Sugar maples grow only in the eastern United States and Canada, places my father once lived but no longer does. The vascular systems of maples need the cold nights and warm days of Minnesota’s spring to produce syrup. While the trees are still just brown skeletons, the sap begins to run. In Colombia, the sweets are more obvious: red mangoes, orange papayas, yellow plantains.
Drawing of a house by Sylvia, age 6
Our father, whom we call Renzo because neither of us grew up with him, designed buildings in Colombia—a museum, a house. When my half-brother and I sat together for the first time on his tiled patio we studied the structure around us and the unspoken question was how he could build a house but not a life with his children. Sylvia’s house—crayon on paper—will arrive at her grandfather’s house in Colombia tucked in a manila envelope with a piece of cardboard cut from a Zappos box to provide stability.
Man’s Shirt, Size Small
The Colombian peso is strong against the dollar making the button-downs and cotton t-shirts my father wears more costly. When my parents were married they were the same height: five foot six. My mother could borrow his shoes; he put on her old army surplus shirt. But age seems to wear people down. When he embraced me for the first time in almost twenty years, I could feel the narrowness of his shoulders.
Small and Insignificant Literary Journal in Which My Story Appeared
If every essay I write is about Colombia and my father, it seems only fair to send him a story photocopied out of one of those little magazines that no one but other desperate writers read. The printed page makes the stories I tell more real. And I think this will make him believe them, that they will make him proud. It is my family, however distant, for whom I am writing.
At night the explosions begin. They might be fireworks; they might be guerrilla bombs. High-level peace accords and cease-fore negotiations only go so far. Unrest continues, especially in the Cauca province where all the country’s vices and crops (from arms to cocaine to sugar cane) intersect. There is a sharp report followed echoes and reverberations. In the dark, I can’t tell how far away these sounds are or what damage they do. He can plug the headphone jack into his iPad, watch videos of his grandchildren without being interrupted by the Black Hawks that fly over his house.
Hemp Earrings from Etsy
Perhaps it is the influence of the indigenous groups, but Renzo’s wife dresses like a hippie, prefers natural beads to gold and sneakers to stilettos. She is an anthropologist, fascinated with the world of humans, with their interactions between each other and the natural environment. She has studied the Guambianos and the Páez. And my father.
One Baby Tooth
By the time she’s twelve or thirteen, Sylvia will lose all twenty primary teeth, the ones that cut through her baby gums making sleepless nights for months. These teeth wiggle and hang on by the proverbial thread and then tumble out as unexpectedly as the end of childhood. My father witnessed my own emergent milk teeth but wasn’t around to see them fall out one by one. Now the Tooth Fairy makes her visits to our house and spirits away the blood-stained nubs while my daughter sleeps. I keep these treasures in a dish with loose change, a spot both reverent and careless. I can spare one for a distant grandfather.
Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in the US. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama, Dos Passos Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Hippocampus Magazine, and others. She is currently working on a memoir.