Maruja Toledo

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Lavinia’s Wedding


There you stand, posing for a wedding picture, without even a smile on your face. What are you wondering?  Let me tell you something. Your life will not be nearly as bad as you might imagine nor as wonderful as you would wish for, but in spite of everything, you will survive.  Even though you do not know it yet, you are a survivor.

Perhaps you do not know, but there are loving hands all around you.  The hands that sewed your dress worked tirelessly for hours so it would be a perfect fit.  The fabric was bought with money earned honestly by hands toiling endlessly, stitching tiny, perfect stitches into fine gloves for the local tailor.

What other thoughts are encumbering your mind?  Could it be that you do know how hard everyone has worked to make your life pleasant and therefore you feel guilty? The war has recently ended. You have been sick for a long while and still feel the effects. You were even supposed to die the doctor sentenced, “not to see your next birthday.”

Yet, here you stand in front of a camera on the happy occasion of Lavinia’s wedding, or Viña as everyone knows her.  Yet, you do not smile. It is an intimate wedding so only very close family members are invited.  The bride thought you were worthy of that honor and chose you to be her flower girl.  You are supposed to look at the camera and smile.  But, your innate shyness comes through and you feel you are on display.  Momma wants everyone to know you are her prized possession; how hard she cared for you, so you would live.

Could it be that you feel embarrassed by the fact that your hair was recently cut; more accurately shaved to save you from the ravages of llagas brought on by an attack of lice? The only way to get rid of it was to shed your tresses and let your scalp heal, or so they said.  You believed otherwise, in your characteristically sarcastic view of life.  “They should just leave me alone, give someone else that privilege,” you think. However, that is not the case. The mere fact of our existence imposes upon us rights and privileges. Lavinia’s mother helped yours when you were born and as your madrina was always willing to share her meager food to help you and your mother get through the war.  So, you have to do your part and pose for the picture, and carry the flowers, and dance at the party and be friendly and smile.

If only you could.


  1. Wow, a truly visceral dive into the introspection of a survivor. It’s a difficult concept to communicate, but all the athiest soldiers and godless cancer patients out there already know what you’re talking about. There is a freedom that comes from letting go, after you’re forced to completely jettison your ego. You can’t fake it, and if you’re lucky enough to live, it always stays with you.

  2. I found your story very intriguing, I’m not sure of what happened to the flower girl in the end, but I like that. I like how you wrote this, as if it’s the future flower girl, talking to her old self, at least that’s how I saw it. I think you are very talented, and should continue writting things like this. Thank you for sharing this interesting story 🙂

  3. The introduction was so raw and true I like the part “Your life will not be nearly as bad…” I think maybe you are a little pessimistic because you survive when no one though you would, people care about you and gave food so you could be alright but anyways you felt like you were not worthy. I also think you were too little to feel so sad or pessimistic.

    We always have moments when we just have to keep smiling no matter what and it is hard. I hope you had enough happy moments after that so you could not just have to do things because you had to but because you wanted to.

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