She was on the ragged edge of sleep, in those dark velvety moments just before dawn, in the small, crowded bedroom of the old Spanish bungalow on Vista Grande.

The small bedroom she shared with her sister, and a year later with a newborn baby brother. Her dark-eyed sister, Nicole, lay sleeping in the twin bed, which ran crosswise at the foot of her own long, narrow bed.
 Curled up on her side, facing the wall, with its swirls of white wedding cake plaster, straight black hair in pink rubber curlers, her older sister slept, unaware, undisturbed.

Some unidentifiable murmur in the dark and distant garden with its tangle of fruit trees and brick edged, moss covered, herring bone pathways, had awakened her, terrified her. She lay there shaking under her thin blanket, sobbing into the softness of a feather pillow, encased in its delicately embroidered slip. Sewn by a grandmother who lived far away, but dreamt of her nightly, and sent beaded moccasins at Christmas and braid ties and bows for her birthday.

A light went on in the turquoise and gray tiled, deco bathroom that separated the master bedroom from the small room with its textured, white walls and large picture window. The room they called the nursery. The warm glow from the nightlight spilled out into the room, from the crack beneath the door, with its crystal doorknobs. Shadows danced menacingly across the iced walls. There was that sound again. Then the door opened, and her mother’s arms were around her. Petting her, smoothing her hair, brushing her tawny bangs from her forehead. Patting her on the back. Whispering ‘shh…’ into her tiny ear,
“There baby, don’t cry.”
She almost sang the words, tender and somewhat
out of key. Then the sound again.
“Coo-coo coo-coo, ”
"It’s just a mourning dove calling to his mate.”
“Coo-coo coo-coo”

She had not the slightest idea what a mourning dove was, but she believed her, she trusted her, she had no reason not to, yet. The child stopped crying as she breathed in her mother’s perfumed aroma now full of the musky scent of sleep and dreams. Then the small body in the vastness of the twin bed, relaxed in her mother’s arms, as tears were wiped from her emerald, thick lashed eyes, first with gentle fingertips, then the silky corner of a blue chenille dressing gown.

The young mother slipped into the narrow bed with the child, kissed away the remaining tears, and held her tightly against her breast, until she drifted off once more into the unparalleled safety of sleep.
"Coo-coo Coo-coo"


Years later, lying naked, in a spacious, antique, wooden bed in a bougainvillea-covered villa, in Tuscany, the woman who grew from the child, would tell her lover, this was her earliest memory.

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