As I put my two girls to bed one night I am caught in the moment. Our room is a small square of unplastered concrete blocks with no adornments or paint to the walls and slatted windows, which are the norm here in Cuba. The old lace curtains are held up by an old wire hanger that has been straightened and is balanced on two nails, one of which is suspended by a thread. The closet is a concrete hole in the wall. The door is a chintz fabric suspended from the ceiling – These fabric hangings are all the rage here. The door to our room is also made of this fabric and blows out into the kitchen and back again with the rhythm of the fan as it skates backwards and forwards. It offers relief from the heat but more importantly keeps the Mosquitos from eating us alive. The roof is wrought iron with all the nails and support beams on display.
We all sleep here on one bed together, Eleanor, Maia, Diego and I. The sounds of the night keeping us sleeping – A fiesta in the house on the corner (one of them is leaving Cuba) blaring reggaton. The dogs barking and fighting. The big trucks with poor, crumbling engines chugging past. People talking without volume control on the street outside. The man ringing his bell at 6am selling soft bread, his cry of ‘pan suave’ ringing as loudly as his bell. The sound in stereo as the whole street tunes in to watch the baseball or Avenida Brazil – the biggest telenovela here. There are only five channels so it’s common to have the whole street humming with the same theme tune through the open doors. Those without TVs crowd into the houses of those who do, filling the floor, beds, chairs and doorways to watch the latest show.
We sleep on a mattress made of foam, in which someone has carved their love for Aimee with a knife. Eleanor by the wall, then Maia, then me, finally Diego. As I put them both to sleep each night the girls both take a hand. Eleanor puts my hand under her head. She likes her hair stroked and taken out from her neck. Maia holds the other firmly in her small hands. It helps to stop her arms flapping wildly and uncontrollably. I have a hand for each of them to soothe them into sleep whilst we listen to the sounds of the crickets, the rain, the streets. Cuba sings us to sleep.
A hand for each child | clippedwingsflying