I collect stories.
For more than 30 years I’ve jotted down, recorded, and filed accounts of people from my city, many of which are not among us anymore.
Everything started with Anita, my grandmother, with whom I decided to write a book with the stories that happened since she and my grandfather arrived to the place that later became Primeiro de Maio.
She always said that sad things should be forgotten, and for this reason, she only told me facts that I could make into chronicles that would be interesting to readers. She was right, but history is not formed solely by successes, and a lot has not been told, because it was out of my reach, as I have not lived it. As a matter of fact, one thing that has always impressed me if the fact that I miss a time I have not lived.
I spent several hours next to her rocking chair in the wraparound porch of the old house of Villa Anita – better known as The Grove – taking notes while I observed her crocheting one of her bedspreads or borders on dishcloths. After some time she started to take notes, with her unsteady but unmistakable handwriting. Handwriting of an intelligent, fighting, and strong woman. Handwriting that denounced the chronology of the body, unable to show her canny mind of a woman ahead of her time, well ahead of her time. Those writings I keep as you keep a treasure. My last meeting with her was in a dream. I was traveling, in a hotel, when she came to visit. We sat by the bed and talked for a while. I asked her to take me with her, and she said that my time here still was, and would be, necessary. I cried a lot, we hugged, and she left. In the morning, when I woke up, I felt the magnitude of our encounter, and saved that moment with great tenderness.
This happened a long time ago, as it’s been several years that she has left. Life moves pretty fast, and when we can’t – or don’t know how – give the due attention to the facts, time knocks us down. Our writings were carefully saved in a file, and there they remained until life brought another strong woman, the other Anita, Maria Annita, my mother.
In the same house, the same wraparound porch – now without the rocking chair, and among knitting and embroidery – we have spent many hours remembering happy and sad moments, laughing a lot, and sometimes crying. I’ve walked around town with her, talking to people and recording them. My last ‘interviews’ happened at Mr. Florindo’s barber shop, where there was always a friend killing time. The stories I got there were wonderful!
Those stories I write in my chronicles, all based on real facts, but with a good dose of imagination to make the facts nice and interesting. In many of them, I changed the names of the characters for fictitious ones. Aligned to my grandmother’s wishes, I try to write light, funny stories. In some cases, however, they are very sad.
There is still a lot to research, many people to interview, but now time moves even faster and I still have to place a period where there should only be ellipsis!