June 6 1990. There she sat in the middle of her mother's studio. She was sitting in the over sized easy chair with her legs tucked up to her chest and a Mexican sarape around her shoulders. Tears ran uncontrollably down her face. She was 35 years old.
As she looked around this small haven her mom had built she could see her sitting at her easel, painting. There on the stool lay a light blue painter's smock that anyone could tell had been frequently used. A myriad of paints were strewn about the table near the easel. The palette still had wet paint on its surface, waiting...There were still some brushes soaking in a turpentine solution; on hold until the artist released them from their paint. On the easel was an unfinished painting of a woman baking bread. The painting reminiscent of a known masterpiece. As she stared at it she could see the loving details that had already been finished. On the farmer's table on the canvas was a vase with lavender that she swore she could smell.
Her name was Rita. She was 59 years old.
Rita had wonderful luck with plants. She could take a pitiful little thing on the verge of compost and bring it back to life. She filled her house with "folaje" as she used to say. Rita was Cuban and learned English as a young adult; so she always sounded like a female Ricky Ricardo.
The studio, a room with larger than normal sliding glass doors that led to a huge wrap around cedar deck filled with light from the early morning. The plants she resuscitated started their new life here. They were cleaned and repotted. As she lovingly tended to them she sang and spoke to them. Her voice melodic and sweet. Whether it was the carefully concocted potting soil, or the meticulous attention to her babies, or her singing, the daughter didn't know, but something worked. She had massive plants in her studio. Her daughter's eye lingered on a huge palm. She could remember the day her mom brought it home. She smiled through the tears as that day came flooding back.
Rita was a shopper, no doubt about that. She had every credit card that anyone with a social standing should have. Luckily for her that her third and fourth husband could afford to give her that lifestyle.
They had gone out shopping, mother and daughter. One of the stops was the local florists on West 57th Street in New York City. Rita loved flowers and always had some on the massive dining room table. She spoke to the sales girl and as she waited for them to wrap her flowers she found this wretched palm. It's leaves were turning yellow and some of the outer ones were already past reviving. She tried to talk her mom out of buying such a hopeless cause, but Rita was determined. As soon as they arrived to the apartment she poured herself a Dewar's on the rocks, lit a cigarette and began rendering first aid to her newest acquisition.
She remembered her mother smoking her cigarette. She smoked L&M 100's and would light one and move it from one corner of her mouth to the other. It was always amazing to watch the ash grow and not fall off until the smoke was extinguished.
That palm was over six feet tall now. Who would care for them now? Who would sing to them now?
Just the germ of an idea. Chapter One, maybe...A beginning perhaps to something more grand. Who knows? Just felt like I had to start this. I have been thinking about this for a very long time but never knew quite how to start it. Tonight it just came to me.