Growing up in Buenos Aires, one gets used to the onset of winter during the month of July. The days are gray, the wind is unrelenting and the consumption of cold medicine becomes a national pastime. Winter is very cruel on the poor and destitute. As cruel as the catchy slogan “we have to make it through Winter,” coined during one of the many economical crisis that the people of Argentina had to endure, by a government official nicknamed The Pig by the people.
Our vision of the world and the life we live is acutely shaped by the amenities of the parental bubble in which we bloom from helpless little “stinkers” to fearless wanderers of a future we hardly know. For years after I left my parents’ home and the neighborhood where I grew up, I kept looking forward to September as a sign that another Winter had gone by and everyone I loved and cared for, had made it through alive and well.
Then July became an inconsequential month of Summer up until three years ago when the curiosity for finding out what people did for five consecutive days, eight hours a day during a Tango Week, became a self-indulgent vacation which I allowed myself to take in the wake of the most difficult period of my life. In an incredible turn of events my life changed, better yet, I found my life. I tore up the psychological mortgage that had burdened an existence molded under the prejudices of the past. In the process, new friends and relationships enhanced a new found purpose for living.
Amid the renewal of old friendships and the making of new ones, this July became once more a joyful time to celebrate the joy and passion of the Argentine tango, to discuss the pros and cons of interactive lead and follow and to ponder whether it is important in tango to tell the boys from the girls.
Then suddenly, the grim ghost of a faraway Winter chilled the air with the incomprehensible news of my mother’s death. Her eyes closed for the last time and the world kept on going. Like in every aspect of our life, somebody, somewhere, sometime had expressed what it feels like when such a loss occurs; more than ever I felt fortunate to know that somewhere in Buenos Aires somebody was a tango poet, and sometime in the past he wrote the words to songs that became the lullabies my mother hummed to cradle her little boy to sleep. But I did not grab the guitar and start singing “my poor dear mother, how many headaches I gave her,” nor did I feel compelled to sing how sorry I was for going away to live my life. Instead, I listened to many of the tunes she used to hum. I tried to bring to mind the time when we danced a tango, when I didn’t have a clue and I couldn’t even begin to imagine that forty some years in the future, dancing tango would be a way of life for me. She couldn’t understand it a year ago. Like most parents from her time she thought of tango as the gate to the wrong life. But I know that she could sense that she’d never seen me as happy as I am.
I don’t quite know how to handle the sudden blues that summer time has brought, but those who showed their sympathy and gave me a hug, have made me think that when it is too late to say the words we could’ve said and there is nothing else to give, all that is left, is to let the tears flow.