My Grandma, The Magical Realist

When my grandmother died, I placed myself in charge of organizing all the material possessions she left behind. I thought I would have a difficult time; that I would fall into a cliché. I was scared that family members will find me hysterically breaking down while clutching her pillow or sweater to my chest.

To my relief, that didn’t happen. Not because I was great at rising above my emotions, but simply because the woman who raised me didn’t have much. So the task was quick and easy. Let’s just say that there was no need to call up an estate lawyer (or a storage company, for that matter).

After all the non-essentials thrown away or donated, I was left with a medium-sized leather purse (her favorite) containing a few pieces of cosmetics, her one perfume, some fancy jewelry, her decades-old prayer book and a rosary.

My most precious find, though, is the remaining two and a half full bottles of her “potion” — a concoction of virgin coconut oil, assorted dried herbs, seeds and other mysterious ingredients that were only available in her province. Whenever she goes on a vacation there, she would make a huge batch and cart back to the city several bottles of it, for our supply at home.

That stuff was a cure-all, applied to a variety of real and imagined ailments. It’s the smell of my childhood as well as my motherhood. That very oil that she used to cure my pains when I was a baby was also the same oil she rubbed on my back to keep me warm after I delivered my firstborn.

I was walking to the river when a tall man in white suddenly appeared beside me; he taught me how to make that oil, grandma told me when I was a young girl. He was offering me healing powers, but I turned him down. I know that he will ask for something very important in return for such a gift.

The man took the offer to her younger sister, who gladly accepted. This sister became the most powerful healer in their province. But one day, Corazon, her sister’s youngest and most beautiful daughter, suddenly died. Without any medical reason, they say.

They believe that Corazon was payment the dwarf took. Corazon would appear in the dreams of her mother and her aunts on a regular basis. In those dreams, she would always say that she’s still alive and well. However, she can’t go back to them because she’s already living in the river.

From time to time, I would smell the warm, nutty, herby, very distinct scent of my grandmother’s oil. It often happens when I’m in a really emotional moment, but also sometimes randomly. I’m actually smelling it right now that’s why I decided to write down this little story.

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