No Place Like Home

After my paternal grandmother and grandfather died, their children – my uncles and aunts – fell apart.

Never again a holiday was spent together.  The reunions included some of them, but never all of them.  Some were forever resentful because my father gathered a few to help my grandfather.  That man that made them work since they were nine years old in construction, the man that left their mother for another woman and treated her children as if they were his;  he couldn’t possibly be worth helping.

So the separation remained, and it permeated on us cousins – the third generation – for I haven’t seen my cousins in  approximately ten years.  None of my paternal family had even seen my daughter, until a couple of months ago.

While at my parents I decided to visit one of my aunts, the oldest one of my father’s brothers and sisters (they were thirteen in total, eleven are alive right now).

The trip is almost two hours from my home (not from the Hardcore Country Life, I don’t even want to calculate how long it would be from there), but it’s not the kind of two hours that I travel from the Hardcore Country Life to my parents, for example, because that’s pretty much all in the highway;  this two hours?  Are all in the rural part of the island, towards the center, going right through the middle where only tiny little winding roads exist.  The entire time the road zigzags.  I was nervous Baby J would get nauseous, but no, that didn’t happen in that trip.  Anyway, that’s another post entirely.

I was also nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself once there, will they talk to me?  Would it be awkward?  Maybe no one would want to play with Baby J, maybe we would all be there in silence looking at the floor… I didn’t know what to think, it had been such a long time.

But I got there and I hadn’t come out of the car when my aunt was opening her arms to hug me.  It was like flashbacks in my head, I could see all the times that happened before, when they received me with opened arms and love.

She only let go of me to pick up Baby J.  She looked at my father questioningly first thinking that Baby J might not want to go with her, but Baby J is extremely social and she has an excellent radar to distinguish the vibes of people (gets it from me) so she raised her arms for my aunt, asked for her blessing and gave her a kiss.   My aunt then called everyone to tell them that Baby J was so loveable, so cute, and that she looked exactly like me.  Which is a stretch, but I was happy about it anyway.

Her daughter (my cousin) came from her house with her three kids (three kids!  And she’s about two years younger than me!).  She has two girls and a boy who’s only a week older than Baby J.  I got a treat of watching them playing and Baby J was over the moon because these two girls were showing her their toys, making her friendship bracelets, showering her with attention and such care.  They are two of the most adorable kids I’ve ever met.  The boy is mischievous, but very talented musically (which runs in the family).

And me and my cousin?  We talked our hearts out about so many mothering things we do in the exact same way, we have these pet peeves that we share even though we had never met each other after motherhood.

She showed me pictures of all the kids of my other cousins, they all have more than one kid so my paternal family has grown exponentially and now we can not make a reunion unless we find a place that complies with the requirements of the Fire Department.  It would be like three hundred people.  I’m not even exaggerating.

We decided to surprise another one of my aunts.  I felt a bit better but still had some nerves because who knew, maybe she would be different.  But oh, she was right on top of us with the biggest smile in her face.   She took out a box of toys (from her grandchildren) for Baby J to play with.

We came back gleaming from happiness.  Exhausted, but so happy.  And I remembered how it felt to not have to worry about saying the right thing, looking a certain way, doing something wrong, am I holding my hands in a weird way? … this was no Hardcore Country Life, this was my family.

And I was home.

I Remember Series: The Missing Signature

I remember I was sitting in the sofa.

I should say the new sofa because the furniture was only a few months old, but it was battered and broken, as always.  Living room furniture was disposable at grandma’s because her almost fifty grandkids broke it with ease.  It was the one thing that was always new at grandma’s, but you would never know because it was always in such bad state.

But I digress, I was sitting in the sofa and my aunt, her youngest daughter, came in with a check.  It was her food stamps.

My aunt found a pen and asked her to sign on the line.  I noticed she took the pen and made an X.  She didn’t made a signature.

I didn’t said anything because I had excellent manners (also, I was terribly shy) but I must have made a face or stare or something because they both noticed.  My aunt snickered and made a remark that I can’t remember and my grandma threw her head back in a chuckle and exclaimed “oh girl!  Your grandma doesn’t know how to write!”  Then she sobered up some, looked me right in the eyes and said “but you do, you are going to school and you are a very intelligent girl.  You’ll go to college and be a professional.  You have to work very hard on your grades ok.”  I nodded.

Later I asked my mom why grandma didn’t knew how to write and she explained that she didn’t went to school because back  in her days going to school was a luxury that not all kids had.  My grandma was the black illegitimate daughter of my white great-grandmother and as such she had to stay home and help around the house and take care of her two (white) sisters.

I didn’t understood then, but now that I’m a mom I do;  it didn’t matter to her that she had no education because we did, and we were her extensions.  She still lives through us, everything that she was is instilled in our souls and we have been able to accomplish things that she couldn’t, but therefore, she did. 

I remember you told me to work hard grandma.  I tell my daughter to work hard too, and she’s going to be our extensions;  all her grandparent’s and all her great-grandparent’s, and all those before them and mine.

Because I remember you.

In memoriam: For Tutty

The past seventeenth of March, two days before my birthday I began mini vacations (as I like to call them) on my grandmother’s house.

Traditionally, I spend the first day back in my hometown in her home until my mother arrives there from work.  She loves the time she can spend with Baby J and I love the time I spend with her.

That day though, she received a sad call that made me really glad I was there.  The only cousin she had alive passed away after a battle with a couple of health issues.  It was still very much a surprise for everyone because she was only eighty one.  The women in my maternal family live to be over a hundred on average.

I met Tutty too late in my opinion, having only met her and her wonderful husband in 2012, but she was such a character and had such a spark that she really went straight to my heart.

Such was her personality that on the day of her passing a friend replied to all recipients of her demise announcement telling the story of how she had actually never met her in person, but corresponded with her for many years and got to talk to her on the phone.  She described her as a force of good and positivity through all her challenges (she was in a wheelchair after a brain stroke).

She and her husband (who passed away last year;  I believe she just had to go join him) left an incredible space in this world.  I’m both extremely honor that I got to meet them and incredibly sad that I didn’t got to spend more time with them.

In her funeral one of their grandkids read a beautiful piece she wrote for her grandmother which tells me that maybe the youngest generation she left behind might be able to carry at least some of her legacy.

This post is my humble way of leaving her a place here.

This one is for you Tutty.  Thank you.

The way I see, I didn’t loose a thing

A couple of weeks ago we took baby J to the beach.

Manfriend had insisted several months ago that we bought her a set of Roxy beach shirt and flip flops against my will because they were beautiful, but it was a big deal for us because that kind of splurge is not in our budget. This was the first time he got to see her wearing them.

He was also taking us to one of the best beaches in the island -one that miraculously I hadn’t seen before- so he was super exited about the whole trip.

I was exited too, I was just also a little bit nervous about how the whole day would pan out and the nervous was overshadowing the exited.  But we got there and seriously spent one of the best days out we’ve had.  Baby J played and enjoyed every second and it was just so relaxing it almost made me scared.  I was also very impressed with the beach:  no waves!  At all!  Apparently it’s like that the whole year because of it’s location.   It’s called Playa Santa and it’s a true gem.

The only slight annoyance from the whole thing was carrying all the stuff.  It gets heavy with a toddler, plus we wanted to cook while we were over there, and it was just a lot.  I spent the whole day before the trip getting everything ready and I just dreaded the moment when we had to pack everything back.

So I was super happy and felt a profound sense of accomplishment when we packed;  taking turns between packing and playing with baby J, we got everything set in about half an hour.  Cue me doing the winning dance while walking back to the car.

And then while we were already halfway on the trip back home (which was about two hours) I felt a pang on my chest.  I had taken baby J’s flip flops off and put them in her stroller… which had been shaken almost upside down while prepping other stuff and I just felt that they weren’t in the car.

Manfriend got so upset it took him over a week to get over the loss.  You might think this is exaggerated, I agree, but he has a point:  I have basically lost one thing every time we go out on big trips.  Hair accessories, sippy cups, a Chicco stroller.

Oh, yes, I lost a whole stroller.

One that looked like this and was a gift from my mother because we couldn’t afford it.  I had to wait five hours in an office with baby J by myself because it was pouring outside after an appointment and I was exhausted.  Manfriend picked me up told me to get in the car after setting baby J inside, I thought he was going to take care of the stroller but he didn’t and I just floored the car out of there and left the stroller right there in the parking lot.

I wasn’t as lucky this time and the stroller obviously disappeared that same day.

In my defense:  I lost the stroller, but I didn’t lose the baby.

Actually, I think that’s why I keep forgetting all the other stuff.  I just employ all the brain cells into making sure of her well being.

I apologised to her for loosing her flip flops, but I hope when she’s older she can understand that I would give thousands flip flops for all the fun we had at the beach together.

River of love

I believe love can not be measured.

You either truly love someone or you don’t, but how can you love someone a little bit or a lot?  In Spanish we have other words for different types of affection that make it easier to describe the kind of love that you have for someone, but for the one and only love (amar) I believe it’s either a yes or no.

So the other day I’m at my parents with my mom (I usually stay at my parents once a month because otherwise I’d have no opportunity to you know, breathe.  Or do my nails) and she receives baby J with crayons and a coloring book.  I know where that is headed from the moment she gave her that box of crayons because I’ve been there.  I know they won’t last five minutes and they are going to end up in her mouth and also everywhere.

It all happens.  Crayons flew places, the floor had a new palette that included blue and yellow, there was partial ingestion of the things and it takes my every ounce of will power to contain myself from stopping everything to prevent further damages.

I’m that mother who won’t let baby J go to town with her messes.   I can’t deal with food on the floor, or crayon madness:  the other day she poured juice all over herself in her high chair and I contemplated taking away her glasses forever.  Who needs more liquids anyway?

My uncle asked me why last weekend and for the first time I gave an honest, straight-up answer;  I think it’s because I’m in someone else’s house.  Because I’m in manfriend’s territory even.  I feel a tremendous amount of pressure about having everything neat at all times, maybe because every time someone comes in they point out everything that needs to be clean or organised (and even do it themselves).  It makes me feel like I never do enough.  But I’m working on it, there was a brief intervention and I feel I now have the tools to modify this.

Anyway, it’s all going far away from coloring and more towards silliness and the only reason why I can stay sitting down and not make the crayons disappear is because my mother is sitting there laughing about the whole thing, having fun and encouraging baby J to continue her art which at some point consists of breaking the crayons in very small parts.

Her immense river of patience was flowing all over the room and I was breathing it in like a medicine.  I felt peace and I don’t know how it happened exactly, but I knew then that as much as I have always loved my mother – adored her, cherish her;  heck she is the best woman I know – I now love her more.  

Presence: A Memoir

The first time that I was in third grade (because I was in third grade twice;  TANGENT:  my mother taught me to read and write at home and I could do both when I was three, so when I went to school I was in kindergarten only one semester and then went to first grade, putting me a whole year ahead of the rest of the class.  My mother then became concern that I didn’t had easy connections with my peers -read, I was as anti-social as I am now- and took me out of school for a semester so I could begin studying in a new school with kids my age.  This might have been a brilliant move, or a huge mistake.  I still can not tell.)  one of the assignments one day was to write a brief essay on what you wanted to be when you grew up.

I was very exited to write about this.  I even asked my grandfather to let me type my essay in his typewriter (a beautiful Smith Corona circa ’69) to make it more professional:  I wanted to be a secretary.  I liked paper, envelopes, filing, typewriting, pens and of course stickers (secretaries make use of a lot of stickers.  Or so I thought) so, my dream was to work at an office.  I wanted to use tape every day and have pretty nails painted in bright colors.  I also wanted to be a veterinarian and a scientist, but only in the afternoons or something.

After I finished my draft of a resume assigment, citing how awesome I would be as a secretary because I had the natural talent of stapling papers, I showed the paper to my mother.  She was very happy and proud of my wording so, she showed it to my father right in front of me.  He didn’t read the essay because he hates to read, instead he asked me what was it that I wanted to be when I grew up.  I smiled real big and posed for effect “A SECRETARY!”  If you heard a scoff in 1987, it was my father when he heard my answer.

“Listen to her!  A secretary?!  What sort of crap is that?”  My mother gave him one of her looks, the one that said you better shut your mouth up right now.  He said this was the moment to tell me I didn’t want to be a secretary.  I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or something like that, something respectable with a good pay.

“Do you know the wage of a secretary?”  Um, no, but I’m sure at seven years old not many people bother to learn what a wage is.  “A secretary earns a misery.  You want to be something that gives you a lot of money so you can buy a lot of the things you want.”

I’m pretty sure that moment ruined my life.  The beginning of all my problems can be traced to that single exchange with my progenitor.

Fast forward a few decades when I was already working in the pharmaceutical industry (at the very place I once dreamed of working, it was nothing big, but something attracted me of the place) and my father kept telling me I had to go take a course to be a Dentist Assistant.  One of his cousins had an office and I could work there.  Or I could go finish a certification on Data Entry, he could find me clients among his friends so I could work from home.  Actually, he would set up a pizza place and I could administer it, paying him a wage every month.

In other words:  I should have been doing anything but what I was doing.  I was working a job that taught me A LOT, with a good schedule and a good pay, with people that were like family and that was simply not good enough for him.  He let me know this at any opportunity.

The other day we were eating at my grandmother’s place, much of my immediate family together for the first time in a while, and we began discussing profesional lives.  Manfriend began listing the things he knows I’ve done –work for security in a marathon, rotate shifts, train people, work in a service centre- with me mentioning some others;  his point being that I’m known to be a hard worker, I’ve done a bit of everything I’ve had to when I’ve needed to earn my bread.

And then my father perked up and mentioned that I also had that Dentist Assistant Certificate.  Which one?  The one that doesn’t exist because I never studied that.  I could never deal with anyone’s mouth (no offence to anyone that does,  on the contrary, thanks for cleaning our teeth!).  But he had made that up in his mind, no doubt to compensate for my lack of good professional decisions, and it was so intricately elaborated in there that it became a truth.

Much like the presence he has had in my life since sometime around third grade.

 

This post was shared in this week’s writing challenge: Memoir Madness, featuring some AMAZING posts.

Latest Fita update: gremlin edition

I don’t even know how to fill in the back story for Fita’s latest update.

 

In fact, I think I’m going to ignore all rules about story telling and good writing and just throw the end in your face.

Fita and her puppies

There.  That happened.  Four females and one male.  Three look just like her (white with black dots) and two black ones.

We don’t know who is/are the father(s), though manfriend is conducting an investigation as this will apparently give him some sort of comfort.  I told him the culprit is him because basic rule of pet owning – NEUTER.   People around here don’t neuter their dogs, males or females they just deal with the pups.  Another thing I will never understand about this Hardcore Country Life of mine since I’ve never had a pet living outside.

 

Anyway.  They are THE cutest things.  I had never seen/touch puppies that young and now I understand it was for my own good.  I could become addicted to those tiny noses!  I also never imagined such a young creature could be so strong.  When I saw them crawling towards their mother my jaw hanged open.  Those little ones can fight for their lives.

 

So.  We are on puppy watch over here.  🙂

 

Have a happy day!

 

Object: What happens at grandma’s, stays at grandma’s

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At #grandma's.

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My cousin gave this pillow to my grandmother and I love it. There couldn’t be a bigger truth! Except those times my cousins climbed to her roof, those times EVERYONE knew and they were punished like there was no tomorrow, but you know.

Our first Christmas

So. Santa duty.

Was a bit harder than I expected given that baby J is only six months old and I thought I could get away with an easy performance. Wasn’t possible because this happened:

 

Santa was in da house. Because apparently, is not about knowing Santa, it’s about knowing someone who knows Santa. At least that’s how it works in manfriend’s family.

I’m pretty sure we got high on Santa. Partly because, upon meeting him, baby J pulled Santa’s beard and it was pretty much the funniest and cutest thing ever. No illusions were harmed in the incident because that beard is real.

That Santa was the sweetest man ever, God bless him. It takes him eight months to grow that beard (from a short beard) and he’s been doing this for seventeen years. He’s quite old now and since spending the whole night until the wee hours of the morning visiting houses is too tiring, he thinks this was his last Christmas being Santa. Very sad to know after you’ve seen the faces of the kids when they see the sledge arriving and Santa entering their house ho-ho-ho’ing.

 

Then, on Christmas day;

 

 

Robbers carried an entire section of the copper line of the power service company in a sector in the hills ON CHRISTMAS DAY so we didn’t had power service that afternoon, that night or the next morning. I spent all that time asking out loud how was it possible that someone would do that ON CHRISTMAS DAY. I actually used caps in my voice.

At the end of the day;

Those are going to be the highlights of the story when I tell it to baby J later. Can’t complain about the amusing material.

 

Hope you had a great one!