Having no mother to love, I loved Aunt Gladys, and sometimes, accidentally, called her "Mom." She would click her teeth and turn back to the kitchen for more important events. Today she had ice water for us. It drove the perfume of the as-u (ponderosa pine) wood pitch deep within our perception. Good, cold water. Perfect for sweating thirst. We rolled the huge rounds of as-u into the old wood shed.
Purple moved into the Fall River Valley. Red sun rested upon the western horizon on Six Mile Hill, then fell off, tired, sleeping. Silver moon lighted the earth. Smells of wa-hach (bread cooked without grease in a skillet), spot-le (fried potatoes), dose me-suts (fried deer meat) came from the kitchen. Then, rocking in her chair beside the pot-bellied stove that heated the entire house, beneath her lamp, Aunt Gladys embroidered. She buttoned, she fixed.
When her mouth was set straight across, we knew we were going to "get it." We often did not know what the "it" was, but we knew we were going to get "it." The atmosphere was so thick that we could not even run and hide. We were corralled, corralled by the set of her mouth?straight across. Uncle Rufus was corralled too. It was almost like being doomed, except we knew that we needed the next set of instructions from her.
"Old Fella (Uncle Rufus), have you been instructing these children properly?"
"Old Fella, did you tell them that no matter what the white people say, they must know their own language?"
"Okay, you children listen. If he won't tell you, then I must. You must know your language first. Yes, we must know the white man language to survive in this world. But we must know our language to survive forever.
"It is said, and I believe the old ones when they say it, that when Great Power arrives, when Great Power walks down the road out there, in the night, he will call your name, and he expects you to answer. But, he cannot understand English or Spanish. He will speak in your language to you. How are you going to know if he says, 'Follow me, I am going home.' Or if he says, 'Wait here.' Or if he says, 'Feed me, I am hungry and thirsty.' All these things will not be said in a foreign language. You, he will not say 'Sonny.' You, he will not say 'Babe.' You, he will not say 'BooBoo' or 'Florentino.'"
Stars powdered the vastness of time. Owl threw its forlorn hoot across the deep thickness of the Fall River Valley; wind moved the qosimo (juniper) and as-u to mingle in the most tender perfume. River crashed through the deep canyon carrying a message to outer ocean and to the salmon, so they would return. Below the "hill" the little town was silent. We slept. Restlessly, we slept. Auntie's words thundered within our being. Worried, we slept.
If Annikadel or Qon walked down this dusty road above Fall River Valley, and he called "my" name, would I recognize it? Neither Grandpa Mose nor Grandpa Adam gave me a name. If Great Power called my name then I would not be able to recognize it. I could not make one up, that is for sure. They'd know if I did. Tomorrow I must get a na...m....e....Worried, I slept.
Loqme (early morning) Uncle called us. It was time to eat wa-hach folded around me-suts, drink water, jump in the old pickup truck and rattle off to work. It was wonderful that Great Power had not called my name last night. Maybe he forgot.
"Get up. Get ready to live!" Aunt Gladys would holler. We washed our faces at the icy water faucet, then raced into the warm house. The aroma of coffee splashed us full in the face, along with the fragrances of wa-hach, me-suts, and spot-le lightly peppered and heavily salted. It seemed like we ate the same meal all of the time, but that each was more delicious than the last.
Wood cutting finished for the year, we had idle moments. They were terrible. Terrible because we had time to ponder the words of Aunt Gladys. We were not doing so well at learning our language, but we were very good at finding Uncle's hidden bottles of red wine.
From my childhood to today, I have no real name. Today I am fluent in English and use only words of my own language. Today I would not know if Great Spirit called my real name, because I do not have one. Today I would not know if Great Spirit walked down the dusty road seeking water or food?because I do not know the real language that Great Power speaks. I am essentially disarmed, naked before all of the communication powers of the universe. Alone.
Both Aunt Gladys and Uncle Rufus have "gone on ahead," and today I still hear her voice. It is clear. "Great Spirit will speak in your language to you. What are you going to do if he is thirsty or hungry and asks these things of you?"
And I wonder and worry. Tcu-stuwadz-igudzi (what am I going to do) when the Great Spirit says S-dna, I-am me-suts (I come, let me eat deer meat)? Tcu-stuwadz-igudzi (what am I going to do) if Great Power says, Salila-ti Mi-mu d-enn-i-gu (I wish you would come home)?