HAVANA TIMES — On Monday morning I could hear the sound of my neighbor’s alarm clock as if it were in our house. It was 5:00 a.m. as Martha slid out of bed, discouraged, muttering to herself, “Another day of battle.”
The roosters were crowing all over the neighborhood, Armando’s puppy was announcing some stranger’s approach; Anita, the newborn next door, was beginning to cry for milk while her mother waited, as usual, for the little one to give a few cries before feeding her.
Martha didn’t know where she would find the strength to leave the warmth of her sheets, since we’re still in this time of year these early morning hours are enjoyable.
Her body asked her to let it sleep at least an hour more, but she couldn’t do that, she had to have everything ready for when her little ones woke up.
She yawned, stretched, looked out the window and decided brew up some coffee, that would help give here back some of the encouragement she was lacking that morning – she thought.
She had to boil the milk, make the toast, heat the water for bathing the youngest ones, get everyone ready for school, and from there she would head out to work. She couldn’t waste time, otherwise she’d be late again, and that day she wasn’t in the mod to hear lectures from anybody.
She closed her eyes and took a nice cold bath to wake her up, but to no avail. Tired of working on weekends, she shuffled into the kitchen and turned on the kerosene stove (the electric one was broken again).
She always goes to bed early on Sunday nights and she forces the kids to do the same, but last night she couldn’t get to sleep. The city didn’t turn on the water until 11:00 at night and, between one thing and another, the tanks didn’t fill up until 3:00 am.
By the time she could finally drop into bed, she couldn’t manage to fall asleep. At that time she was thinking about how she couldn’t buy shoes for Luisito, her eldest child. Just two days earlier she had gone with him to all the hard-currency stores in the city but they couldn’t find anything appropriate. There were no shoes that both her child liked and that she could afford.
She laid there thinking about how there was no cooking oil in the house and how it was going to be a while before the corner store started selling the rationed allotment again. She also thought about Carlos, her husband, who once more came home drunk again, and with half of his wages missing.
At 6:30 the children woke up as usual. She really did try to smile when saying good morning, but she only managed a grimace.
There’s nothing she enjoys more than waking up her little devils. When they open their eyes they make her lie down with them for a few short minutes. They’ll hug her, kiss her and squeeze her and beg for her to stay there with them for a little while longer.
As sad as she is, they usually bring out her purest smiles; but today that didn’t happen, and Marta felt even worse because of that.
Still, she managed to at least say, “Good morning my little angels. How did you sleep last night?”
The children greeted her and each pulled her toward them. The youngest didn’t want to brush her teeth, comb her hair or even go to school – having chosen the worst of all days for that, but the little girl didn’t know better and didn’t understand.
After the usual morning ripping and running, Marta was able to get them all cleaned up, fed and readied for their classes. They each grabbed their daypacks and lunch sacks and headed for school, which is only two blocks away.
Perhaps they didn’t notice. Maybe they didn’t pick up on their mother’s weariness or the frustration in her face. Possibly they didn’t miss getting their customary cuddles and kisses from her.
But Martha is bothered and she doesn’t know what to do. She’s upset because today Martica, Carlitos and Leo left home without seeing her smile. As much as she tried, she simply wasn’t able to give them one.