Room of the Three Windows

by Rebecca Huggins

It was not long after the flood that Padre became sick. His sickness had begun as a simple aversion to some of the meals that my mother prepared, but slowly progressed into what the people of Iguitos, Peru have referred to as the Great Sickness. When the medicinal woman, Isidora Ortega told us that there was little she could do for my father in his progressed stage of illness, our family mourned him as if his life had already been lost. Madre spent the days in sorrowful contemplation, while AbuelaAdela held her silent vigil over her bead working. My younger brother, Hernan, was too small to truly understand the sudden dark cloud that had been placed over our lives, and Tia Consuela was the only one who managed to keep a cheery, though artificial disposition during that time. Without resent, she cooked, cleaned, and maintained the household singlehandedly, allowing Madre the opportunity to mourn the loss of her husband in peace.

On the Sunday following, I was helping Tia make manjar blanco to help brighten the otherwise somber mood of the home. Hernan was busy playing in the sugar and licking his fingers happily, while I stirred the large pot of milk. Tia was bustling about, giving us orders, and sticking a chubby finger into the concoction to test it occasionally. When I was certain that Hernan was not listening, I asked Tia a question that had been bothering me as of late.

“Tia, why are we mourning Padre? He is not dead yet, and still, we act as if his spirit has passed.”

Tia Consuela made a sorrowful face and wrapped one of her strong arms around me. “No tears, Carmen. Your father was a great man, but has lived his life. Sometimes things happen we can’t control.”

We ate our manjar blanco and laughed for the first time since my father had contracted the Great Sickness.