I was born in Mexico City four minutes past midnight in a Spanish hospital run by nuns. I was the second child to be born to the Brierre/Lopez family and the birth was easy, free of complications and because my mother was under the influence of sedatives, she was the last one to see me.
I was handed to her in the early morning hours wrapped tightly in a weave of white blankets in which only my little brown face was exposed framed by a mass of black, long hair which she would trim the moment we arrived home. She took the bundle from the nurses arms and unraveled me from the multi-layered cocoon I was encased in verifying that I was all of what Dr. Spock’s books promised I would be: five fingers in each hand, two eyes, one nose and a touch of jaundice hiding my olive undertones.
My father named me Lisa because it could be pronounced without alteration in all three languages spoken at home. My mother, wanted to name me ‘Nusch,’ after a famous French poets’ second wife for which she was quickly rebutted. My father later joked that he spared me from such a fate, and as a teenager I agreed, however, my older self wishes my mom would have stood her ground and I could have had a name as uncommon as the woman I would later become.
Unlike my barely older brother, Charles, I was unusually calm, quiet and easy, earning the nickname “La Santita,” the little saint.
My brother was everything I wasn’t: wild, outgoing, restless, with a zest for adventure that I can only imagine came from his unusual onset.
When he was only a six month old fetus floating in my mothers womb, my father – a novice pilot at the time – chose to take my mom on a last honeymoon retreat to the coast of Mexico before becoming parents. Not having much experience with currents along the mountain range, he failed to gain the appropriate amount of elevation to clear the mountain side and they crashed into a forest area in which the plane was left cradled among limbs of branches. Although the passengers were bruised, bleeding and drenched in fuel, the plane miraculously never set on fire, giving the lucky occupants of this potential entombed vessel another chance at life.
Eventually, after hours of walking, they were rescued by tree laborers who heard the impact, and were eased off the mountain; my mother on a mule, my father like the others on foot, until reaching a rural hospital where my father was held under arrest for breaking the trees for his untimely landing, while my mom patiently waited unattended for care.
News traveled to the city, and a family friend, Joe McCourt, arrived full of gringo fury and grabbed the first white-robed person he could find and tossed him in a vacant room with my mother, slamming the door shut until he examined her. Meekly the doctor verified through a safe opening in the door that the motionless fetus was shocked, but alive.
My mother carried him full-term and after an impossibly long, arduous labor, metal tongues eventually dragged this reluctant fire-ball with white skin and red peach fuzz out of the birth canal to a life he would embrace with fearless passion. Whatever healthy fear a child is supposed to have to keep them from jumping off the roof of their house, or riding their bike during Lima’s longest earthquake, this child left buried along the mountain range of Mexico.
He came to do, and I came to observe, which is why my eyes were large with a depth that reflected a knowing much more expansive than that of a young girls.
This became apparent to my parents when one day the maid hysterically greeted my mom at the door with her suitcases packed exclaiming she was leaving. My mom still holding her car keys without a moment to put down her purse was confused and bewildered by the maids unusual behavior this particular afternoon and asked, “Porque?” Why? Are you leaving?
The maid, flustered and pointing at me accusingly while I sat innocently in a high chair, exclaimed, “¡Por la niña!” Because of the girl!
My mom still confused replied, “¿Que pasa con la niña??” What’s the matter with the girl??
Straightening her shoulders and trying to regain composure the maid admitted, “¡ME MIRA CON LOS OJOS!” SHE LOOKS AT ME WITH HER EYES.”
My mom relieved, set her accessories on the table and said, “Well, what is she supposed to look at you with?!”
“¡Ah, es que usted no entiende, Señora! La niña me mira con SUS OJOS!” Misses, you don’t understand, the girl looks at me WITH HER EYES!”
The maid seeing the futility of the argument took a deep breath of resignation as she bent at the knees to pick up her two suitcases – one in each hand – and rushed past my mom and out the doorway never to be heard from again, not even to collect her last check.
Growing up in Central/South America we had many interesting stories with our live-in maids, like one that had taken to wearing my father’s underwear, but none quite as puzzling as the one that left because of the way I looked at her with my eyes. I was two at the time.
It was about this time that my father’s work took our family to Lima, Peru. A damp, grey city in the winter with cold, rocky beaches that were prime for colossal sea food.
Our house was built in a U-shape around a garden my mother landscaped and made beautiful. It’s in this garden that I made my first friend – a bumble bee. I am sure there were many bumble bees due to the many flowers, but this one was special; I knew him and even named him. He would come back to our garden year after year much to my delight and we communed under the sun for many hours a day.
It was also in Lima where we had a maid that wasn’t afraid of me – her name was Manuela. She was stout with long, straight jet black hair and I loved her very much. She would make me Ovaltine milk chocolate in a pink plastic cup every morning and took care of us as if we had come out of her. She had soft brown skin, calloused hands and she smelled like Nivea cream straight out of the tin.
It’s the same plastic cup that once held the tip of my finger ensconced in iced water during a hurried trip to the hospital.
Manuela was off because it was Sunday and I was chasing my brother around the parquet floored corridors of the house with a fly swatter because he was playing with cat poop outside. I was right on his tail when he swerved into my parents bedroom and as I tried to stop the door from slamming, my ring finger slid into the hinged portion of the door. My mother hearing my guttural wail ran out of the bathroom and knocked on the door until it released my flattened finger that was holding on to it’s base by a fragment of skin. It wasn’t so much the pain, as the sight of the tip of my finger dangling, that left me in a trance-fixed state. The plastic, pink cup never made it back from the hospital where Lima’s finest surgeon just happened to be on call.
It was also in Lima where I started school and where my parents found out that I didn’t speak outside our home.
For teacher/parent conference day, teachers had created a cassette tape of each child’s classroom interaction so that parents could hear first hand all of the interactions that took place in school. My mom was excited to hear what I might be like at school and sat down eagerly waiting for the teacher to press, Play. Except the teacher never did as she leaned in to express that I never said one word during class or recess. Not ONE. There was no tape, no curiosities to relate, no funny incidents, no commentary on story time – nothing. My mom sat there aghast.
“You mean to tell me that my daughter has been in school for 3 months and just now you are telling me she doesn’t speak??”
This was the beginning of many, many parent teacher conferences in which I was the subject of discussion. She has learning disabilities, dyslexia, maybe depression? They would comment. I was sent out for tests with a litany of specialists all coming up with many diagnosis except the obvious unclassified one for the times – she is sensitive; an old soul; an empath.
I was unusual, tender, and felt rather deeply as I was in tune with the natural world and communed easily with it. I could remember my dreams as if I had lived them, but I could not tell you the date of my birth. I thought deeply about my mortality but as much as my mom made marks on my hands, I couldn’t remember my right hand from my left.
School was abrasive, and I suffered politely through all twelve years of it. At the end of those twelve years, I came out perfectly divided into who I was, and who I felt was a more “normal, society friendly” version of myself.
These words are my way scooping up this ethereal little girl that could befriend a bumble bee into my arms and kiss her giving cheeks while allowing her the magical space she deserves to be her authentically, quirky, endearing self.
I don’t know that everyone completely bought into my deception, but the harm came at my own burial of the most precious part of me – precisely the one that makes me atypical.
We are who we are well before we land in this harsh terrain of life. My brother – now in his fifties – is still pushing the envelope on his skateboard, or bike, while there is nothing in me that feels a calling to do anything extreme.. or even loud.
My father lived a long rich life well into his eighties and became part of the UFO’s (United Flying Octogenarians), one of his many goals (and with no more incidents traversing mountain ranges!). He vaguely populated my early years which is why he is rarely mentioned, yet moved to the forefront of my life as I became a young woman. I have many unfinished writings in regard to this unattainable, most beloved man of my life that I sense might become a book, as they never seem to want to end.
My mother; my soulmate comes from every bit of the same cloth from which I have been patterned. She lives very close to me and continues to bring her rich, imaginative life into her art and all that she does. I am certain that she came here to not just be my mom – which is a lot – but to also be my angel. One of the many acts of love that she expressed for me was throwing out the large dossier of accumulated assessments when enrolling me in school in the states; never again was there mention of dyslexia, depression or other maladies associated with sensitive children.
Are you an empath? Are you raising a sensitive child? Here are 10 traits of an Empath and a great book with life saving strategies for sensitive folks. By the way, being empathic is not a clicky thing, we all have the ability to develop our sensitive side; it is available to all of us. Contact me if you want to learn how.