Cecelia Estrada Vaughan

Standing in a Wooded Area

Iti waya
Iti chito
Iti illi

Large tree
Leaning without
Large dry tree
turned up
By the roots

~iti kafi 2017

You Never Have to Ask

I was six years old and my little brother three, when our mother took us on the bus from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. My dad was going through a cycle of abusive behavior. Our bus traveled the inland route on the old highway. In the mid-50's it was surely the longest route to the Bay Area, and Greyhound buses weren't air-conditioned.

We arrived at the San Francisco Greyhound station about dusk. I heard the foghorn and was intrigued.

Inside the bus station, Mama found a phone booth to call an old friend, trying several times to connect with our hostess. My little brother and I were travel weary, hungry, and chilly. Mama gave us our sweat hoods and a half sandwich each. She pulled us close to her body to warm us up, and closed her eyes. I was old enough to know, when she closed her eyes, Junior and me were supposed to be still. It's how Mama prayed. There must have been intense conversation because I noticed tear drops roll down her cheeks. She smiled when she opened her eyes.

“Creator, God is everywhere. You know, you don’t have to move your lips to pray. A relationship within the spirit is personal. Prayer can be a thought, an act of kindness. A forgiveness, and gratitude. Sometimes things in life can become overwhelming. When this happens, remember to give thanks. You never have to ask for what you need when you give thanks.”

"Mama, are you going to call Miss Anna again?"

"I don't know. I think I'll wait."

I had to ask, "Where are we gonna sleep tonight?"

"I don't know. We don't have much money to get a room. We just have the return bus tickets to get back home."

"I'm cold and so is Junior."

Junior had fallen asleep. A woman we didn't know stood next to Mama. I stared at her, assessing that she was Hawaiian. 'She' wasn't tall or short, had a bright brown face covered with a lot of make-up, and wore a shiny green tight-fitting dress, with blue high heels, and wasn’t carrying a purse. She spoke to my mother.

"Lady you have couple of cute kids. I have a small son myself. Why you and your kids sitting in here with a suitcase?” Mama began to tell the stranger about our trip.

"Well, Missus, don't worry. You come with me." The Stranger picked up the suitcase, Mama picked up Junior, and I carried my little tartan plaid bag, and walked alongside my mother. We followed the lady up a hilly street for two blocks, stopping at a boardinghouse with numbers painted in gold and black on one door window. Mama allowed the Lady to take her suitcase into the building.

When the Hawaiian Lady emerged, she spoke with my mother as we entered the boarding house. I listened to the foghorn.

"Missus, I paid desk clerk for a room, for you and kids. Leo a good friend. I don't let my man know I used the money. I dunno why I walk into bus station. I not usually work this area. You need help, I guess. If you don't talk to your friend, you and kids have the room for one more night. It’s okay with Leo for me.”

The Hawaiian lead us upstairs to a grimy little room with a bed no bedding on the mattress; one chair, and a naked, hanging light bulb. The room smelled seaport damp and musty.

"We never see each other again," the kind woman said, as she gave mother a twenty dollar bill, and closed the door and left us. Mama stood staring at the door. Junior and I watched our mother, whispering softly, in gratitude to the Creator for our safety; and the blessing of kindness from an unlikely stranger.

~iti kafi


Cecelia Estrada Vaughan, also known as ‘Iti kafi’, is retired from the Human Services field. Raised in Southern California, she has made Massachusetts her home for over forty years.  Cecelia refers to her writing as observational “autobiographical fiction.” Her writing are works in progress, glimpses into the realm of spiritual phenomenon. A descendant of both the Choctaw Nation and Mexican Indians (of Michoacán).  Cecelia is currently Program Coordinator for the Circles of Support/Women’s Program at the North American Indian Center of Boston.  The writers who have influenced her writing: I. B. Singer, Jack Kerouac, Shirley Jackson, Toni Morrison, Mona Susan Power, and Jean Auel.