She never did become a nurse, my mother. Immigration got in the way of that horizon—once in the United States, my mother never could master En-glish, no matter how hard she tried, and my God, did she try. But strange how things work—her son became a reader and a writer, practices she encouraged as much as possible. I write professionally now, and life is long and complicated, and who knows how things might have turned out under different circumstances, but I do believe that who I am as an artist, everything that I’ve ever written, was possible because a seven-year-old girl up in the hills of Azua knelt before a puddle, found courage in herself and drank. Every time I’m in trouble in my art, I try to think of that girl. I think of that thirst, of that courage. I think of her.
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