass. My mom said we had to thank the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe because my father was able to sell all the soil that we collected and had enough money to buy her medicines.

Before leaving the house, my mom exited the kitchen carrying a bouquet of carnations for Our Lady of Guadalupe, which she had gathered while we were in the forest. After entering the cathedral, we sat and listened to the service. After mass, we approached the altar to offer the carnations. I noticed that stars adorned the veil of the Virgin of Guadalupe. A curious six–year-old, I gestured to the stars and anxiously shouted that I saw a witch. Many puzzled eyes gazed at me wondering what I meant, but my mother understood.

After this incident occurred, we went home. My mother explained that the radiant dots adorning the sky are called estrellas. My mom confessed that estrellas are one of God’s creations. She apologized for not properly answering my question and confusing me. My mom explained that her elders recounted stories that the minute stars in the sky were the tears that the Virgin Mary weeps for us and the big stars, like the one I saw, were witches. She was unaware of anything else about the shiny dots decorating the sky.

Now, eleven years later, I can clarify with scientific details of what all the celestial bodies in the heavens are. Ironically, the answers that I often provide her with sound more chimeric than the answer she gave me. Scientific explanation sounds to my mother as unrealistic as her stories were to me. My mother was not allowed to attend school because my grandfather feared school would corrupt her. I am sure that as a child she asked many questions, which were answered with folktales, answers that satisfied her curiosity. The answer that my mom gave me did not stop my curiosity. In contraire, it made me all the more curious. I know that I am going to be a student all my life because my curiosity will never be satiated. I believe going to college will provide me with a heaven full of stars for me to both admire and question.

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