I Remember: I never saw my Christmas Gifts

I never saw my Christmas gifts.

That’s not special for people who spend their holidays in just one place, but the thing is;  we spent the holidays everywhere.

My father started playing parrandas in November, right after Thanksgiving and ended in mid January.  We spend the holidays with him, sometimes staying in several houses throughout the week.  I often received my gifts in my grandmother’s or any of ten aunt/uncle’s houses.

This was in the town of Barranquitas, mind you, that is the middle of nowhere, deep in the mountains of this island.  There are no big stores there and it’s about two hours from anywhere with a big store.  But I got a Cabbage Patch on that year where people were killing themselves in stores for them, I got a Hugga Bunch (Patooty) another year, I got Barbies several times.

All these things must have been carried in the car, in the same place where our clothes and things went, and I never saw anything.  I only remember one time when I know my parents had to go get my present at the last minute – the Barbie Dream House of like 1998, with the working elevator!   I had to stay with one of my aunts for the first time, and while I adored her – may God have her in His glory –  I wasn’t used to staying with her, so I got anxious.

I remember clinging to her leg while she did the dishes, very late at night.  And the glow of her white Christmas tree, wondering why in the world my parents were going out without me.

The next day my mom helped me mount the doll house, that would stay up one day and then we had to take it down to get it home.

They must have done some awesome planning and gift hiding.

 

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.

Ginger tea and how it can’t be made with something OTHER than ginger

After the flu I had about 900 years ago, a dry cough has stayed with me.  I downed two bottles of over the counter-maximum strength cough suppressant and it worked wonders for about seven hours.  Then I got to half a bottle of an organic mix that includes agave syrup and eucalyptus and some other ten natural ingredients that make your brain all minty and your stomach to beg for suicide and I felt like new, for two days.

 

Everyone agrees I should see the doctor in case there’s something nasty trying to eat my lungs and I would, if doctors were not vacationing like any other normal person does on holiday time.

 

My friend recommended me ginger tea and a couple of weeks ago I mentioned it to my mother in case she could get some ginger at the supermarket.  I worked through the holidays and had no time to shop for anything.  I hand-made all my holiday cards and people though I did it because I’m thoughtful and crafty when actually I had no time to make a line in a store.

So my mom goes and buys the ginger.  Except when I see this ginger, it’s really weird ginger.  It doesn’t smell like ginger, it’s awfully hard to cut and it’s huge.  When I tell mom that the ginger is weird she apologizes because the quality of all the ginger in the store was bad.  I tell her I don’t want to offend anyone but this ginger has no ginger qualities.  After about an hour of discussion and an additional witness we conclude that my mother, who grew up in a farm, daughter of a great farmer, bought the wrong tuber.  We call it apio, and I swear apio is NOT celery so I don’t know how to translate it and google is failing me.

 

The real piece of ginger reached my hands last night and I got down with it.

I crushed a good piece, about two inches long and boiled it in 2 cups of water for 30 to 40 minutes.  I strained it and added about half of that (undiluted tea) to two cups of hot milk.  I finished with three tablespoons of organic honey from the Dominican Republic because I like my teas on the sweet side.

It was HEAVENLY.

 

The undiluted tea can be stored in the fridge so it can be made ahead and added to very hot milk on any night when you want to feel embraced by the warmth of something sweet and spicy.

 

I have about three post waiting to be written, there’s a dog and a horse and things that need to be recorded somewhere… in fact, I’ve been thinking if I should re-start my pen & paper diary this year.

 

Anyway, ONWARD!

 

Same effect, different method

You might have noticed that I write a lot about my grandparents, and my mom, but by comparison, my father is not that much around here.

 

(The next sentence was edited 75933405 times.)  My father  made me with his sperm power, he taught me how to mount a car antenna and I’m genetically inclined to love him.  That doesn’t mean I have to like everything he is or does.   In fact if I had to explain my feelings about this I would use a resent example of events that pretty much sum up everything I have to say about our differences.

 

A couple of days back father was standing outside our home when someone in car stopped to ask him for one of my mother’s plants.  My mom has made a beautiful landscape in the little yard that is in front of our house by collecting/buying plants for years, I don’t blame the guy.   My father told him no.  I don’t blame him either, without my mother’s consent I wouldn’t have given the plant myself either.  But then, in classic father style, he got to his car and went out (which he was going to do anyway) and, upon finding the guy in a stop spot, parked beside him to tell him that the plants in our yard where counted, he should just know.  Like, in case he was going to steal one of course.   So basically, he accused  him of wanting to steal the plant that he asked for.

 

I don’t know if I’m crazy, but my logic says that if someone asks for something, they are not likely thinking about stealing it at the moment.  In any case, I think no one should be going around implying that people want to steal anything.   My father on the other hand, thinks everyone is a thieving liar that wants to do you wrong the second that they can.  “Never trust anyone” is one of his favorite phrases.

 

I don’t live like that.  I can’t.  I used to think, when I was a child, that I had to live like that and it was a huge conflict I had to deal with inside my tiny little nine-year old brain because it was so outside of me to think the worst of anyone.  I wondered how could I ever make friends if everyone was bad until they proved otherwise.   When I reached my teen years I made up my mind to go forward without the heavy weight of expecting everyone to try and tear me to pieces at all times, and I told him so.   He said I was going to regret it, but I could do whatever I wanted.

 

I’ve bragged my whole adult life that I can read someone within two minutes of meeting them and I can count with one hand the times I’ve been wrong in my assessment.  I’m honest to the farthest point in the line, the last one of them where it almost rubs on rudeness.  I try to be as transparent as I dare, I like people to know that what you see is what you get.  So I modified malice into boldness and I twisted lack of trust into acute awareness and voila.  I have a state of the art gut trusting system.  It works better than any CIA profile database.

 

 

And I get all that from my father.  I kept the wisest parts about the socialization methods that I learned from watching his interactions and I made them mine.

 

If that guy had asked me for one of my mother’s plants, I would’ve asked him to come back later and ask my mother, because she’s the owner of the plants.  I would’ve talked to him with a smile, but I wouldn’t have walked to him.  I would’ve waved him good-bye and then I would have kept the blinds of the living room open so I could keep an eye out, just in case.

 

Same effects, different methods.

Then I knew

I’ve always been something of a pyromaniac.   Ok, more like, a pyro-facinated-ac.   A pyromaniac without the maniac part?

 

When I was a little girl it was Christmas if I could play with a box of matches (unsupervised! and I survived because parenting was different in the 80’s) and some scrap.  I collected little pieces of paper, leaves, twigs, my own hair (already fallen, of course), and everything I could get my hands into so I could watch it burn.

I don’t know, but that’s one of the magics that has never lost it’s grandness to me.  That moment when the match catches on and it sparks and then there’s a flame, always different, yet the same.   It humbles me and makes me feel like a kid again, amazed by the simple things.

 

When I was about thirteen, we had the farm and as I said I used to go there every day after school.  One glorious day I found myself there WITH A LIGHTER.  Super score!  I rushed all the chores and sat behind one of the tool sheds to begin my bliss.  I wasn’t exactly hiding, but it was better that no one saw me playing instead of working and also, I was burning things, IN A FARM, so you know, I was avoiding the obvious WTF ARE YOU DOING?!

 

I had alighted a hollow twig as long as one of my fingers when my father appeared in front of me out of thin air.   He was smirking wickedly.   “Go ahead” he said.   Watching the twig burn slowly from inside lost it’s appeal if it happened in front of someone else, as it often happened when I was playing alone, so I just began shaking it.  “Go ahead, smoke it” he said this time.   “What?!”  I bet my eyes were almost falling out of their sockets.  “You were going to smoke it, smoke it!”  I must have yelled something about ARE YOU FREAKING INSANE?! because he said “C’mon, if you are going to smoke it, do it in front of me, it’s ok.”

 

I stood there watching his expectant face, the one that wanted me to SMOKE A TWIG in silence for a few minutes before I threw the twig away mumbling (because the shock had affected my vocals) that I was not going to smoke a twig.   EVER.

 

He walked away laughing his victory that he caught me trying to smoke (A TWIG) and I walked away with my head hanging low knowing that my father would never know me enough and I would never trust him sufficiently.

 

 

It’s been like that ever since.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tiny

When I was a little girl I use to ride my bike (that post is in Spanish, sorry it’s how it came) with my grandfather and come back home with my pockets filled with things like these:

I love tiny wild flowers.  I must have driven him crazy because I stopped on every single freaking bush or tree with flowers.  And then I gave them all to my mother, who was always very thankful and thought it was the cutest thing, but I’m sure she threw them to the garbage that same day.  I don’t blame her at all.

My mother’s daughter

A couple of days ago I was at a store, well, I was at Marshalls (what am I hiding not saying which store, really?) doing something very important BUYING COWGIRL BOOTS! (and a set of Chinese mini notebooks, why would I not tell you?) And I had a spooky awesome experience.

I was in the slowest line in the history of Marshalls store reading a Spanish copy of New Moon because it was there, the only book within arms reach in the slowest line in the history of Marshalls store and who can blame me?!  Show yourself and I will tell you what it is like to feel wrinkles developing in your skin as you age away in a line that DOES NOT MOVE.  I have a sort of promise to myself that I won’t read those books but it turned out to be a good decision because it was such a funny read and it helped with the stress.  The story is comical to me on itself but to top it, the translation was from Spain and it had all the LOLS, it was hilarious.

So I’m there chuckling as softly as I could manage while reading when I felt this very soft and warm hand on my shoulder.  I turned around and this lovely lady is looking at me and says “I’m sorry, is your mom’s name *insert my very long mom’s name here*?”  I freaked out a little or a lot because I had never seen this woman in my life, and I guess that the shock made me go “yes”.
She covered her face with her hand and emerged from that with a very red face and watery eyes (which freaked me out MORE) and said “good God in heaven, you look just like her”.  I smiled and upon seeing that I was befuddled she told me that she was in school with my mom up until high school, she hadn’t seen her since then.  She saw me and thought the only way I could look so much like her was that I was her daughter.

So, wow.

Every time someone says that I look like my mom it’s a great compliment, but I can’t accept it, because seriously, my mom was like absolutely gorgeous.   She was beautiful but she was also so graceful and elegant, something royal.  I’ve written that so many times before, I’m gonna share some pictures, not the best ones but after some scrapbooking this is what I found at hand:

Mom

Mom

Mom saluting captain

Mom saluting captain

So there, if that is not a pretty woman I don’t know what is.  But really, I don’t look like her there. At all.  There are other pictures when she was younger that I could say it’s me and people would believe me (actually done it a couple of times) but there for example, not at all.

Apparently though, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I am very much my mother’s daughter.
Which could mean that when I grow up I could have an once of her sophistication, so good for me.

And because I’ve written so much about her too, this is grandma:

Grandma

Grandma

We (my cousins and me) used to call that picture “the movie star picture” when we were younger.

Cuando me digas sí

I LOVE boleros.

With more passion than I will ever be able to express. Boleros are for over a century in this island the soft song in the balconies of lovers. They are ever so mellow but the soulful percussion of our bongós make them perfect for dancing the kind of dance where the girl snuggles in the neck of the boy and they both sway as minimal as possible, a dance of passion and longing.

Nobody is making boleros anymore, at least the good kind, and it’s a pity I can’t get over because boleros where songs with lyrics that made you hope and dream. Lyrics that told a story about a man in love with a woman with eyes like stars and a smile that filled his soul, someone who remembered the scent of hair and the fluttering feeling of butterflies when they touched a soft hand. Nothing to do with today’s stupid music about how he’s going to tap that ass until it shakes like jelly or whatever.

One day I got out from work and tuned in a radio station (it streams live on the internet!)  that primarily plays salsa but has a huge spot and respect for boleros. I found one bolero playing and turned the radio up with glee. It was saying something like this;

El cielo azul, el verde mar

yo te daré, amor, cuando me digas sí

la luz del sol, y su calor

yo te daré, amor, cuando me digas sí

Which means something like;

The blue sky, the green sea

I will give to you, my love, when you say yes

the light of the sun, and it’s warmth

I will give to you, my love, when you say yes

it was sang by a guy that I could recognize as Bobby Cruz and a woman I had never before heard (but I wanted all her music that night). By the second verse I decided that I am going to marry any guy that dedicates that song to me. I fell in love with it so that, had it been a boy I would have ravished him right there in the middle of the road, in a moving vehicle. It was crazy what I felt, I sang entire parts of it long after it was over, it was etched in my brain.

They didn’t said the name of the song when it finished so when I got home I went to my mother and told her that I need to know the name of a song that goes something like and I sang to her a little of what I remembered and she goes “oh darling, that is your father’s favorite song, I don’t know the name but I’ll call him because he LOVES that song, he’ll tell you anything about it.”

And then there I was with my eyes as big as they get looking at her “what do you mean his favorite song?” My mother laughed at me and then told me that he loved that song always, he even used to sing it when he was younger with a friend. I must have stood there like an idiot for a while going over what just happened because wha?! And this happened casually?

That is weird because my father, as I have stated before is a musician and he serenaded me to sleep when I was little with his favorite songs, which is why I know by heart many songs from his time and the time of his father and the time of his grandfather. Which makes me a freak in front of people my age when I start singing lyrics of songs from the 30’s.  But apparently he didn’t sang ALL his favorite songs.

My mom had the speakerphone on so I heard him say “oh, that’s La Marie and Bobby Cruz, Cuando me Digas sí.”

I downloaded it that night and I sang along to it from the first time I played it, but I didn’t freaked out about it anymore because it was obvious now. I have those lyrics embedded in my DNA. Maybe I’m meant to sing it to someone one day, from my heart, as we slowly sway with the music.

That is definitely not the best quality to hear the song, BUT that was certainly one of the best recent renditions and I love it because by the reaction of the people, all the flags waving and the way the voices of the public sound like a chorus you can see what that song is for us, puertorriqueños.

I think clinically, this is called a trauma

My father has fully prepared me to tolerate the worst husband ever.

You know that fear some women have about a husband who does every pet peeve they have?  Leaving the toilet seat up?  Not taking out the trash?  I don’t know what that is.

What my father puts me through makes me long for someone who WILL let the toilet seat up.  I can snap that thing shut in two seconds.  On the other hand, when he shaves for example, since I’m talking about the bathroom issues, it takes me about half an hour to leave the bathroom decent for usage.  You would think seven kids had a water party in there.  No, that was just him, shaving.  The fact that you can splash in the floor always astounds me.  And how can the curtain get wet when it’s on the other side of the bathroom?  It defies the laws of physics.

The trash?  We have to beg, my mother and I, BEG.   And I’ve never seen him putting a new trash bag in the can.  EVER.

When he cooks I avoid the kitchen for days afterwards, I’d rather starve than go in there. It doesn’t matter how simple it’s the dish he’s making, he will manage to use every single clean thing in there, and make a pile of dishes that touches the ceiling.  There will be food (raw and cooked) everywhere, places that we didn’t even knew existed, we have to scrub there afterwards… it’s insane.

The other day was an awesome example of how he exasperates me beyond measure in what I think it’s a training for married life that will let me enjoy every single annoying thing my future husband does.

Father, he NEVER checks my SUV for anything productive like, does it have enough oil? Water? Air pressure in the tires? … nope, never. But the other day he opened my car (SUV, whatever) to SPRAY IT WITH NEW CAR SCENT.  Because I don’t have the most sensible smell sense ever and that won’t make me want to kill someone.  No, it’ll just make me say every bad word I know in two seconds and spend what… fifteen to twenty minutes? Of my ride to work looking around for the source of the awful smell that was driving me crazy.  So I call him and ask him where did he hide the sweaty business man that was making my car stink so much and he tells me that no, that’s not a thing, it’s a SPRAY.  Where did he spray this?  All over, but mostly RIGHT ON THE AIR CONDITIONER VENTS.  Oh my, thank you! That was so thoughtful!  Now I’ll drive to work with the windows down in a 97 degree weather with the Sahara Dust caressing my face, so nice.

And since when does it matter what MY car smells like?  I’m the only person that uses it, isn’t it a given that it will smell however I want it to?  Who goes around spraying everyone’s cars with a scent that they like?  It’s like walking around spraying people with a perfume they like;  crazy.

One day later he had to write some info and what paper did he use?  He grabbed what was the inside of a new book I was making and wrote there.  The thing had the marker and the headbands already and was right in the middle of the rest of it’s parts, including the cover, he thought (thinking!  That would’ve been good!) it was something my mom was making.  Because then it would have been ok to MESS IT UP.

I know, I’m a horrible difficult person.   I AM. I know this.  But don’t worry he’s eliminating all these from me.  He’ll give me an ulcer before I’m good, but we’ll get there.

On the good side, if I ever join a dating website I can advertise myself awesomely with “there’s nothing a guy can do -regarding the house/living together- that will drive me up a wall.”