Momo is what my sister and I called our grandmother, our mom’s mom. Momo is also a Japanese name meaning hundred and peach tree. My grandmother lived in Japan for a time, could speak Japanese and several other languages, and grew peach trees, as it so happens.
My nightmares began when I was 12, the day I learned to know no fear. I spent that summer with my Momo, at her house in the Texas hill country. By mid-July, we had watched six Dr Who’s on the satellite from England, her home decades before. That day was sticky…
We pick pomegranates, tomatoes and beans in the gardens, both of us in oversized straw hats, Momo in her petite signature pants – green grasshoppers, dusted with dirt. Seeking shade, and iced tea, we watch Uncle Tony on the ladder cementing homemade rocks to the house. It felt, at least, 100 degrees.
Next we would feed the peacocks and ducks, then a stroll down the winding gravel driveway to fetch the mail out by the highway. But today our routine would have an abiding addendum.
Walking to the barn, Tony yells to check his latest rock batch by the garage. We brush our fingertips across their sandpapery cement surfaces. I tilt a stone leaning against the wall to check the stack behind. The next instant – unforgettable.
A coiled rattlesnake, thick as a can, burnt-orange like the rocks, lunges.
Out of nowhere, 5’3” Momo appears with her garden hoe. She calmly, instantly, hacks the snake’s head clean off.
She knew war. I said nothing.
Momo throws down the weapon, grabs my hand, moves us on… To the birds.
In that indelible moment Momo taught me brave means action, no thought of fear.
I was changed. I would forever be haunted in my dreams by that snake and what could have been without Momo.