My Wedding Day Planning

Maybe this post should be titled “How Not To Plan Your Wedding.” As Jane Eyre cried “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I felt then”  It was an excruciatingly, emotional, anxiety filled season. Que exagerada verdad? Little did I know that that was easy-peasy, compared to the weddings out there in the big wide world beyond my life. After assisting a daughter, and a daughter in law in their preparations, I can see that I barely scratched the surface of all the complex wedding planning details that are out there.

The days after I was engaged to my cold blooded Englishman I didn’t even think about the wedding, I thought about my flaco, he was gone on Westpac and I was sad and lonely, pobrecita noviecita. I wasn’t a child bride, but I certainly felt like a little girl who had lost her favorite teddy bear.  I stared at my engagement ring and wondered if I really would be married to Benjamin Walter one day. In front of the mirror I sounded out what would be my married name, Rosalba Greene. That sounded weird. I think it was supposed to be Rosalba Zepeda Greene. Hmmm? Would I ever get used to this new name?

My days were busy with work and church, still no planning. Some of the families at church might have been feeling sorry for me because I was getting many dinner invites and I was truly appreciating my friends. Soon I was getting letters from mi fiancé and we were counting down the days for his return. Talking about married life, wondering what our kids would look like, but no mention of a wedding day. Three months into engagement, I was feeling like I could make it, especially since I was truly enjoying all that home cooking, so much so that I was putting on weight.  

Wake Up Call

My roommate, who was my bestie and my appointed maid of honor, came home from a long trip overseas. She took one look at me and said something about my weight. She was shocked and I was…. Hijole! I was sad? Mad? Definitely no longer glad to see her! Gorda?! Is that what she called me? Had I really gained that much weight? Unbeknownst to me, I had gained 25lbs in 4 months. Imaginate!!

The drive home from L.A. airport was not a happy one, I was sullen and she was tired and she had more to ask. 

How’s your wedding planning going? Que? Wedding Planning?  That opened up the floodgates that would remain open probably until my wedding day.  I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I wanted. Are you kidding?! It took 2 years to sort out my emotions and heart about marrying my gringo, how was I supposed to know what color scheme my wedding should have? The dress is supposed to be white right? We would have enough color variety in our lives in marriage! For the next 2 hours she drilled me about the wedding date, my wedding dress, our invitations, the ceremony and reception. What kind of bouquet would I have? What about her dress? What did I want her to wear? Dios mio, what was going on? I had to choose a dress for her? After the barrage of questions, like a true maid of honor she walked me through a simple plan, bueno, it was supposed to be simple. 

The race was on now. The first real ceremony and reception I would ever plan and I discovered that planning a beautiful reception of any kind wasn’t my calling. Thankfully, marriage is about life after the wedding (porque, I can cook a delicious meal for a beautiful reception).. I figured out my wedding date. That was a tricky because we wanted to be married as soon as he got off the boat from WestPac in July, but we had to settle for a day in September.

I had my dress, and after a tedious time of choosing paper and envelopes my invitations were printed in both Spanish and English. I breathed a bit easier when they were all mailed out. My color scheme was settled (colors I don’t even like, I don’t know why I chose them?) Someone helped me with a plan for my flower arrangements and bouquet. My wedding cake was ordered. Ben bought his suit overseas and his wedding ring. Those are the big parts, and that pretty much sums up wedding planning.

Vamos , Let’s go to the week before the wedding day. My Benjamin had been home over a month, we hadn’t rested, he was getting fidgety, his mom and brothers were coming to town just before the weekend, just the thought of meeting my future in-laws for the first time made my stomach churn. Did I mention that the stress of planning my muy sencilla wedding  had knocked off those 25 lbs.? That was a Romans 8:28 situation for me! Asi es, I was my skinny size. That Sunday the week before my life changed and I would become Mrs. Benjamin Greene, I was tired and anxious but I was looking forward to my life with Ben. 

Stop The Wedding

Then I got the call. Mi ama, she was in the hospital, she had had a stroke. We didn’t know much else, so I packed my bag and waited for my sis Marina to pick me up. This would be the beginning of a long relationship with Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley Ca. 

It was a quick 2 1/2 hour drive, but they were also the longest 2 1/2 hours of my young life. I had never seen what a stroke could do. My family was in the waiting room. My ama was stable, but resting, I could tell she was different.

The next couple of days were fuzzy and confusing. I had to be at work and what about my wedding? Marina and I drove back and forth a couple of times, so tired and blurry eyed,  and in those times I barely saw Ben, we were both feeling the weight of this. Then I got a call from the person taking care of my wedding flowers. She said the whole deal was off, she said I wouldn’t be getting flowers from that vendor. There would be no flowers for my wedding. Would there be a wedding? I cried, I didn’t know what to do. I had to talk to Ben. 

I calmed down and was alone with both my parents in that hospital room. My ama’s expressions were marred by the stroke. She knew she wouldn’t be at my wedding and she was sad, I didn’t want her to miss my wedding. It was hard to see her like this, I told her I would postpone it until she was better. She wasn’t speaking, she really couldn’t. My dad spoke for them. They had talked after the doctor had talked to them. Mom would be at least another week in the hospital before they could transfer her. They didn’t know how long her recovery would be. They didn’t know where she would go for recovery. I think we both remembered my graduation day, we both cried. Ama had missed my graduation day, she had been in the hospital then too. I still didn’t know what to do. As my mother held my hand, Dad explained that I must go on with the plans for my wedding, he talked about them being old and me starting my life. He assured me that he would be at my wedding for both of them. I am a person of many words but I couldn’t speak the words I had within. Of course I wanted dad there, but how does a girl get married knowing her mother wouldn’t wear the pretty dress she bought for the wedding. No flowers and no mama on my wedding day. There is a chasm of forgotten feelings, I truly don’t recall how I moved forward.

Ben was much relieved to know that the wedding was still set for September 25.  Y asi paso, we were married that day.

I was able to order a bouquet, guess where? A big chain grocery store! Besides not knowing what I was doing I was in a daze on so many different levels. The grocery store flower shop had flowers in my color scheme peach and teal, (ya se, peach and teal??? maybe it was popular in the 80s?) and the florist seemed excited to put together a bouquet for such an important occasion.

So I married my Benjamin and shared a meal with our guests. Then we rushed to the hospital, like I had done on my graduation day and got on the elevator with my esposo y apa. There was ama all by herself on that hospital bed and her face lit up when she saw us come in, the stroke couldn’t hide her joy.  I leaned on her as she laid there. My beautiful ama welcomed my Benjamin into her life. We both leaned into her as the nurse took our picture. I wish I knew what my mother was thinking that day, maybe like a mother does she felt anxious for my happiness, no se, she couldn’t really speak. I was different again, now I was a married woman. De veras? A married woman! 

When we got back from our honeymoon, I went straight to visit mom at her rehab here in San Diego. Now I would be able to be with mom everyday and help as much as possible in her recovery. Her stroke recovery was difficult for her, she never quite fully recovered, she went home to be with Jesus a few months after she went back home with my apa.

Lost Treasure

I cried again as I remembered these days, I cried harder when I couldn’t find my pictures with my ama. I felt the loss all over again and I have to tell myself just now that I’ll see her again one day in my wedding dress. My treasures weren’t completely lost, my Benjamin uncovered my most important picture after some digging and praying, “Oh God, help my wife find this picture, in Jesus name”.

With 33 years behind us we have many many pictures.

Our Cord of Three Strands – 33 Years of Destiny

A marriage contract can sound so serious, verdad? How about a wedding vow, a heartfelt promise, a covenant, I remember using all these to consider the weight of marriage.

I just got back from a sweet country wedding in the beautiful state if Oregon. My bestie’s son was married. Oh how I appreciated the “Cord of Three Strands” tradition, a beautiful picture of marriage with God in the mix.  As it always happens when I am at a wedding, I am pulled back into the  memories of my own love story. 

Watching the young couple, I caught my breath, as I remembered the butterflies that  grabbed me on my own wedding day. Today marks 33 years of marriage with my Benjamin, my flaco, my orejónel amor de mi vida. For Ben, I wanted to shine and I did. It was a simple wedding, no embellishments, no glitter except what comes from pure and genuine love.

The Truest Love

I come from the 80s, and I come from dysfunction. Marriage wasn’t something I wanted or cared for. Having a boyfriend was cool, but I saw too much heartbreak in marriage to hope for any good to come from it. My 18 year old self felt a strong conviction that marriage was for the blind.

Pero una noche, on a clear hot dessert night, the truest love came. I gave myself completely to the only one who could heal my heart. Imaginate! I was a new girl and I began to view marriage differently.  In His hands my broken heart would be mended and one day I would marry the right one, at the right time. 

Then came Ben. Otra vez me enamore, I fell in love again, but we came from different worlds. It’s true, opposites do attract. He liked me, I liked him, he was cute, but he was too quiet. I couldn’t figure him out.

I wish I could say it was a lovely transition, a beautiful dance of courting. It wasn’t, neither of us can dance. Ya se, how can a Mexican have no rhythm? My desire was there, I liked that foreigner from the East coast; un gringo! My heart fluttered whenever I looked at Ben.  He couldn’t be the one. White wasn’t on my radar, I wasn’t trying to choose him. Ben had chosen me and when his gaze lingered on me, I could not deny what was unfolding. I needed time, I needed assurance, and I needed God in the mix of it all. We took our time. Have I told you that Ben is a patient man?

Marriage was a serious matter for me, I was apprehensive about the “embellishments” of a mixed marriage. As usual, I sorted out my thoughts, worries, and emotions and I clung to my terapista (my journal)!  I laid everything out, all the intricate parts of my thoughts, what I considered pros and cons, and ALL the differences… It helped me come to a good conclusion and move forward. I’ve never played with legos, pero, if you have kids then you have seen and felt the intricate pieces of a “lego work” when it’s laid out. Ouch!  That’s how writing can be, words thrown onto the pages of my journal or notebook, for later use. Saco todo, I just kind of unpack everything in my journals, eventually I circle around to it again. (37 years of journaling books do take up space pero ni modo, I’m old school, I’ve got to have the hard copy!)

When the time came to say those precious vows, my whole heart was ready.

I, Rosalba Zepeda, take thee Benjamin Walter Greene, to be my wedded husband from this day forward…. Oh what sweet love….

I wrote this poem a few years ago about that journey to the altar, remembering those promises I made as a starry eyed young bride. Here’s a glimpse of that walk down the aisle to my Benjamin. 

Destined

He wasn’t my first love, or even my choice

As I walked in my new life, I happened upon him

Two different worlds, the East and the West

A cold-blooded Englishman was calling on me?

As I walked in my new life, I happened upon him

He seemed not to notice my very brown skin.

A cold-blooded Englishman was calling on me?

He weathered the time and my chaos within

His strong white hand covered my young brown skin

As I poised for the battle, he watched with few words

He weathered the time and my chaos within

 God lighted the path that I carefully took

As I poised for the battle, he watched with few words

An array of bright colors our differences made

Our God lighted path we joyfully walked

He wasn’t my first love but with time he was my choice

Our Cord of Three Strands

More than three decades might not seem that long, but it is most of my adult life, more than half my lifetime. Mira nomas!  God’s hand has been on our marriage covenant. 

I don’t want to discourage anyone, especially my two bachelor sons but, some of those 12,045 days of the last 33 years were lived in reverse and the only one who could push us forward was the third person in our marriage cord, Christ. Through Him, with Him I can confidently say “I do” again and a again. I’ve seen the blessing of him holding us together.

The echoes of laughter resound in my mind as I remember our moped drive around the city of Mazatlan Mexico. Young, inexperienced and without credit cards, Mr. and Mrs. Greene moved along the busy streets to see what we could see, enjoying each other more than the beautiful beaches surrounding us. Life came hard and fast. As a young wife, I felt the gape of loss when my ama passed into eternity, who would guide through the early years in my kitchen? Y mi amor, my quiet Benjamin never left my side. I still hear Ben’s calm voice  saying, soothing my fearful cries, “It’s ok, it’s gonna be ok,” when the doctor told us he would have to do a C-section to deliver our first baby. Then I was there again on that operating table, ready to receive our second boy. Imaginate el gozo! When our little bundle was a wee little girl!

Oh how I felt the chasm of east to the west when Ben had to leave me to be with his mother as she finished her days here on earth. I had to be strong, I couldn’t be needy, Bens mama was dying. Pero que feo sentí esa separación. Separations were and are hard for me.  Again I say, hats off to the Navy wife. A heartfelt appreciation and salute for our military families

These are only a few recuerdos, highlights  from the first decade of our life together. God has given us an abundant life together. It wasn’t perfect or painless, but it was beautiful. A marriage covenant with Jesus in it, is the way to go.

Relationships Through Letter Writing

Getting personal letters in the mail is such a fun experience. Something I’ve enjoyed through the years. When I was in middle school I was linked to a Japanese pen pal. This might have been my initial experience of letter writing and the U.S. Postal Service. My pen pals name was Youko, I could tell by her letters and the photo she sent me that  I was writing to a rich & refined girl. She described a life I couldn’t even imagine. I truly don’t remember what I wrote to her. I definitely didn’t have any cute pics of myself looking poised and reflective, or any pics at all come to think of it. I did however enjoy the whole idea of my apa bringing home a letter addressed to me, I liked it so much that I kept writing back.

Writing letters, buying stamps and putting them in the mail for delivery is almost a thing of the past. That makes me sad and I am making an effort to keep the letter writing tradition alive between me and my grandchildren. This was initiated by my 5 year old nietecito, Braye, who told me he wanted to be my pen pal. How could I deny such a request? Oh, that I might water that seed and one day still receive letters from my 15 year old Braye.  

You know what else is so enjoyable and also emotional? Rereading the letters you’ve received through the years. Minimalists might not encourage you to do this, but I’ve saved many of the letters I’ve received through the years. This has helped me through my mourning journeys. Letters from mis hermanos y hermanas. Letters from my mother in law, letters from dear friends and letters from my love. 

I’ve said it already, but it’s worth repeating, girls love to talk and letter writing is a way to talk without interruptions. However, when you are done talking in the letter, waiting for a response kills you! I am embarrassed to admit that I’m an impatient conversationalist, I tend to interrupt, or not wait for a response to the question I asked, so letter writing has definitely built character and patience in me. Dicen por hay, that “patience is a virtue” 

My relationship with my suegra was long distance, mostly through letters. She also saved her letters, when she passed they came back to me. I have found myself nervously laughing or shuddering at my style. I expressed myself in too familiar a tone with my dear mother-in-law. My ama would reprove me, que malcriada! In my defense, I was not trying to be disrespectful, I was attempting to balance two cultures and sound…. casual? Sauve? And I especially wanted her to know my new role was very comfortable, and it was, except for in-law adjustments. Just reading “Dear Nancy” still seems too casual.

In the old, old days letters were much more formal and when I wrote letters in spanish they were also quite proper. For some of the spanglishers or non spanish speakers here’s a thought on manners that I haven’t quite translated well. You is translated usted which would be used to show respect or formality toward a stranger or an older person or perhaps clergy. Then, when you’re familiar with a person, we use with people of the same level age, rank, or friendship. All that to say that to call my mother in-law by her first name felt squeamish. However, it did not stop me from writing and relating to my suegra, and her responses kept our letters flowing.

WESTPAC

There was a time when it felt like receiving letters was critical to my very existence! Porque? because immediately following our fireworks engagement, I had to experience a long separation from my fiance, mi amor, my comprometido. I didn’t know much about the engagement process, but I knew we had a marriage to prepare for and a wedding to plan and it would have to be done from a distance. 

I braced myself for a west pac separation, Ben was on an Landing Craft Unit: LCU within the USS Juneau,  a deployment that consisted of port stops into Hawaii, Guam, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines, and Australia. It was Bens dream to see the world and these beautiful places, but things had changed. He was leaving his girl behind. Meanwhile, being apart affirmed the idea that I screamed in my head that I could not make it as a military wife. All my fears were crowding in on me.  Miedo que se iba a olvidar de mí, scared that his mom would reject me. Afraid that maybe… Anyway, ya te imaginas, it was the longest six months of my life! Those few days before my flaco left, there were few words spoken, he couldn’t find any and I was choking with too many emotional words. We agreed that I would focus on our simple wedding (another time I’ll tell you about that planning, or lack of planning) and he was going to save money to get ready for all the upcoming expenses. This plan would keep me busy and  time would fly by. 

Love Letters

Going to the mailbox and seeing letters from my sailor brought inexplicable joy. 

Writing to my Benjamin was kind of like talking to him in person!  I unloaded it all, all my fears and concerns. Days and sometimes weeks passed before I “heard him speak”. My sailors FPO address made deliveries interesting since they were in the middle of the ocean and I imagine mail was delivered between ports. When mail did get delivered I would receive it in bundles all at once, then nothing for days. While he received letters all mixed up in dates. We ended up resorting to numbering each letter to keep track.

We were young and I was a typical novia, the important things were: 1. Do you still love me? 2. Do you really miss me? 3. What shall we do about our wedding planning?  Through all letters our common faith in God was the glue that kept us focused and hopeful.

I knew it was going to be hard. In fact, even though I hadn’t experienced it yet, I knew I would barely survive and to think he still had two more years to go in the Navy. All you military wives with years of experience are probably chuckling or rolling in carcajadas at my imagination, verdad que si?!  What memories come up in your mind as you read this?

I say hats off to military wives who endure these separations and keep their family boat afloat during these deployments. Thank you also for your sacrifice.

When I was rereading the other day, the 55 year old mature me, was bien avergonzada at my chillona, rogona letters. My goodness, I really believed it was all about me! Besides telling me very often how much he loved and missed me, he resorted to throwing in some Tagalog and spanish. He called me “maganda”, and I was like Que?! I was his beautiful Rose, I melted and embraced it.

So began our long distance engagement. He reassured me often, calling me darling and his dearest, making me yearn for him. I declared my hopeless devotion in an overboard manner. I quote, “ Benjamin I love you so much…this countdown is making me crazy, it makes me think of you TOO MUCH… When we get married, Ben, I’ve got so many hopes and dreams and I’m believing God for them to come true…I can’t wait till you come home.”

I asked a million questions that he had no answers for, pero, when I asked about a wedding budget. I quote “I have no idea the costs or the arrangements you have made with the exception of the cake, but let’s, if we can keep it under $400.00. That really should be plenty, I hope.” Daniella and I had a nice little laugh at this recollection, when planning her wedding he offered similar sentiment assuring her that $3,000 should cover the costs. If you know anything about planning a wedding, you can imagine the horrified look we shared. Needless to say the princess prevailed and she had a beautiful wedding.

Almost 33 years later Ben and I had a wonderful chuckle at young Benjamin Greene at sea, the ocean waves had lulled his senses.

In conclusion: 

In this day and age, an email and or a text is the closest some people get to receiving “a letter in the mail” I know that my grandkids love to “get mail” and so do I! I encourage you to write a nice love letter to your amor and your amorcitos. While you’re at it, consider writing a letter to a soldier that’s out to sea, Ben appreciated receiving letters; especially the ones from me, his comprometida.

Acuerdense, be extra nice to your mail carrier, they work hard to get that mail to you.

waiting for my sailor
welcome home at last

Mexican-American Girl Goes East Part 3: The Cousins

It’s The People That Matter:

I’ve really enjoyed myself as I’ve taken this trip down memory lane to New England. Pero ya se que, I have done very little justice to the beautiful New England scenes. My eyes are mostly captured when something is familiar. Quisas, that sounds narrow, and I’m working on expanding my vision. So it happens that when a breathtaking scene grabs me, I always want to insert one of us into the scene. I want to memorialize it that way, but Ben probably considers it a photobomb! He sees the beauty of nature or historic sites and captures pictures all along a trip. People matter to me, when I look back at a memory, it’s hardly about the landscape and the climate. In the early days when Bens family was just Bens family, I was nervous about every aspect of relating. Comprendes? Now that they are our family, asi es, this Mexican American is a true Greene today.

Mother in Law Dance

Meeting my mother in law was  súper overwhelming, most every young wife will agree, that across the board it can be intimidating. My head was already filled with worries that I was not going to meet her standards. Can I insert right here, I am a mother of three boys, now men. mis hijos are guapos y trabajadores! Can another woman see to all their needs and wants? Hijole! Madre Cuervo! I heard my ama share this little tale more than once. You can imagine my fears, verdad? What will she think of me? Que va decir de mi? Maybe she had another plan for my Benjamin? Anyway you get the picture right? I have no idea what my suegra was thinking of me because she was very New Englandish, polite and reserved. Recently I picked up a book called “The Mother Inlaw Dance”. Check out the subtitle “Can Two Women Love the Same Man and Still Get Along” It was a good read, Heartfelt stories that described both sides of the relationship.

Brown Skin and White Skin

Now top all those worries with anxiety about my being different from Ben. On the day Ben went to ask my parents for my hand in marriage, my apa looked at Ben as he put our arms next to each other and asked “Do you see her color?”  Being in New England for the first time, I truly felt my fathers concerns. Could Ben take care of me and make me feel safe? Would his cousins see beyond my skin color? Would I see past the white? 

The Hostess

My mother in-law Nancy getting ready for the family meal.

Settling in and taking in all the personal history the old Manse held was unreal. De veras, some of his family were very much a part of American history in the making. Imaginate? Ancestors from the Mayflower! Once here in the New World, they were considered immigrants! That knowledge should have comforted me as the first house guests arrived. 

To keep things in order, during family meeting weekend, any family member not in residence has to “reserve” their room with the hostess as needed. Nancy was a fine hostess, situating us, the cousins and organizing the potluck lunch, in her quiet demeanor.

I didn’t realize that it would be my turn to hostess one day.

Meeting the Cousins

Those cousins that lived in town walked over to the Manse to greet and meet Nancy’s new daughter in law, at least that’s how I felt, yet I feel my friend again saying “Esa, it’s not all about you” But I was anxious, should I have changed out of my shorts and calmed my wild hair down. That humidity was doing a number on my hair. Should I look a little more presentable to meet more of Ben’s family? 

The Frenchies

Dorthy and Jacques girls on Mt. Manadnock

 The Teddy Greenes from down the road came by to say hello and talk about the family meal for the meeting. Cousin Teddy was intimidating, in the New England way. He was very tall, lanky, serious and quiet. Except for meeting him I didn’t really share words with him. Mira nomas! Los Greenes have a French branch in the family. Ben had always teased that his family was already multicultural, now, I was meeting Frenchies. Quien sabe if cousin Dorothy is 2nd cousin, or a cousin once removed? She married a Frenchman and remained in France.

I Wanted to Run and Hide

Very friendly primos, but I was being a “ranchera” that’s what we call someone who’s too timid and gives off a rude vibe, I’m really tempted to blame it on cousin Teddy 😑. Dorothy’s husband, Jacque, introduced himself, thick accent and all, that helped calm my anxious nerves. Still the differences felt like huge chasms, not just my Mexican, but the economic status. I wanted to run and hide in the Cannonball room (remember the rooms have names), but that was scary too! 

 The cousins from out of town started arriving, first was Banky and his wife Sue. Banky was Nancy’s 1st cousin, we call it “primos/hermanos.” Ya se, something about latinos that we intensify life with such intimacy, can you get closer than a cousin/brother?. Cousin Bank was friendly and a little forward, which added to my nervios. 

When small talk ensued, he told me about his career as a school principal. Andale! That’s why I was uncomfortable. Mr. Hinkle, our basketball coach turned principal, would roam the school grounds to see who he would bust! Not a settling first impression. Then he disclosed that he was a minister. Mas nervios! I was saying things like “I don’t do religion anymore, I have a personal relationship with Jesus” Hijole! 

 Banky was curious about my upbringing. I was guarded. Why did he ask if I spoke spanish? Pues si, I am Mexican. I forgot that not all Mexican Americans spoke spanish, that it all depended on location, preferences and convictions. He did inform me that he dealt with spanish speaking students; Puerto Ricans and Newyorkicans, but in my eyes that’s a whole different language.

I clicked with his wife Sue a bit easier when she pointed out that she too was an “out-law” in the family. She shared her initial reactions to life in the Manse and discreetly? Or quietly and calmly encouraged me to talk about myself, Hay si, like that is ever difficult.

It was Bank and Sue’s long time tradition to spend several days in Jaffrey in the Manse during family meeting days. They had their daily routine and planned their various dinner dates and forums to attend. When they talked about going to a forum that first summer, I didn’t let on that I didn’t know what a forum was, it sounded so technical, so clinical. Una junta? Just a meeting?! A place where people hear views and opinions on a specific topic. In my world, we met at the dinner table, and the loudest voice interjected his/her ideas and the platica proceeded through the meal. 

Cousin Jane

Jonathan and his cousins

On Saturday morning, the day of the family meeting, I met Cousin Jane. She was a little bit different. Like, she veered off my New Englander compass somewhat. Yes, she was a little severe. I learned pretty quickly that she took her heritage, her projects, her jobs and her views quite seriously. She voiced her opinions with some feisty tones sometimes. Cousin Jane was a woman with goals. From what I can tell, when she took on a cause, like women’s rights, she gave herself to it. It did take me a minute to recognize that she wasn’t necessarily bossy, but her hands were in the masa 😉. As she chatted, she filled me in on the Torrey relatives, her brother Fred and his family. She asked questions, wanting to know what my plans were or even what I had accomplished thus far. Hijole! I wanted to react defensively, especially since I had done a quick inventory on my accomplishment and knew I had nothing great to share, at least not what I thought she wanted to hear. Instead, I smiled and told her about myself, no fluff added, porque, there was none.

Cousin Jane was not a typical Torrey, don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t loud, but she spoke her mind. My bestie could easily pass as a New Englander, she’s got a quiet voice, a calm demeanor and when she listens to you, she also studies you, both ears and eyes are paying attention. Sometimes that makes me want to squirm. This is how I would describe the Torrey side of Ben’s family. Comprendes? 

Homemade Ice Cream Tradition

Cousin Jane & her daughter, cousin Debbie

Cousin Jane was in charge of the wonderful sweet tradition of making and sharing homemade ice cream on family meeting day. She brought her prepared fresh peach mixture, her recipe, rock salt and ice. The antique hand crank  ice cream maker was at the Manse ready for use. She recruited all the kids, teens, and toddlers. She used any willing person that wasn’t in the actual meeting. A little kid stood on the lid to secure it while a big kid cranked the handle, spinning and freezing the ice cream. Good old fashioned hard work for sure. Traditions were important to Jane and even with something like ice cream, it seemed that she did not minimize the experience or change the patterns. 

Daniella helping with the cleanup after the ice cream was cranked

Offenses Will Come

How do you publicly speak about first impressions and not offend? My typical latina self had several reactions at my first family meeting. Some things were strange to me. I tended to misinterpret certain mannerisms. My biggest hurdle has been the quietness and the lack of emotion or reactions to situations, even after almost 33 years I can find myself offended with my flaco for not feeling enough. Asi es, coming from an emotional familia and culture I sometimes still forget that lack of outward emotion doesn’t mean lack of feeling. In my world, the way we tend to control all other emotions is with outward stone faced anger. That will show a person to stay away and keep me from talking too much. Imaginate! Bens had to field that bomb plenty of times. The thing that keeps both of us grounded is that we are anchored in Christ, otherwise ni se sabe!

Conclusion: Different People can thrive together.

Today, there are many mixed marriages, but over 30 years ago, I really thought I was the only Mexican in New England, and we were the only couple with this formula; Mexican American + New England American, I was not alone and for sure in America we were not that unique. It didn’t stop me from feeling like my sailor on the high seas, bien solita en el  mar. 

I know now that with a willing heart couples, families can grow and prosper no matter the different stations of life.

Mexican American Girl Goes East Part 2

Last week we travelled back East to my first visit into Ben’s world and quietly made it through Connecticut. Although it was culturally shocking to all my senses, I was glad that my husband was so eager to share his life with me. 

Gracias a Dios que I spent my introduction to the Greene family with just my mother in law and Ben at first. The rest of the cousins I’d meet at the Manse. Another tweak,  Ben called everyone except his brothers, cousins. Asi es, either first cousin Will or second cousin Bankcroft and so on. Muy diferente than our classifications of familia. In large Mexican families it can get complicated. You’ve got tios y tias, then come the cousins. So my brothers and sisters are my kids’ uncles and aunts and my first cousins are also their tios y tias, get it?. Maybe I shouldn’t stir that pot huh?

The Mysterious New Englanders

With so many new waters to tread, I wasn’t sure how well I handled it all, and my suegra? Well she was just like a New Englander, cool, calm and collected no matter what she thought of this spicy or feisty latina! Aqui, right here, in the beginning of this post, I’ll confess that even after almost 33 years of communion with my Benjamin, New Englanders remain a mystery to me. 

Mi Suegra

Maybe Nancy, y no me juzguen, it’s actually very appropriate to use her first name, she encouraged it, no disrespect intended. In spanish I would probably have called her Doña Nancy.

Anyway, maybe she just put herself in my shoes. A young pregnant wife, away from her comfort zone. I’m very much like my ama, if I feel it I show it, if I’m not feeling it, I show it more. Then drench my culture shock with pregnancy hormones, hijole!  I felt like Ben needed to school me or warn me about the “New Englander ways,” but he didn’t. Nancy was gracious and patient as I discovered this new world.

In the fews months of marriage I knew from pictures and Bens descriptions that he came from an “upper middle class”. Imaginate! I didn’t even know there was an upper and lower deck to the middle class, and to be fair to Ben, he never really thought of it or considered what “class” he was in. I mean the family pictures on the boat in the ocean was a natural occurrence to him.

Through the house in Connecticut, I saw that Ben’s family was comfortable with money, but it wasn’t like I imagined or saw in movies. Their money comforts were not necessarily in rich clothes or new cars or showy things. My suegra drove a small white honda accord, Nancy was no showy lady. 

The Greenes appreciated history, personal history. “Rich” things were items passed down through the generations. They were “rich” in talent and displayed it and yes, they were quite comfortable in their material possessions but they didn’t make a grand affair of their stuff. This helped me to relax…poquito.

Bens Parents & his brother Jeremy

New Hampshire

After a few days in quiet Connecticut I was glad to be on our way to New Hampshire, I needed some distraction and activity, nature was too noisy for me.  It was another beautiful drive of winding back roads lined with huge trees. Everytime Ben turned around to point out a childhood memory, he’d have to wake me up. I was ripping him off of his reminiscing delights with my first trimester, I was nodding off with every curve we took.

It was almost time to meet some more Greenes at the family meeting.  They came from everywhere to gather time every summer. We pulled up into a long driveway in front of the huge house. I had already been seeing the white wood siding and green shutter trimmed houses with lots and lots of windows along the way, but this one was different. The Manse was personal, it’s where the Greenes reconnect. Que suerte, the house was empty. Well maybe not luck, but God’s grace, as I needed time to absorb it all. 

History

Acuerdense, los Greenes, they go all the way back to England, before the New World. Pero, no se asusten, I’ll only go back a couple hundred years 😉.

In the late 1700s Laban Ainsworth, the family patriarch, travelled with his wife, on horseback from Woodstock, Ct. to Jaffrey, NH. There he established his ministry and parsonage as the new appointed minister of the small town. Sounds pretty straight forward verdad que si? According to history and family stories it was a very hard time, but when I’ve heard the accounts from any “even keel” Greene, it seemed like no kind of trial ruffled them. I’m trying to tell it just as a Greene, without drama. Pero, surviving scarlet fever, enduring the American Revolution and escaping your house burning down es bien dramatico!

Heritage

The Ainsworth Manse has remained in the family for 7 generations. The Greene name, that’s Green, with an “e” at the end, linked in when Ben’s great great grandfather, Admiral Theodore Phinney Greene married Señor Laban Ainsworths granddaughter. Mary Minot Ainsworth. From this point the lineage is easier to follow, mas o menos. Their son, Frederick William Greene inherited the Manse. In his lifetime, the early 1900s, he made additions and “modern day” changes as needed. Fijense, check this out, the family has worked hard to preserve the F.W. Greene estate and many of the items within. Remember I told you that antiques are a serious thing in New England? I need to plug in that the other family name is Torrey, which came in when the Torrey brothers married the Greene sisters. These were Ben’s grandparents. 

The Greenes/Torreys have managed to enjoy and maintain the Manse in the 21 century, while hanging on to its 19th and 20th century heritage. 

Walking Through the Manse

The Foyer

 Pasenle, welcome to the Manse. The original house has a large dining room with a fireplace, where the cooking was done, a cooking pot hung in there. Hijole, I am glad the family didn’t insist on that much antiquity. The music room, off to the side, opens to a long patio. A long picnic table is there for dining during the nice summer evenings. It’s encased with a window mesh screen to keep the mosquitos out, but they come anyway! The foyer, a long wide hall where the staircase and front door are, separates the parlor and library. I imagine visitors waited to be escorted to the parlor, or perhaps the library? I’ve read about these scenes in books by Grace Livingston Hill. In my world, visitors called out their greetings from the yard, “Buenos dias Doña Chuy!” Sometimes, the whole visit took place right outside in the yard.

Laban Ainsworth and his wife Mary in the Parlor

At the Manse, maybe a person was admitted into the foyer hung their heavy coat on the coat rack and waited on the settee. Asi es, pero I had only read about coat racks and settees. Upstairs, each of the 4 bedrooms all had a fireplace for those cold fall and winter nights. In New England people know what four seasons are. The Large bathroom had a deep clawfoot tub. Gracias a Dios, that Ben wouldn’t have to lug water to fill it. The window was small enough, and I wouldn’t have to steam up the bathrooms for privacy.

The Prophets chamber/ modern day middle children quarters 😉

Then Ben showed me the “L” part of the house, this held the additions and improvements of the early 1900s.  The L consisted of a kitchen, a bathroom, backstairs and a storage room. These are all part of a long and dark wide hallway. At the end of the hallway, there is the barn and a privy; an “indoor” outhouse, which I always avoid. 

Back hall of the L/modern day hide and seek arena

Upstairs, over the L are 5 more bedrooms, and a  bathroom and way at end of that upstairs hallway is another privy, this one was a 3-holer, Wacala! 

Did I mention that some of the rooms had names because of the people who originally used them or some other notable trait? The Cannon Ball room, The Nursery, The Prophets Chamber, The Boys room, The Canopy Room, Uncle Freddys Room (not at all scary for a California girl 😬). I used to wonder about that tradition, but now I find myself having names for the rooms in our home: Emerys Room, Citas Room, Tatas Room, The Office, the backroom…

The Nursery

The house scared me a little, ok, it scared me alot! It is creaky and dark and it has a deep earthy smell. The ancestors portraits hang on the wall and their eyes follow you when you pass by. Old pictures dan miedo! That first visit, I never went downstairs alone, I’ve grown accustomed to the old house now, but I do avoid those eyes still!

The Manse, in Jaffrey NH is our summer home. Bien huyuyui! We share it with the other branches of the family, dividing up the weeks of summer so that we can enjoy it personally. Every generation has added their modern day comforts, which for the next generation are considered “old fashion” as the years have passed. Horsehair mattresses, yup. Pot Belly stove, utensils and cooking ware from each century, of course the older the more valuable. The Greenes/Torreys believe in hands-on experiences so nothing is too valuable to deprive a family member from using it, eso si, con cuidado por favor.  After all these years, I must admit that I’ve still got so much to learn about Ben and our kids’ rich History. Getting to family meetings in the summer has definitely helped my Greene growth and appreciation. 

Little Ben holding a family tree, Ancestry.com has nothing on the Greene’s!

Its such a rare treasure to be able to pass on so much history to our kids. This perhaps planted the seed to research my own history. Years ago Dad and I were stuck in the hospital for days. Talking kept him calm, and the conversation turned to memories. I started writing down his stories. While it may not be as well documented and preserved, I’ve spent years picking my dads brain, documenting those memories and researching all I can. I now have my own treasure trove of history.

Next week I’ll tell you about the cousins and the family meeting.

Mexican-American Girl Goes East

I’m going to tell you about my New England connection, si pues, this Mexican-American has a few stories and an array of emotions as I discovered Bens gringo world. Nowadays it’s nothing new to find one of mi gente on the East Coast, but back in the mid 80s when I started the brown Mrs. Greene journey I really felt all alone. 

Mixing cultures and social economic lives did add to my conundrum. Hay si, muy gringa, with my big english words verdad?

So I’ll have to go back to the time before the fireworks display of our engagement. 

Having been in San Diego Ca. only a year and a half, the melting pot of cultures intimidated me. My upbringing, with the unspoken but obvious boundaries made me shun gringos. White guys didn’t notice me, I certainly wasn’t going to notice them. Period. 

An Interracial Relationship

You can imagine the incredible turmoil and betrayal I experienced when I noticed my Benjamin! A White guy from New England!? Not even a tanned Californian! Of course I rejected the idea for a season and moved on… and went back…and moved on…but eventually the fireworks burst out the wonderful colorful display of our young love and promise. A hopeful new beginning like God’s promise through the rainbow, a much needed display that sealed the deal.

Jesus People Wedding

Benjamin Walter Greene and I were married in a “Jesus People wedding”. I looked around for a definition of our kind of ceremony and couldn’t find one, so instead of google defining or describing our wedding I will. Our wedding ceremony centered around Jesus instead of the bride. Right in the middle of our Sunday morning worship service the bride comes in. No grand procession of walking the aisle. Doesn’t that sound just right for me? If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll note that I’m a simple girl. A simple wedding was just my stilo but for some brides, or mother of the brides, it’s a huge deal! Hijole

We heard the good news of the Gospel, pledged our hearts and lives to our marriage covenant with a resounding I do. We broke bread with our families, sweet and simple, the honeymoon awaited us. Then, we stepped into the twilight zone of our mixed marriage, well mostly I travelled by myself because for some reason Ben was not tripping! 

Our First Year of Marriage

It was a first year full of fireworks, mourning and hormones, asi es, explosive! My ama had just passed in May, I learned I was pregnant in June and we were scheduled to fly out to the East Coast in July. My life was already upside down and I was going clear across the country to the other coast, Pacific to Atlantic! A whole new world. 

Ben was excited! He couldn’t wait to show me his childhood home and life. As the weeks drew closer he showed me again pictures of his family home in Connecticut, a house his architect father had designed. However, for the Greene/Torrey Family, the real treasure is the family estate home, which is called the Manse. Yes, the houses have names! Manse means the residence of a minister. 

Ben told this little desert girl with barely any roots in America that his family traced back ancestors to England and the Mayflower! Que hiba pensar? So many levels of OMGs!

I accused Ben calling him an Aristocrat! A cold blooded Englishman! My son Emery would say white privilege! Rico! Y yo? No wonder mi apa was very nervous about us marrying. Of course, this is what was causing my nausea. Ben needed to go alone on his voyage to see his family.

Facing My Fears

Everything I had feared was gonna happen to me now! How could Ben make me go? How could Ben leave me all alone? How could Ben even think of going at all? Wasn’t he supposed to leave his family and cleave to me, his wife? I didn’t think I could survive being surrounded by only English speaking people, who would I turn to? 

The East Coast

July came and we boarded our flight to New York City. If I was gonna go so far away I had to have someone familiar so we visited friends in NYC. I thought the Big Apple was for the rich and famous or for the peliculas, no movie, it was the real deal. This Mexican American played tourist in the big city, even if it was only a few days. We visited the Statue of Liberty, The Twin Towers and experienced New York pizza. We wanted to walk the streets of Spanish Harlem but didn’t feel confident enough, I guess my small town barrio experience wasn’t gonna cut it. The New York Ricans were the spanish speakers, sort of. I barely understood them and they said I spoke spanish like I was singing! Three days passed like the whirlwind and before we knew it  we were on a train for  Connecticut. Que aventura verdad? I didn’t realize that the adventure was going to slow down to a complete stop. Life in my husbands world was calm, very calm. It made my heart race, crazy huh?

Staten Island Ferry

A Quiet Vacation

Just getting out of the city quieted everything down, except for my thoughts. Bens mom met us at the train station, a quiet reunion and ride home. I was the only one who felt awkward, I’m glad I was in the backseat because I would have been awkwardly fishing for conversation topics. Right here is a good place to tell you that apart from coming from different worlds, Ben and I are complete opposites. I’m a talker, I’m noisy, I’m busy, I’m loud…he’s not. Wow! It was going to be a silent two weeks.

New England is beautiful. Man! I’m terrible about these types of details, I hope I can hang on to your attention here. Greenery, tall trees, lakes. Aver, see if this helps you see how I saw things. We drove down the narrow roads with tall trees on each side and looking far into the distance you almost felt like the trees were going to close you into a tunnel. Bien bonito, like in the movies. compare that to the dry desert view of the Imperial Valley 

Mosquitos

In the big city, with all the pollution and noise the mosquitoes didn’t bother me, but as soon as I stepped out of Nancys car, they welcomed my fresh blood. Ben says it’s that spicy latina blood that I bring from the West. 

The Architect and the Artist

Ben’s dad had designed the house in an H shape. Muy interesante. The tall pillars of the H were the main rooms and bedrooms. The horizontal pillar of the H had the bathrooms and laundry room. I haven’t lost you have I? One of the openings of the H was where the front door was, while the back deck covered the other opening of the H. The deck had been built with a tree planted in center for shade, eventually. It was quite serene, until my eye caught a little gargoyle propped over the roof’s edge. Although it was an artistic touch, it bothered me. Maybe el cucuy was supposed to keep Ben and his brothers in check?

Ben on the left and his brother Sam when the tree shade was barely growing

Right in the front yard was an old rusty tractor as decor. Where I’m from esos tractores were child’s play for us. Pero, on the East Coast antiques are a big deal. The house stood tall and serene in its natural wood. The living room and dining room had large wall size windows that overlooked a large field and pond.  It was truly a Good Housekeeping magazine scene. My mother in law was a multi talented artist and her home displayed her artistic hand.

Bens Childhood Home in Connecticut

This was all so new to me, I felt like I was in a museum and Ben was enjoying giving me a tour of his house. Things that were commonplace to him, were amazing to me. Like a windy staircase, como los ricos, that went down to the basement. Basement? Only in some of the books I read.

More large windows. Imaginate, in the bathroom! They could easily be peeked into from the dining room with it’s wall size windows. How in the world was I going to shower? Thankfully, my husband shared the secret for a comfortable shower time. Run your hot water, steam the windows then you could relax. I’m a bit indecisive on where I should include the fact that the bathroom door slid into the wall, they didn’t really secure shut. Pero Pues, I got through my first few days in New England without too much verguenza, thankfully, everytime I showered the windows stayed completely steamed and covered.

I’ll have to do a part two post on my first New England experience since I haven’t even described my Manse experience, you know the Greene/Torrey Estate house in New Hampshire? Es que, there’s so much reaction in this first visit. So many things we take for granted, like chile!  A meal without chile, Asi es! No chile whatsoever, not even tabasco sauce. Hijole! All you salsa and chile addicts are feeling me right now huh? This was only the beginning to my cultural shocks in the kitchen that I would experience.

My experiences would be considered “A first world problem” but as silly as it was, I had a lot of adjusting to do, I think it might be called assimilating? Chale! Nope, I would have to make some Mexican American contributions to my new family.

Next time I’ll take you to the Manse in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

The Manse in Jaffrey NH

I would love to hear about your culture shocks or adjustments as you encountered other countries or cultures, even here in America.

A Growing Family

This is the harrowing tale of growing a family with Ben and becoming a mother for the first time. Looking back with 20/20 vision, I can laugh and reminisce, but as any woman knows, the emotions are powerful when you’re going through them. 

Newlywed Life

My husband and I knew it was smart to wait to have children. The marriage counseling strongly encouraged it for us. We agreed and chose to wait, an unsigned agreement.

I truly was enjoying that newlywed life. I was enjoying the control I had of my kitchen. I could arrange things the way I wanted in my house, my way. Well, pretty much my way, Ben did have opinions and suggestions that were different from mine, but we were newlyweds and the honeymoon was glowing. I did stress about the cultural differences, Pues como no? Si es gringo. He had described his mothers homemade bread, are you kidding me?! Veggies from the garden?! I would have to expand my horizons, anything for my Benjamin Walter. I was getting to know my quiet Orejon and he was getting past the shock and learning his feisty Latina.

Baby Fever

As we were adjusting to the many changes that marriage and circumstances brought I got bit by the baby fever bug. It looked so beautiful and fun to be pregnant. I yearned to have a baby very early in our married life. I never considered that that meant becoming a mother. What happened to the agreement? My Cold Blooded Englishman was staying on course, no baby in his radar. He focused on adjusting to his new duty station which he hated! The drive home, crossing the Coronado bridge with it’s beautiful scenic view wasn’t so pleasant. Sailors were supposed to be out on the high seas not on shore duty.

Him having shore duty gave me peace. I wasn’t worried about him leaving for WestPac and six month separations, I just was not cut out for that kind of pressure. Ben missed the ship and going home to a new wife with baby fever confounded him. Every time the baby topic came up, he had a headache! Everything that was glorious and sweet in our new life was now splattered with moods of every type . Was the honeymoon over? Where had the simple joy of sharing our little home gone? 

I was tired and a big cry baby. I missed my cycle, had another negative pregnancy test and still, I went to the doctor. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, yet I wanted a doctor to look me in the eyes and take me out of my misery but confirming that deep dark fear. Maybe I would NEVER have a baby! He looked me in the eye and told me I wasn’t pregnant and sent me home. I cried. I wanted a baby, and Ben didn’t know what to do with me. 

Tested Positive

As sure as I was, that I was destined to never have a baby, my heart fluttered when I missed yet another cycle. One, two, then three days. No period. No pink spot. I went to the doctor, again. Another negative test! What excruciating disappointment. This time, the doctor said, “We’ll do a blood test.” 

I walked out of that office officially pregnant.

Do I Look Pregnant?

I rushed home elated. I went straight to the mirror. Did I look pregnant?  Maybe I could see my baby from a side view. I leaned back like I’d seen pregnant women do, yes, that was my baby. I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait to tell the world, but first I had to tell Ben 😀 He barely unlocked the front door and I was jumping all over him excited with my news. Guess how Ben reacted? Yup. Steady Eddy, He smiled, enjoying that I was all over him. He was quietly relieved, maybe this explained the out of control mood swings. “Do I look pregnant?” I arched my back a little. 

I completely enjoyed my pregnancy. I was outrageously huge but lovin it all, until I went into overtime. My first due date was Jan 29th, then the doctor told me that the measurements were indicating that the baby would come somewhere in early to mid February instead. 

 I waited and waited and waited. During a weekly visit the doctor announced, “this is going to be a big one.” Maybe that’s why everyone was telling me how big I was. “Big As A House” someone at church said to me. I cried, at this point, 2  weeks past that midway, I was leaving my smile at home. I just wanted my baby. Why would God put me through such long suffering?

Was my baby cute? I really hoped and prayed he looked like his daddy, because he was cute. Oh when would I sleep and breathe again? It really is that dramatic. I didn’t need a sonogram to know I was having a boy. I figured that’s the way it should be; a boy comes first.

Forty-Two Weeks Gestation +

On my last visit near the three week overdue mark he said “If it doesn’t come by the weekend, I’ll do a stress test on the baby and decide from there” No need to describe my disappointment. Then he said “Oh and if you drop the plug, don’t worry, just pick it up” Having never dropped a mucus plug I was confused but forced a smile.

To appease and distract me, Ben said we would go to the Navy Exchange to pick up my layaway. Getting my baby things did bring some sort of comfort. Ben parked and got the big stuff out of the trunk while I maneuvered my 50lbs of extra weight out of our little Volkswagen Fox. I was excited to finish setting up my baby’s room. 

I waddled heavily up to the gate, my hands were clutching my baby gear. I used my right foot to push the gate open. As it was coming toward me I tried to pull my foot out. It got stuck, I quickly tried again but it wouldn’t budge. All this happened in a matter of seconds but just imagine the slow motion button being pressed here. My foot was stuck in the gate and I lost my balance. I was falling but I didn’t want to drop my baby’s things. With one foot one the ground and one in the gate, not willing to let go and use my hands. I twisted around (even as I write this, I’m wondering how in the world did I end up bouncing on my butt and twisting my ankle?) sitting on my backside completely humiliated and baby items scattered on the grass with me. It all happened so fast that Ben could only watch me bounce. You would think that my labor would be provoked. Baby was quite content to stay put. After I caught my breath, I tried to get up but I couldn’t. Ben grabbed my hands to lift me and I yelped. I wish I could tell you that he scooped me up into his arms to carry me inside but it wasn’t pretty. We had to strategize a plan to get me in the house. We managed to stand me up, then as we faced each other and I wrapped my hands around his neck while he held up my hefty thigh. One dramatic hop after another we walked the endless walkway to our apartment. By this point my ankle was quite swollen and I was squirming in pain. After a call to my doctor, we had to hop back to the car to get to the hospital. Then we ping-ponged back and forth between hospitals because we were military with Champus insurance, meaning that the military hospital didn’t have my medical records. Finally it was settled, the military hospital would attend me, but they did not know what to do with me. 

At forty-two and a half weeks pregnant, they could not take x rays. The frustration and anxiety levels surpassed my pain. They couldn’t know if my foot was sprained or if it was a broken ankle. Would I need a cast or a surgery? Between the ER doctor and my doctor they decided to send me home with a temporary cast. The baby must be delivered on Monday before they could care for my leg and ankle. What did I hear? What important information did I walk away with? 

The baby is coming on Monday!! 

Labor and Delivery (and all with a broken leg)

Early Monday morning Ben managed to get me into the car with my new crutches, which wasn’t as difficult. It was the longest ride of my life, and the baby? He was comfy cozy in the womb. I quickly became a patient of interest in the labor and delivery ward. I mean, how many forty-three weeks pregnant ladies were going in with a broken leg? Too bad I couldn’t enjoy my moment of fame. My leg hurt. 

I was beginning to feel somewhat nervous. What if he just didn’t want to come? Then what? I was strapped to a monitor and we all watched the baby. It was pretty difficult to make him out since he took up most of the space in the womb. He was fine and didn’t seem at all anxious to meet me. 

Next, I would have to be induced. Yes! Yes! Induce me. Wait what exactly did that mean? The nurse explained the simple steps that would provoke my labor process. It didn’t sound painful. My body and my baby just were not excited about labor and delivery and I quickly discovered that maybe I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was. After I was checked, (yeow!) my cervix was lined with gel medication to help with dilation. After quite some time, my body and baby were still not in sync. Time to strip the membranes. Ijole! 

By early afternoon the doctor said, “It’s going to be long.” I still hadn’t dilated. I was exhausted, contractions had no pattern. I wanted to move but I couldn’t. Why hadn’t someone explained contractions to me? Even if my mom would have been around, she wouldn’t have, those were things only adults talked about. Something had to be wrong, why was the pain so intense? Was this normal?  Yet it was just the beginning, my pain hadn’t even truly begun. 

Ben was right there by my side. Holding my hand. Not holding my hand. Praying, he was praying quietly. It didn’t take long for the doctor to suggest I take pain meds. Ben was just as desperate for me to take something. The doctor said “maybe you have extra pain because of your leg” I jumped at that reasoning! Ben was so relieved. By 5 pm I had dilated to 1 and now my baby was in distress. What did that mean? The doctor explained that his heart rate was dropping and rising with contractions. But what did that mean? It could be very dangerous and harmful if oxygen wasn’t getting to his brain. With this, the decision was made for a C-section

I was scared. What was going to happen? I was wheeled to the surgery room and prepped. Ben was prepped also. He walked into the surgery room wearing blue paper coveralls and shower cap, looking so serious that I thought he was another doctor. The doctor said to us as he measured me, “This isn’t a baby, it’s an elephant!” More morphin was administered and I was high. As I chatted away, my husband saw his first baby delivered in a bloody way! They cut me open, and the doctor reached in to get my insides out of the way to reach our fat baby. There on top of me laid my guts as they maneuvered the baby safely out. Thankfully I wasn’t too high, I saw my baby and was amazed. By the end of the night me and my baby boy were quite the celebrities. Everyone wanted to know how it was that I broke my leg and everyone in Sharp Hospital wanted to see the big 10lbs 11oz baby. 

I went home with a cast and a wheelchair for the next six weeks, but I had my baby…

I was a mother! His mother.  

Wedding Bells and the Introduction to the Hall of In-Laws

I was a very little girl when I first heard the term sister in-law. I wasn’t sure what exactly that meant. Somehow when my brother got a wife, I would get another sister, and the law was going to be involved.

I wondered if she was going to give me the same bossy big sister  attitude that my other three sisters already enforced? “Rosie, bring me some water.” “Rosie, subele al la tele. I can’t hear it” Rosie this, Rosie do that. (How many big sisters could a 8 year old handle anyway?)

Just as I was wrapping my head around the idea, I was informed that I was to be a flower girl in the wedding. Ugh! A flower girl! What was that? It didn’t sound good, sounded like a sissy-lala girly mess and I wasn’t going to have a choice in the matter! Yikes! This in-law thing was heavy.

Bridezilla

My soon to be sister…inlaw….was uptight, I wondered what life was going to be like with her in the family. Of course I didn’t know then, what I know now and that is, almost every soon to be wife goes through with another ceremony known as the Bridezilla metamorphosis. I did, my bestie/maid of honour will confirm it without hesitation. My own sweet sweet daughter scared me at one point, but I’d never admit that. (She was a beautiful Bride but ‘Zilla’ affected her quiet nature.)

Pretty can be painful

The day before the wedding, all the girls in the wedding party were giddy with excitement as they were primped and prettied. I was miserable and uncooperative. Cual fue mi pecado, that I should have to endure such silliness? Then it was my turn, everyone was excited to see how the hairdresser would transform my thick wiry long hair (BTW, long hair was my moms rule) into a beautiful hairdo.

I was mad, my lips stuck out, my eyebrows knitted together and I squirmed with every pull of my hair.  She gave me gum, which helped distract me as she pulled and separated strands of my hair and rolled them in the curlers. If my chewing annoyed her, she didn’t show it, but of course my big sisters warned me when I would pull the gum out and stretch it as thin as I could, then pop it back into my mouth. I chewed that piece of gum all day long, took it out to eat then back again.  At one point in the busy day my almost sister in-law warned me about not going to bed with the gum in my mouth. I kept getting in trouble every time I itched my head because of the curlers in my hair.

Everyone was busy, I was tired, so I was sent to bed to get me out of their hair. The gum was forgotten as I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up with gum stuck on the curlers through my hair! Everyone panicked and I was rushed to the hairdresser. (I can almost hear the siren of their distress). They all watched in suspense as she carefully clipped the gum out of my hair and released my hair from the curlers and pronounced in victory, I would still be a pretty little  flower girl. ARGH! I felt like I needed another gum.

Walking down the aisle

I walked down the aisle, in my white poofy dress and big hairdo, tossing flower petals to the ground. I heard a lady say, “Que bonita esta!” (I was very self controlled with a pasted smile and no rolling of the eyes- I mean, how could I not be with my big sisters watching me) the bride was behind me, stepping on my petals, radiant and beautiful. As I tossed rose petals to the ground I walked into in-law-ness and it seemed kind of bleak to me. 

Sister in-law

What else would this sister-in-law make me do? Relatives by marriage were to be handled with special care and somehow I already knew it. So I practiced the new role to a fault, saying the wrong things, not understanding the family connection and pretty much dismissing it, I had too many people bossing me around already and I only had one little brother to boss and he wasn’t letting me.

Becoming the In-law

Then at 22 it was my turn to become an outlaw. That’s what my husband’s family call the relatives who connect through marriage. I felt especially outlawed since I thought, that they thought, I was way out there from different land.  A Mexican-American from the West Coast who met their son in his Pentecostal church! (How much more convoluted could this get?)

In-law, Outlaw, Gringo-law?

I was kind of used to in-law-ness from a little sister perspective, now I was facing brother-in-laws who were gringos and I was the first brown Greene. They were nice, polite and quiet. (hmmm why was that?) My bottom line, they were sangrones. Stuck up, keeping me at arms length was their way of letting me know my place.

I can see my bestie, throwing her hands up in frustration at my interpretations and all I can say today is that, that I was wr…wrong.. But those kind of thoughts are real, they will can take you for a roller coaster ride if you let them, unfortunately, I did go on that ride a few times and after 32 years of being Mrs. Greene I still get that invitation for that nasty ride sometimes. 

Could our worlds come together?

The daughter in-law role was especially scary for me. Just thinking of it made me awkward and nervous. Of course I was on a one track mind, she knows I’m Mexican! (You can take this Mexican out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of this Mexican)

Soon after we got engaged my mother in-law introduced herself in a letter, since I wouldn’t meet her until the day before the wedding. Through her letter she welcomed me into her family. I’m sure she did this to put me at ease, to break the ice maybe, but instead it added to my anxieties about having a mother in-law that was another color, another economic status and she was so cool and calm. Scary.

In her letter she said she looked forward to meeting and knowing me; I was to be her first daughter! What?! I couldn’t be another mothers daughter!  

What’s in a name?

How was I supposed to address her? She wasn’t my mother, or my peer, and she certainly was not my friend. (Was that even allowed anyway?)

In my world, my sister-in-law simply called my Mom, Suegra, or by her nickname Dona Chuy, short for Maria de Jesus. Can you picture me calling my quiet poised white mother in-law suegra? Or worse, greeting her with, “Hello mother-in-law.” After we were married I avoided calling her anything, in fact I just avoided her! I was super thankful that she lived clear across the country. I did ask my husband what he thought I should call her and he suggested I ask her, as if it was easy (he didn’t know I was practicing social distancing). She graciously said to me “You can call me mom, or Nancy, whatever you’re most comfortable with.”

Well, I was most comfortable with not addressing her at all! 

She is clothed in strength and dignity

She was quiet, and serious looking. Quiet people tend to make me a bit nervous and I end up talking too much. (Which is crazy or providential because my husband, my daughter, my daughter inlaw and my bestie are quiet, calm people. Thankfully, God arranged enough crazy and loud friends in my life to keep me in reality.) Of course I analyzed her quiet nature through my brown shades and also judged her as sangrona, imagining her to be stern and not wanting anything to do with the likes of me. My mother in-law was gracious and kind to me. She had once been a new daughter in-law and was now navigating through her own new mother in-law role.

I was the new Mrs.Greene who was too careful and worked too hard at being a mature wife.  I was hoping that I looked pretty and poised next to her son. I practiced what my Ama had taught me, and took care of my husband, serving him first. Inside I felt like a lost little Mexican girl amongst all the white folks, all 4 of them. My mother in-law graciously let me find my place in my new family.

Nancy, is what I settled with. I wasn’t comfortable, but it felt better than anything else. I eventually learned that my mother in-laws’ mannerisms were, just that, her mannerisms, and not a judgment against me or about me, (as my dear friend would say, “it’s not always about you Esa!”) What she gave her son, she gave also to me.  At Christmas she gave me gifts just as thoughtfully as she gave to her son. Then soon after, she thoughtfully gave to our kids, her grandkids and reward.

In the few short years of our relationship  she wrote me letters and sent birthday cards. In her non-intrusive way she demonstrated her care and her confidence in us. My mother taught me how to make tortillas and my mother in-law taught me how to bake bread. 

Nancy was a Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart, very creative and artistic. I’m grateful that our children got those genes. I still have the lovely painting she made just for me when I was just a wee little bride; Posies for Rosie.

Posies for Rosie by Nancy Greene 1988

Crowned a Mother in-law

Now I am a mother-in-law. I can almost walk back into my mother-in-law’s shoes and clearly read the caution signs she must have seen. What a minefield this relationship can be and seeing all the explosives doesn’t make it easier. Once I had questioned every move or look from my mother-in-law and now, I’m aware of every tone I use and every look I give.

My personality is outspoken, when needed, I can be aggressive, and a momma bear. My daughter in-law is quiet, sometimes timid and soft spoken, she has an air of sweetness about her that adds to her natural beauty. I look past her timidity and see how graceful she can be and am not at all surprised at how very much my son loves her. 

I wanted to embrace my daughter in-law and welcome the newest Mrs. Greene into the family but I truly felt that I would suffocate her, (hugging is something I already do very awkwardly). I didn’t want to scare her, anymore than she already was. I had been in her shoes, so I didn’t do much at all, except smile in my gruff Zepeda way, because I needed her to know I wasn’t angry, I just looked it sometimes.

God seems to always connect me with opposites. My daughter in-law and I have come a long way, as we’ve worked out our relationship, we’ve discovered that our vastly different personalities and generation gap can still manage to produce good family ties and wonderful friendship. 

I thank God always for these incredible opportunities and connections in the in-law world.

Flash Back to New Years Eve 33 Years Ago

December 31, 1987

 Ride the Inspiration Wave

I have this nagging feeling as I write these posts. Why? Because my daughter Daniella (also known as my Techy girl) said that I just need to write as I am inspired! Well, that has thrown me off my track! I wanted to set this whole thing up in a chronological order and that was supposed to show you how my life evolved into a Greene lifestyle.

Guess what? Today’s date: New Year’s Eve has inspired me, which means, I’m fast forwarding and skipping for now, all those important chapters. (Who knows, I might get inspired to tell you all about my move to San Diego 36 years ago, when I discovered there were other brown people, and they were not called Mexicans!) But, for now I am stirred to tell you about the day I said yes to my gringo 😊.

Dating

He was a sailor and out to sea often, and I was working 2 jobs. We struggled, shuffling our schedule around to make dates and spend time together. One New Year’s Eve, after dating my Benjamin for about 6 months, (I cannot leave out the detail that we had known each other for 2 years and had already dated, broken up and gotten back together. His gringo-ness scared me, but this time I dated him already knowing I was ready for more.)

On New Years Eve, 1987, I was looking forward to a nice dinner and just some quality time with him. He was taking me to a fancy restaurant (another detail: when we dated the first time around, he had to teach me all about utensil etiquette, I mean, why would I need two different kinds of forks? And why did he put his cloth napkin on his lap, what was it for anyway?).

I wanted to look pretty, beautiful was too high a target for my simple self, but my roomie helped me put together a classy look. I wanted him to see me shine! I wanted him to know I loved him; I was just too scared to admit it.

He picked me up in his 1963 Econoline van and we went to Sea Port Village. It was a beautiful night. He took me to an expensive Seafood restaurant and I ordered chicken. I followed his lead to make sure I did not make any etiquette bloopers in that fancy restaurant.

Benjamin is a quiet guy. I am not quiet, and I certainly wasn’t that night. I was chatting away, catching him up on all of the news he had missed while he was out to sea, (the important stuff, you know, like who was dating who). He seemed so nervous. I picked up on it and then I felt awkward. All of a sudden, he said, “Let’s go walk” I was thrown off, but agreed.

He was jittery and I was getting sullen, wondering why he was behaving weird. The night was failing. As we walked along the boardwalk the fireworks started and I allowed myself to enjoy them. I was hoping that maybe we would have a romantic moment. I turned to smile at Ben, and he wasn’t next to me, so I had to turn completely around, looking for him.

Right there, so public an act, my quiet Benjamin was on one knee with a ring box in his hand. My hands went to my face in shock as he said, “Rosie, will you marry me?”

No wonder those fireworks were so beautiful that night. The night another wonderful chapter in my life opened. 

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