The following is my first completed prompt for Ladies Bingo
These are the five things my mother taught me.
1. Be efficient.
It was a cool spring morning. I was six years old. We were at Safira Lake, lying on our stomachs, propped up on our elbows on a cotton sheet in the sun. I fished my school workbook and pencil out of my tattered pink knapsack. Mother kissed the crown of my head and sat up to put my hair into a fishtail braid while I worked. There was a sudden cry, like that of a gull, and my head snapped up. A large fish eagle swooped over the lake and grasped a thrashing trout in its talons. I gasped. Mother said, “Flor, my flower, you must always be like an eagle. Efficient.”
2. Be ambitious.
I came home from school sobbing. I was ten years old. Mother asked what had happened. After some hesitation, I handed her the quarterly report from my teacher, Mrs. Magda. Mrs. Magda had written, “Dear Ms. Campos, Flor is a quiet, meek student lacking high aspirations. She chose the topic ‘endangered fauna’ for the final report of the quarter, which is far beneath her. I am giving her one week to redact this sorry attempt. Yours, Mrs. Magda.”
I hoped Mother would sympathize with me. Instead, without a glance at it, she crumpled up my research paper and tossed it in the trash. She gave me a little smile, though, and said, “You will write a debate, not a little research paper. You will make compelling, well thought-out arguments. It will be lengthy, but no bull-shitting.”
I stomped my foot. “That sounds hard!”
“It’s meant to be, my flower. If you are to succeed in this world, you must be ambitious.”
I remembered that day at the lake, when I was six. “Like an eagle?”
“I have learned five things from eagles, and ambition is one of them.”
3. Be graceful.
In preparation for my eleventh birthday party, Mother enrolled me in “Nela’s Finishing and Charm School for Young Ladies.” When Mother told me of this, I crossed my arms and said the school was stupid. She laughed, which infuriated me.
“Flor, you are becoming a lady. You must learn how to be one. Look at the current state of your manners and etiquette! You cannot be a tomboy forever. You will learn fun things as well, like ballroom dancing. You have to dance with Grandpapa on your birthday, and you will be lovely. You will be graceful.”
Trying to change the subject, I retorted, “Instead of dancing with Father, since he left you. Did you ever go to charm school?”
Quicker than I could blink, Mother slapped my face. “Don’t you dare cry,” she said. “You’re a big girl.” She added, “Gracefulness is one of our mottos, is it not?”
“What you learned from birds,” I said.
“Eagles especially. You remember the five qualities, yes? Recite them for me. And maybe not now, maybe not in a year, but one day you will thank me for Miss Nela’s Charm School.”
4. Be leery.
When I was thirteen, I had my first period. I saw the blood on my underpants and burst into tears. After an hour, I had gathered up the courage to tell Mother about it. She took me in her arms and tucked my hair behind my ears. “Oh, little flower, it is nothing to be scared about. Just be leery.” She kissed my nose.
I brushed my tears away and said, “What do you mean?”
“You are blossoming into a beautiful young woman. Many men would like to take advantage of you. You must be wary. But not paranoid. Just remember all I have taught you over the years; do not go off with strangers. Carry your dagger. And now, you must be cautious with even the boys your age. You will tempted, just as I was. Do not lose your integrity as I did.”
5. Be eager.
I was fourteen. I did not know it would be my last year with Mother. She had told me she was sick; she did not tell me how sick. Soon, her hair started falling out. Her limbs grew thin and weak. She needed to be pushed in a wheelchair and seldom left her bed. She was only thirty years old.
Often, I kept her company. I lay side-by-side with her in her bed. I painted her fingernails and toenails, styled her wigs, read aloud her favorite stories. I accompanied her to her doctor appointments.
When the doctor hospitalized her, I stayed with her, sleeping on the small, dilapidated couch in her room. So many machines were hooked up to her; so many needles poked her. One IV kept her hydrated, since she had trouble keeping down liquids on her own. She ate rarely; the doctors murmured she had little time left.
I refused to believe she would die. Finally, one day, she said, “My little flower, I won’t be here much longer. Shh; just listen.” She squeezed my hands in hers. “I know you’ll be okay. I raised you well. And one day, hopefully after you have lived a full life, we’ll be together again. Follow our Five Points. You have already mastered the fifth, my Flor. Recite them to me.”
My voice shook as I said, “Efficiency. Ambition. Gracefulness. Leeriness. Eagerness.”
Mother nodded. “Your eagerness shows in all you do, and you feel so deeply. You are always able to help; to love. You’re my greatest blessing.” She yawned, then, and just before she fell asleep, she muttered, “Be an E.A.G.L.E.”