My beloved granddaughter,
Today, you turn 14 years old. You are a young woman. Today, I send you love and courage and strength. And many thanks for all you have taught me.
I will always remember when I first met you. Your little spirit would come to me often while you were still in the womb, speaking to me during times of silence. I’m coming! I’m on my way! Your little spirit voice would announce.
Then I met you in the flesh when you were seven hours old, having flown from Tucson to Portland and driven from Portland to Salem as soon as your daddy told me your mama was in labor. In the first days, we developed a relationship that was deep. You snuggled in my arms, always in the same position, and I sent you energy through my hands to help your transition into the physical world.
In the years of our life together, we have walked side by side on the Red Road. While your mama was in labor with you, I made you a medicine necklace in the way I had learned from curandera Zelima Xochiquetzal, who taught me that every knot I tied in the necklace was a special prayer. I placed a piece of turquoise at the center because our people have always treasured it and I wanted you to know that I treasure you.
I called you Tochtli from the beginning because you were born on the day Two Rabbit/ Ome Tochtli, connected to the moon and the maguey. Connected to healing. When I was in Mexico City at the Zócalo a few months after your birth, a danzante carved a soft stone into the image of the rabbit in the moon so that I could hold it for you until you were ready. I had always known about the rabbit in the moon because on full moon nights, my daddy/ your great-grandfather would take me to the front yard and tell me, Look mija. Look at the rabbit. Can you see it? It was an ancient vision, passed down through the generations.
I keep the carved stone on my altar, waiting for the right time to gift it to you.
The rabbit in the moon from the Codex Borgia.
When you were three, I took you out to the desert to teach you how to harvest sage. My friend Jessica accompanied us with the love and enthusiasm she always held for our adventures in the desert and the mountains. I told you never to yank a leaf or a branch off the plantita. Ask permission, give some tobacco, and gently tug. The plantita will give you what she can.
I knew that you could have a special relationship with the plantitas because you are of this desert. At three and four and five, you came to know the gobernadora, the desert sage, the fringed sage, the maguey and the nopal. At your naming ceremony at the home of your Nana Magdalena, you sang to the flowers floating in the water.
When you were four, we used to stand in my front yard, the same one where my daddy had shown me the rabbit in the moon many years ealier, and we would sing to the Moon. La Moona you used to call her. Metztli, Metztli, Metztli. Metztli, Metztli, Ometeotl, we sang together. Singing has been one of the things that brings us together. Together we have learned songs for the temaskalli, the Sun Dance, the Moon Dance, the Medicine Ceremony. Your beautiful voice is one of your gifts.
We have danced side by side at Sun Dance with Abuela Bea who made you a beautiful dress when you were four or five to welcome you to the dance. You have supported me through my Sun Dance, always in the arbor with your grandmother, Diana, and you have drummed and sang Sun Dance songs for the children. This year, Grandmother Diana brought you to the Moon Dance Circle in our desert where you witnessed the prayers and the women’s dance under the guidance of Abuelita Bea. You have always had the heart of a Sun Dancer. If it is your path, I would welcome you as a Moon Dancer. It is the duality inside all of us.
Just as I have learned from you, I have tried to share with you the things that I have learned from the desert and the ceremonies and the Abuelxs. I have always wanted to protect you because I know that a young woman in this society is vulnerable to so much violence. I have always tried to teach you strength and help you grow your sense of self. I have wanted to encourage your tender heart. And challenge your intellect. And inspire your sense of belonging.
You belong here, in this world, in this desert, in this family. Honor all your ancestors, mija. In you live all the ancestors-- from the Americas and Africa and Europe. We are blessed to live in the desert where our Indigenous abuelas and abuelos have lived for millennia, but always remember the others who came from far away by force or through need. Love every part of yourself..
In our teachings, our lives go in cycles of thirteen. You are in your second cycle of 13 years. It is a time of exploring who you are, of great emotional ups and downs, and connecting to your heart. When people dismiss young people with, Oh, they are just being teenagers, it is only because we forget what it was like to be your age. Have patience with the adults because sometimes we do forget. I know that at 14, I had a profound internal life where I thought about the meaning of life, and started to write poetry and journal, where I was inspired by movements for social change, and where I felt like the whole world was open to me. On the outside, I was moody and critical and judgmental of my parents and I felt alone, so alone and often scared of the future.
Every stage of our lives has its challenges and its gifts. Embrace both as you become a young woman. Remember who you are and the road you have already walked. Remember the grandmothers who walked the road before you and how each step they took softened the ground and made way for your own pasos.
I am grateful for you always because you are my teacher. I first learned how to love like an abuela from you. To love like a grandmother is distinct from loving as a mother. A mother/child bond is so strong. It is a love defined by two. In a grandchild, however, one can see the long line of descendants that follow. One's vision changes and the love grows across generations and through time and space. A grandmother's love is a love for all the children to come. It is expansive and boundless.
Happy 14th birthday, Tochtli, my granddaughter, my teacher.