How To Handle A Bully

I have three older sisters, all feisty fiery Latina’s!  Can’t say when I’ll see two of them again, so meanwhile, My sis Marina and I try to celebrate their birthday with sweet memories of them. I’ve told you about Marina and Patty, ahora, I’m celebrating Lupe, her birthday was this past week. 

Perhaps every little sister has that admiration glint in their eye for their hermana mayor, o no? My big sister was like the female version of the Godfather. De veras, just check out her name María Guadalupe Zepeda Sánchez. I Can hear my son Jonathan saying “Tía Lupe was a G” and I would agree with him. 

She was Passionate but in control (usually) Deep down inside she wanted to display outward affection but she held herself back, except of course when a fat little baby was near her and she couldn’t resist the rosy chubby cheeks, or the tiny rolls on the baby’s thighs. Only then would you hear that wonderful baby talk that my ama practiced and passed  down to us. Those catch phrases that are still heard around some Zepeda circles :D. “Que cosa tan fina!” o “Cosita fina” and of course the mumbo jumbo phrases, sweet nothings and kisses. With Lupe, after the infant stage was gone, you just had to know she loved you by her other actions.

From the heart of a little sister, I knew how to see and feel her love. Lupe allowed me into her heart and shared her life with me; the good, the bad and the ugly. Lupe loved my family. She knew how to win my angry little first born. Not having a girl of her own, she indulged mine with those girly frilles that I had no clue about. She knew just how to tantalize my finicky middle child with the right foods . She was smitten by my guerito, Thomas, always looking for ways to spoil him. And even my flaco, she enjoyed cooking for him, and he especially enjoyed her perfectly round soft tortillas and her nopalitos, we’ve never tasted a better cactus salad than my big sisters. 

One more of the ways she showed her love was in her “stand with you” position she took with family. My sister was a passionate and loyal latina. She loved her family and defended us when necessary or had us defend ourselves, but she was there for us.

My older brother just recently shared with me another story from the archives of Mexicali. The lesson he had to teach Lupe about facing the bully.

My apa hated to know we were being bullied, but I think he disliked even more the idea we were not pushing a bully back, or defending ourselves. He strongly believed that we had to send that message that we were not going to be walked on. Sometimes it just took a brave look into the eyes of the bully and other times it took more. I believe that we all learned that lesson at some point in our lives. Here’s a quick look at how Angel taught Lupe how to handle a bully.

Life was simple in those days, kids played outside in the yard or on the street, the most important thing in a little girl’s life in the colonia was play. Until it was not. Lupe was enjoying her liberty until Big Bully Girl came out. Then, she’d take from Lupe whatever she had or she’d shove, hit or hurt her. Lupe would run and hide, usually wailing to ama. Angel got wind of this “situation” He himself was now a street savvy neighborhood kid. He knew it had to change. 

One day, he happened to be home, outdoors with the kids when Big Bully Girl came out, and Lupe immediately ran to hide behind Angel. It was one of those moments: defend his little sister or teach her to defend herself. But why defend yourself when your big brother is there? In the flowery language he uses, he told me how he resolved her problem.  He told his little sister that she better quit hiding, go face that girl and show her she could not push her around. He didn’t say “tell her you’re not scared of her” What he did threaten was that if she didn’t face that girl immediately, she would have to deal with him! Lupe was more afraid of that consequence of course. When Lupe stopped hiding, Big Bully Girl was surprised when Lupe pushed back! Lesson learned, mission accomplished! Lupe never feared that bully again, in fact Angel said that he did feel sorry for the bully after that. 

Apa and 3 of his 4 girls. (That’s me in the frilly dress)

Por favor, I do realize that bullying can get way more serious than standing up to a bossy mean selfish kid. Bullying can turn ugly and dangerous. Family support is critical, but if you can’t talk to a family member there are places that will help a person in need. 

Por supuesto que, life brought on many difficulties and hurts for my big sis, many times she had no choice but to face them. When she had to fight for her rightful place she did with fierce strength, when she had to let things go, though it was a battle, though her heart ached she did so, fighting always to keep her head up. When she couldn’t defend herself, God showed himself strong.

There was a gap of 7 years between Lupe and I, but in our latter years as wives and mothers we enjoyed a wonderful friendship. She gave me a place of honor by making me her friend. In one sense I can’t wait to catch up with her in heaven one day and hear her morning greeting again. “Good morning sunshine”.

Las Aventuras de Angel 

 

“Back in my days” we were raised to respect our older siblings, I had 6 older siblings that I had to give that allegiance to. Pero, sometimes things got fuzzy, lines got crossed with my sister Patty, since we were only 2 years apart we were friends mostly, until I would tick her off for one reason or another and she’d have to check me. I didn’t mess with my big brother Angel. He grew up having to face many of the issues of the 60s and 70s. He didn’t expect others to solve things for him, and he didn’t shrink in fear. When language was an issue, when skin color was a barrier, he handled his affairs In a matter of fact way. And so it was when he saw the girl he wanted to marry. He saw studious, quiet and very petite Mary at school one day and was smitten, but that’s not anything my cool and collected big brother could ever outright admit. Y asi fue, Mary, now his wife of 50 years, said that Angel told himself “That girl, she’s gonna be my wife” And before long she was. He learned how to defend himself while maintaining his head high and obtaining his goals. 

By the time I was out of my toddler years he was an adult and I looked at him with a sense of awe in my eyes and always I hoped for his attention and his ‘like’. I’ll admit that even now, ahora de vieja! I still have that hope in me. 

In the past year and a half since our father died, Angel and Mary have had their trials. Ben and I went to visit them one weekend in Calipatria, it was a bittersweet weekend. Mary has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and like it always is, familia rallies together. It was a hard blow for my big brother and his family. Mary has a big family also and her siblings rallied around her, while my sis Marina and I offered the only help we could think of, our time, labor and whatever knowledge we had gained from taking care of our apa.  

Storytelling

Ben put his handyman skills to good use, but after one one project was excused for more important things. Something about my quiet husband drew my stoic older brother out of his shock. He began sharing some of his many adventures from his truck driving career with Mary. Remembering the places they drove to and the people they met along the way refreshed my brother. I was busy with my project, organizing and decluttering and so I missed a lot of these stories. Angel uses colorful language when he talks, and always has a hidden smile when he gives a punch line. It’s very enjoyable to listen to him, and it very much reminds me of when I watched and listened to my apa tell his stories. Somewhere in his story telling his memories shifted and he began talking about some of the youthful adventures he experienced while living in Mexicali. I was glad to be done with the ‘work’, I needed to hear some of these stories, I had been asking for some time for more of our family history. Mary and I sat down with Ben and Angel at the kitchen table to listen to the stories about the Zepedas before my days.

Before we could sit down though, we couldn’t be at the table without our cafecito y pan dulce. The stories came flowing out, a wealth of experiences. 

De Jalisco A Baja California

When dad decided it was time to leave Jalisco and take his wife and two small boys to El Norte, he brought them right to the border of Mexicali, Baja California. It was a three day journey by train. Upon arriving they met another family from back home. Immediately they connected and became fast friends. My father was immediately working across the border so their new friends helped my mother as she adjusted to a whole new life.

As if resettling and two busy little boys wasn’t enough on her plate, through the years, my parents were fruitful, four more kids during the Mexicali years and that wasn’t the end. Her busyness made Angel’s adventures possible. He was quite savvy in the colonia and she needed his quickness. It was a win-win situation. He explored every calle, every empty lot, looked into different businesses and stands, he studied his new location. All the while as he made his connections, he was completing the errands assigned to him. 

By the time my big brother was around 12 years old he had learned a few things about making money, no opportunity was wasted. Angel took a newspaper route, then, with that money earned, he’d  run over to the magazine stand and buy the popular magazines from the doña and resell them. When he couldn’t sell his magazine, he’d rent it for a reasonable price to a willing reader. 

On top of all his business, and son duties, he also had school to attend. He and his little brother, my other big brother, are two peas in a pod when they’re together. They went to school with the nuns, and they ran a tight ship, but even there Angel learned to manage, only occasionally did he get busted for a travesura. One he told me of wasn’t exactly his fault but his indirect contribution didn’t help his defense.

In his ‘travels’ through la colonia Loma Linda, Angel found or purchased different useful items, like purchasing upholstery needles from a shop along his path. He used these needles to make darts, a crucial tool for a blooming adolescent boy, verdad?  He inserted the needles into tender twigs from tree branches and secured them tightly with string. Then to bring the needed flight to the dart he created cardboard feathers and soon he was ready to beat any boy at a dart throwing game. 

One day, his lil brother found another use for the needles. The bicycles lined up at school felt the poke of that upholstery needed. Every tire stood flat and the trail of guilt led right to Angel. The nuns were not too happy with the Zepeda boys that day. Lesson learned, he’d have to be more careful with his supplies. With each experience Angel was learning quite a bit from the streets and my apa was getting worried, Angel was becoming notorious in the colonia

En conclusíon

These recent months have been quite difficult for Angel and Mary, but they have amazed me with how they have persevered, they know that it is God who carries them.  Mary is gracious in  her surrender to the One who gave her life in the first place. With much dignity she takes care of her “stinker” as she has always called her husband because of his notorious teasing ways. 
I have always enjoyed hearing our family stories. Talking to my brother recently felt like a secret room that was discovered. He talked about my ama’s family and about the years in Mexicali and of course a favorite of mine is love stories, and I’ve learned about him and Mary’s love story. A wealth of information that spilled from the archives of his memory and Mary’s too. I’m looking forward to more stories and I’m thanking God for my big brother Angel and my cuñada Mary.

Crossing The International Border

I’ve been having alot of conversations with my cuñada Maria. She’s married to my oldest brother Angél.  We’ve been talking about everything from childhood, to cooking, to travesuras, those daring exploits my lil brother Hector did and scared my ama half to death. We’ve also talked about our experiences in Mexicali. Quizas, I’m also thinking of Mexicali since I’ll be visiting the border city of Calexico, Ca. soon.  

Chinese Food In Mexicali

Mexicali, in Baja California Mexico was the last stop just before my apa brought his family to California in the U.S. My parents lived there for a few years and they grew accustomed to it. When dad brought his family to live in America, they still crossed the border into Mexico almost every weekend to do some of their business and socializing. My ama preferred to do her shopping there. She was able to converse and haggle about prices, while we hit the street vendors and looked over the goodies they sold. My apa enjoyed the cocteles de camarón, I loved the mango on a stick with chile y limon, and we all loved the candy, but my ama loved la comida China. 

Asi es, Mexicali has a large Chinese population, which probably grew larger when the railroads were completed and the irrigation system project established. My mother looked forward to our Saturdays in Mexicali, but sitting down to eat Chinese food with her family was an especially wonderful treat for her, not to mention that we loved it too. The chop suey, the red carnitas, the egg patties and the fortune cookies still linger in my memory. Pero, once in a while when we had to hurry to get to the linea to cross the border we did stop for a delicious hamburguesa in Calexico, Ca. These hamburgers were traditionally American, embellished just perfectly, with tomate, lechuga and pickles, then topped with a jalapeno chile to make them a great Spanglish burger served with fat papas fritas that we covered in catsup! It was another favorite. 

The Vendors En La Linea

Ok, back to my memory. One Saturday we had to get back home quickly. There was no time for treats that day. The line moved along slowly. We avoided eye contact with the kids and moms asking for money, we didn’t know what to do about them, but we loved the vendors who displayed their artesenias, there was always something new in their beautiful crafted work, but our ama was rarely impressed. We were not supposed to look at them either because if we stared too long the vendor would come running to our window. We loved it and did it on purpose, without fail it just got us scolded. 

Our family was mixed as far as immigration. Dad, mom and my older siblings had to show their resident alien cards, green cards, but my lil brother and I just had to say “American born” and the officer would ask us where we were born and a few questions in English and let us through. Easy peasy! Except for one day. That particular day, the officer asked to see our birth certificates. My mother emptied her purse and didn’t find the documents. Dad tried to explain the certificates were at home and simply apologized for the mistake. Nope! Not acceptable. A secundaria, to secondary where a full investigation would take place. First we had to get out of the car for the vehicle inspection. The officer talked to my father and through an interpreter to my mother.  No amount of explanations, apologies or other proof of residency changed the verdict. The bottom line was that he would have to prove that their last two kids were American born. So dad left us there at the border and he took the rest of my siblings home. Our family separated to find the needed documents. I was always a big chicken when I felt tension, my lil brother was busy looking at everything and my ama wasn’t too happy about the whole deal. Those couple of hours were pretty long, I never wanted to be stuck in secundaria again! 

Los “American Born”

Imaginate my flashback! Boy does history repeat itself! Thirty years later,  we had our two youngest boys; with us at the international border, this time in Tijuana, Mexico. Emery was about 7 and Thomas was about 2 years old. Hijole! We had rushed out of the house, I barely remembered to grab my “birth certificate” wallet and we went to Mexico. It was a late night as we returned home, the line was not horrific, we inched through it in just about an hour and half. By the time we reached the officer it was late. The boys were knocked out and I wasn’t ready with the documents, strike 1! Then I couldn’t find the birth certificates, I had accidentally grabbed the pouch that carried their immunizations. Strike 2! I explained, my husband explained, he peered in at the boys, they were knocked out, he could not stir them awake, strike 3! Off to secondary. Before they had us get out of the vehicle I tried shaking the boys awake, then the officer tried again. This time, Emery, the oldest of the two groaned, the officer asked “what’s your name? But Emery just moaned. Oh no! I snapped “Emery, wake up!” He asked again. This time Emery whined and said “I don’t know” Oh my gosh! He was delirious, y ahora?! Meanwhile Thomas just moaned. Ben was frantically calling friends so they could go to the house and get the birth certificates. Then, the officer asked, do you have a family picture? You all would think, Of course every mother has a family picture in her wallet, verdad? Bad mother! Bad mother! SMH is how the officer looked at me. Then the heavens opened up and Ben found a family picture in his paint splattered wallet. There we were the happy Greene’s. By this time almost another hour had passed and they hadn’t gotten us out of our vehicle yet so the officer scolded us about our carelessness and explained that many children are stolen and drugged to get them across the border, he had to be sure that they were truly ours, by now Emery was waking up and answering questions. What a scary moment. What an ugly reality of that kind of danger. 

The Things I Learned in Secundaria

I can only finish this post with a reminder of a few things I find important:

Don’t leave home and go into another country without your documents!

Be ready to show them when you’re asked.

Carry a family photo. 😀

And be grateful to the God of the universe! He always makes a legitimate way to help his children.

The Picture that Ben carried in his wallet

Middle School Life

The Middle School Volcano:

Miriam Webster defines volcano with these words “a vent in the crust of the earth or another planet or a moon from which usually molten or hot rock and steam issue” and  “something of explosively violent potential”  Doesn’t that sound like the Middle School experience? Verdad que si? Just ask any 6th, 7th or 8th grader, they’ll tell you how hard it is, IF you can get them out of their sullen state. My middle school initiation was perhaps the worst ever! A 6th grader is supposed to be the top dog in elementary school. You know, the ones everyone looks up to. I was ready for my time to shine in that place. 

Leaders of the Middle School

Back in the ancient days of the 70s, in my little town of Calipatria, the classroom announcements for the new school year was a huge deal. It was both an exciting and nerve racking time, I mean our happiness rested on who was gonna be our teacher and if my current best friend would sit in the desk next to us. 

The hot scorching desert sun could not stop us from that mile-long walk across the tracks. We rushed past the gas station, the grocery store, the laundromat, the Bank of America, the Circle K, park and library. Our sun scorched skin simply soaked in more sun. We had to know what our future held. This was an exciting time for me and my sister Patty, she was gonna be in 8th grade, imaginate! Even though I would barely see her around I was so proud of her, 8th grade, wow! Y pues, I was sorta following in her steps, 6th grade, a big kid in the elementary level, I needed this promotion.

Z is for Last in Line

Zepedas were ALWAYS at the bottom of the list. Last in line, y porque? Totally not fair! But it was so. My eyes automatically went to the bottom of the lists for our names. Pattys homeroom teacher was Mr. Carter. Hijole! That’s the one she didn’t want, she said he was mean. I wondered what a homeroom was? 

Imaginate my dismay when I did not see my name in either 6th grade classes. Maybe I flunked? Que verguenza to do 5th grade again? No que muy Honor Roll student, what would my friends say about me? And my apa, oh no…

Then, I saw a whole new class was posted, my name, Rosalba Zepeda was found at the bottom of that list. A hybrid class with both 6 and 7th graders. Que? A mixed class? Porque? Mrs. Lara was gonna be my new teacher. She was kinda different because she had married Mr. Lara and he was Mexican-American. She was white! I had never seen that! I didn’t even know that was allowed. Mrs. Lara was new to our school and a new wife and new to a mixed classroom.  Was the school  experimenting with us? Was there no place for people with Z names or new teachers who dared step out of the box? 

The walk home was long and hot, I was burning up. My friends didn’t know what to think, they all had their names on the 6th grade roster. Patty was too angry about her homeroom teacher to feel bad for me because I was gonna be in that weird hybrid class.

My Middle School Hybrid Class

When September rolled around, I was tense. My classroom was out in a bungalow separate from the middle schoolers and also separate from the elementary kids. I felt like we were deserted, I wonder if Mrs. Lara felt the same? Was my class a 6th grade class or a 7th grade class? I had decided I was going to take my ‘big kid’ roll anyway, those 7th graders weren’t going to boss me around. I entered the class room looking confident, but feeling nervous. I picked my desk in front of the class. I didn’t want to test the 7th grade cool kids, besides I still had an honor roll reputation to uphold. It was going to be a long year. Here’s are the things that are bookmarked in my memory for that mixed year:

  • I sat on my desktop and broke it!! Asi es, right in the front row for all to see, just before Mrs. Lara had called the class to quiet down, I was confidently sitting on my desktop table when all of a sudden, crack! I went down a notch. I managed to jump off as everyone laughed but the humiliation almost killed me. Mrs. Lara didn’t laugh.
  • During recess, I made a stand to keep my victory in the game of Caracol and paid dearly for it. The 7th grader leader decided I wasn’t worth her acquaintance so everyone else followed her lead. I was marked as the target the entire hybrid 6th grade year. When girls decide to be mean, hijole! Cuidate!. Needless to say, it was a lonely year. Mrs. Lara saw the separation, and was on my side.
  • This bookmark will probably be red flagged. It happened like this. One day during PE our class got to participate in a softball game with the mighty 8th graders. That meant I was gonna be with Patty! Yes! Those rare moments in school when you get to be close to one of your big sisters and feel real safe and secure. Softball wasn’t Patty’s strength, but some of her other peers, like the catcher was a superstar. Patty was feeling her disdain every time she went to the plate. Her class was losing. She was sick and tired of the “trash talk” She walked to plate and positioned herself to bat. The catcher cried out “She’s no batter” She gripped that bat, ready to kill that ball. Strike! And she tensed, poised. “Strike Two!” the catcher taunted as she swung and missed. Her lips thinned and began to get dark purple. That was always a sign to me that I had gone past the point of no return and she was gonna kick my butt! To top it off my enemies laughed and taunted her and me. I held my breath. The catcher pricked her one last time “she’s no batter, strike three!” Patty didn’t even look at the ball being pitched, she swung and struck out. Without missing a beat, she threw her bat down. She turned around and confronted the catcher, throwing her to the ground making her face her taunting words, the volcano had exploded, the pressure of 8th spewed out. We all ran to the plate and surrounded the girls, the chatter and provoking challenges “Don’t let her get away with that” were smothered as the teachers put a quick end to the fight. Mr. Carter easily lifted both girls and walked them to the principal’s office. Somehow some pressure had been lifted off me. I looked at my arch enemy and dared her with my eyes to mess with me again. It would be a giant I would eventually have to face in middle school, pero, for the moment, I felt invincible, that was my big sister, I dared anyone to mess with her.

En Conclusion:

Those experiences shape us as adults. It’s not “just” puberty. We experience that humiliation that helps keep our heads from getting too big later in life. We learn how to empathize and notice when someone isn’t being treated fairly or when someone feels left out because we’ve been there before. And when we look that bully in the eye and make a stand, we learn that we can over come anything.

Middle School is not an easy time, I’m sure everyone has their stories of fear and rejection. If you’ve got a child in middle school, remember those days and use them to help your kid make it and maybe even thrive.

Halloween in Imperial Valley

Halloween always creeps up on me and it has always been a sticky tricky day for me. When I was a little girl in Imperial Valley, I had to do what I could to make it fun. Then as an adult I tried to ignore the day as much as possible, like my ama tried.  Imposible! kids don’t let you ignore it. One of the biggest candy hoarding days of the year, parents need to recognize, verdad que si? 

Planning Halloween 

As a little girl, it was the one holiday that I rallied for as far as dressing up. Don’t get me wrong, I was not trying to be a princess or any silly girly character. But the unwritten and unspoken rule was that to trick or treat you had to be in costume. I would start working on my mom and sisters a few days ahead. I needed three things to make my day a success. Primero, I needed permission and a chaperone or partner to go out and knock on doors for candy. Luego, I needed money for the yearly carnival and finally, I needed a costume. Halloween was up to me, my ama didn’t highlight the day in any way shape or form. She kind of dreaded the day, because all the kids in the barrio knew she had her tiendita, and they expected some great candy from her store. Halloween almost always meant bankruptcy for her negocio.

The week before Halloween the kids were talking about what they were gonna dress up as, or what costumes their mom had bought them. I was always embarrassed that I wasn’t getting a cool costume so every year I said I wasn’t dressing up. Every year I said it was dumb and every year I didn’t mean it. Y cada ano I’d give into the pull of trick or treating. 

Now that I think about it, my ama  always enjoyed my silly chicanadas that I called costumes. I would jimmy rig a costume mostly out of my apas clothes and get into my sister’s makeup. Que one year a baby, another year a hobo, a fat man, a farmer. Basically the same idea always with a different name.

Photo by Daisy Anderson on Pexels.com

12 Year Old Transition

In small towns I think growing up and getting to that serious behavior that a 12 year old should have, takes a little longer. I was not serious about growing up and morphing into a teenager. I didn’t care much about being cool, I couldn’t start thinking of makeup, gracias a Dios! Wearing Makeup was taboo for us younger girls.Silly boys weren’t noticing me yet. Pero, I was real serious about getting lots of candy. 

One particular year, I had secured permission and a partner to trick or treat, my sister Patty was gonna keep an eye on me. I always had to work extra hard on begging and pleading with Patty. She hated taking care of me, she was already in that cool teenage age and walking clear across town to trick or treat was not cool!  I promised to give her a lot of candy and quien sabe what else I promised, but in the end I prevailed upon her. 


DIY Costumes

All I had left to create was my costume for my night of fun and candy.  I had the same old options so I think I decided on a combo costume of an old fat hobo man, muy original verdad? Being giddy with excitement I decided to go extra on the fat and stuffed my pants and shirt, bien exagerada, I could barely move. I was ready, with my big bag on hand, we left. The getting to the carnival part is a fuzzy memory, I’m guessing that somebody gave us a ride there because I can’t imagine Patty agreeing to all that work. Anyway, we were at the carnival for a short time since my pocket book was very light. It didn’t matter to me anyway, I was anxious to trick or treat a lot of kids already all over town, I didn’t want to miss out. 

To maximize on trick or treating candy you have to have a lot of energy and a good plan. Patty wasn’t interested in the plan I had mapped out in my head. She gave me one option. Leaving the school grounds and walking past the middle school and the elementary school, all connected, then turning left would land me on the West side. Going further, past the Circle K then turning right going several blocks further got me to the Rich side of town. Guess what Patty was pushing for? She was getting crabby and I was getting anxious, especially since I was pretty slow with my fat man costume. The padding kept creeping down my leg, almost tripping me. I kept having to re-stuff myself and hold on to my backside to keep the pillow from falling out. 

El Cucuy

But God had mercy on me and we got to several houses that gave lots of candy before she headed us toward home. I milked it as much as I could knocking on doors as we made our way home. I was whiny and grunting and she was so mad that I had tricked her into doing this, we were both pretty tired by the time we reached the railroad tracks. Suddenly our senses were very alert and we had to put off our tired feelings, and watch out for danger, of the El Cucuy kind. We were on Mainstreet, it was way too dark to take the shortcut. Huge semi trucks occasionally passed by and we so appreciated the bright lights those trucks flashed, we stayed dangerously close to the pavement, hugging it. I, the “fat man” was behind Patty and every time I heard crackling, or scraping sounds, I was sure El Cucuy was behind me, I couldn’t turn around, it would be my demise, so I quietly whined, hating my sissy lala emotions.  I’m not the hugging type, but that night I was ready to pounce on my sister for support. Talk about a Halloween nightmare on Mainstreet, hijole! Crossing the tracks and walking that long dark road just before we saw the houses of the barrio was maybe a 10 minute walk but my stuffing and the darkness made it the longest walk ever. Suddenly, I could appreciate why my ama banned us from being out at night. Halloween was one of the few exempted days and I wondered why that day was ok? We walked fast as I was trying to keep my belly intact. 

It wasn’t too late in the night, but those railroad tracks and the empty lots made it the perfect scene in a scary movie, I had imagined it all in those few minutes. Such relief flooded us when we entered  the safety of our barrio. Kids were still out and about and Patty loosened up. I took advantage and knocked on a couple more doors in my hood. All was well that Halloween. Pero que susto!

Booty

We got home exhausted. I tossed my hefty candy bag onto the table, happy with my loot. Oh how sweet home was. I plopped myself down on the chair in the dining room, I was coming undone. So as I was pulling the stuffing out of me my ama was laughing at the image I created.

Ama: Como te fue?

Me: Ama, fue el día más feliz de mi vida!

My mother let out a gleeful carcajada.. Her way of laughing started from the bottom of her belly and rolled out past her mouth. I loved to make her laugh, it was always so contagious. She had  quite a laugh out loud moment.

 Counting all my worldly experiences of all my 12 years of living, I had declared, this had been the happiest day of my entire existence. I had already forgotten the pain in the butt it had been to walk. El Cucuy didn’t come for me, the tracks and all my fears were forgotten. 

LOL


I was pretty proud of myself whenever she told the story of my “happiest day of my life”. I’m so happy to have that treasure in my vault. The contagious laughter has carried on through her grandson Jonathan, everytime he has that LOL gut roaring laughter I remember my feisty ama.

What is your favorite trick or treating memory?

Mis Quince Años 

Feliz Cumpleaños – Happy Quince

This will be another post on birthdays, inspired by a birthday celebration this week. That first day of your new year should be highlighted with hopeful wishes and if possible splashed with happy events. I’ve got quite a few birthday celebrations and shout outs for October on my calendar and of course, mi cumpleanos is this month too. I always love the happy birthdays I receive all day long. My dear friend’s daughter will be 15. Wow! Los años vuelvan, they pass so fast you miss the details. That whole birth story is a miracle in itself! Pero, I’ll leave it for another post. I do remember when she called to tell me she was in labor. After an agonizing attempt at labor, she had to have a C-section, then her little girl was placed into her arms. Before we knew it, we were talking about her fifteenth birthday! Quince anos! hijole. Of course, quince, triggers images of quinceañera traditions.

For those readers who do not know what a quinceanera is, I’ll give you the Rosie understanding. Basically, it’s fiesta that embarks a 15 year old latina to womanhood; a rite of passage.  It was predominantly a Mexican tradition that spread across Latin America. Although it is very likely that mesoamerica culture influenced these rites, the arrival of the Spaniards brought in the Catholic tradition. This milestone unites family far and wide and for the 15 year old chica who hasn’t experienced much grownup socializing, she is presented to society and will lead the way on her big day. In my case, as I flashback to my big day, I was dragging my feet. 

A Quinceañera looks a lot like a wedding day celebration, when Ben saw my quince album he was shocked to see me looking like a bride. It dawned on me that it is the precursor to a young woman’s wedding day. Creanme! It truly does provide that intense level of stress in preparations.

How far a family takes a Quince will depend probably on the pocketbook and the Joneses. 

Check List

Here’s a minimal list (don’t read that as one word, because Quinceañeras are probably not for minimalists) of some of the traditions seen in a  Quinceañeras.

  • A gown for la quinceañera. (I couldn’t, wouldn’t wear a gown, that was my sisters and mothers first battle. My heart was in the volleyball, basketball courts and in the baseball field, there was no place for a dress in my life, much less a gown! My dress had to be simple, easy to walk in, easy breath in. If it was possible to be comfortable in a dress, I had to have that dress! It wasn’t like I was getting married anytime soon, acuerdense, in my book, marriage was for the blind)
  • A Tiara and bouquet and all the nice accessories. (Thankfully I was only required to wear a flower in my hair. I did have to hold on to a bouquet, it was so awkward staring into my bouquet during pictures trying to look soft, serene and grown up.)
  • You need a church for the mass. This is the formal or serious portion of the rite of passage. A ceremony that would involve prayers of gratitude and commitment to living a moral life. (In my small town there was only one catholic church, so there was no searching needed just booking a date, this might have been the least stressful portion of preparing)
  • You must obtain a hall for the fiesta following the mass for the rest of the celebration.
  • A court traditionally requires 14 damas and their chambelanes, this could be equivalent to bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The court is dressed elegantly to accent the quinceañera in her procession. (Do you know how difficult it is to find friends to fill these positions? Thank God, I wore my hair short in those days because I would have pulled it all out just choosing a style of dress, forget about the color. Then, after all that drama, the parents decided to pull their kid out, the expense on their formal dresses was too much. I ran around asking good friends, then friends, then acquaintances. It got so desperate that I was ready to ask strangers to help me. Honestly, in the end, ya ni se, I don’t know how many kids actually accompanied me that day)
  • You need a valtz, this is one of those Spanglish words that evolve from simple mispronunciation. The word is waltz. (Things I remember about the valtz is just trying to coordinate practices, not easy when everyone plays sports and practices after school. Then the other thing is the dread of dancing, last time I had participated in a formal choreographed dance was my 4th grade square dance!)
  • A Madrina y Padrino are called upon. These godparents are chosen from the close friends or family that are invested in your family. They help with the hardwork and with some costs. (In my case, my big brother  and his wife were the designated godparents. It’s  tricky because, how weird is it to call your own brother and sister-inlaw nino o nina? How about addressing them by usted, when they had been tu all my life.)
(left to right: My cuñada Mary, my big brother Angel and 15 year old me)
  • The dinner: These meals can get really elaborate. Proper place settings with the charger, then the plate and each side has salad and dinner fork, knife and spoon, topped with a nice linen napkin. (For the Zepedas, bring on the birria,with no stiff formalities, just good meat con arroz y frijoles and of course tortillas)
  • You must have cake. Like everything else in this celebration,  Cakes for Quinceneras are wonderful. (By the end of mi Quincenera I was ready to have my piece of cake and eat it.)
  • You must be a grateful quincenera! Asi es, everybody is working hard for your special day (putting on a gratitude attitude would have been a huge blessing for my ama)

My limited list is based on my experience. When I look at my photo album, I realize it was a simple 1980s presentation. Pero, not so easy to do for my hardworking parents. I wish I would have had a better attitude about my quinceanera. My older sisters were into it, happy to help our ama while I was a sulky 14 year old, niña chiquiada! I was a spoiled little girl, not willing to wear that beautiful big gown, they had dreamed of wearing. Hijole! Thank God they got to wear their beautiful big white wedding gowns.

En Conclusion:

I started this post by boasting about how much I love my birthday celebrations and mostly I have enjoyed all the attention. I do regret not being more grateful for all the investment and effort my parents gave to my birthday party at 15 years old. Here’s a resolution. I’ll keep my eyes and heart on Jesus and when I get to heaven and see my parents and sisters I’ll tell them thank you and I might even hug them 😊 (I’m one of those rare Latinas that is awkward about hugging). Meanwhile I’ll ask my sis who is here and tangible, to accept my love and gratitude. She always celebrates my birthdays and now after 40 years I can see clearly and appreciate the labor of love.

What memory stands out in your quinceañera? Or what new traditions exist for today’s quinceañera?

I am a Writer

I probably spent way too much time just trying to come up with a catchy title for this post. Hijole!  This post feels like a desperate plea to get approval or accreditation. Who is gonna give me that final stamp of approval? If this feels like an explanation as to why I’m even here, it is. I need to remember, quizás mi propia voz, my own loud voice needs to tell me to get to writing!.

Voices In My Head

The many opinionated voices inside my head make me lose my way. Esperate! No estoy loca, or maybe I am just a little crazy. You know those sneaky mockers question why am I here, in this blog? Doubting Thomas (not my Thomas 😆) truly questions: Que fregados estas haciendo?! Deveras, sometimes it’s the loudest voice screaming: What the heck are you doing? Really? You think you belong here in Writers land?

Some days my voice is really soft, if you know me, that’s pretty incredible to believe, ya se. It whispers to those loud intimidating voices. “I want to write” Que?! They laugh at me and some days those snickers push me into a corner and I won’t write. Pero, gracias a Dios I don’t stay there long, because I want to write. 

Me gusta escribir. Sometimes it’s a lot of work, pero I like it anyway. When I was in university so long ago my english T.A said “you’re a good writer” Deveras? Was a good writer supposed to put some of her dirty laundry on paper? Especially on papers that were graded? Still, I allowed myself some flattery in that comment, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. 

Then, years later, a very important person in my life asked me to write a letter of recommendation where I described my relationship with the person requesting the letter. When I was done and the letter was submitted, that person said “You’re a good writer” Pues ya sabras, it was like yeast in my brain. The idea grew, was I a good writer? If that person thought so, then it must be, verdad? Now it was more that a good feeling inside and it was more than therapy.

My Writing Plan

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

In a different post, I describe my writing as a therapeutic relief, and it is. Mapping situations out with some embellishment, helps me work things out. But all of a sudden, when I got inspired to  write a short story or a skit, I began to do it as if someone else would one day read it. Yes, I neatly, or not so neatly filed  it in my different folders, almost ready to be read by other eyes. I totally enjoy just getting the scenes out of my head and onto paper, quisas someone would enjoy reading them? That yeast was really growing, imaginate! I was bold enough to create my first blog. Asi es, choosethenarrowpath.blogspot.com, was born. I did this toda solita. All alone in the blogging world I began to learn a lot about the hard work of writing, but the desire to share wasn’t quenched despite my lack of skills in the tech world. The lack of readers did slow me down on that platform, but my folders kept growing. 

As the idea of sharing my writing grew, another one did too. The fact that I had never finished my degree bothered me now. Going back to college and finishing my degree, or at least improving my writing skills seemed doable now. I had been way too busy and focused on raising my children and teaching them to walk on the narrow path while juggling life. Besides I had absolutely no time, energy or money for my schooling. Luego, Thomas, my last child, entered high school and I had time again. Did abuelas go to college? 

Back to School

I was glad for the opportunity and  I shyly shared with Ben, my family and dear friends my dream to be a published writer. Going back to school would boost my confidence and sharpen my pencil. It was the weirdest, oddest feeling. Walking back into the college culture, I felt like I was walking back into the 80s, back to UCSD.  A 50 something year old grandmother feeling those butterflies, those awkward moments of not knowing anyone. Inside I was 18 again, but thankfully, God kept me grounded as I stayed focused on the academics and I loved the stimulation that came with learning. Pero, it was short lived. Ya se, the roller coaster of life. My apa needed me. As a full-time caregiver I didn’t have time again, and I chided myself “tonta.” That was silly, of course I was too old and too busy for schooling again. I was disappointed, but my writing didn’t stop.

 My collection of stories grew, especially since my apa was unloading all his memories. I worked on my historical fiction short stories and I hung on to my blog. As dad grew weaker my writing experiences grew further apart, for a long while my journal was the only book I wrote in.

As my apas last chapter in life came to a close, I grew frantic with writing. Como pues? How could he just leave? Was tercera edad, 96 years of living reason enough to close a chapter? I hadn’t gotten my collection of his stories in rough draft order. How would I get the stories out if he left? 

In the midst of a busy emotionally packed season of caregiving, the idea for a different blog came up. My daughter and I brainstormed about a title, and presentation. It would be here that I would bring my experiences, my fathers y todo lo demas, all things pertaining to Rosalba. I was finding my voice. What was my voice anyway, besides loud that is? Daniella, is a visionary, and she said, “Mom you just keep writing, don’t worry about things.” For me it’s a good plan 😉.

Man! It felt good to write like I talk. In my other blog, I write like I think. I hope that makes sense. I have a million questions on the most important person of my life; Jesus, and there I ponder on “the deeper” stuff. Daniella describes it as reflective or thoughtful. “My diary in the corner of the internet”. My besty often wonders “what must it be like in your brain” She says it’s constantly tracking! Anyway, all that to say, I found my voice and it was comfortable.

With all the emotion that came in those last days of dad’s passing, also came a need to write, a renewed desire to write, a desperate clinging. I wrote and Daniella handled the rest. We’re a good team, she’s alot like her daddy, muy paciente. ☺

In conclusion,

Today, with things a bit more settled, I’m back in school and on the write path. This is the beginning, but just getting on this path was a journey in itself. Hijole! 

I imagine that everyone who has a dream or passion jumps on the  hope train and has to travel sometime before they arrive at their destination.

I Want to Publish My Dads Stories

I have shared my dream and hope to write and publish a collection of my fathers stories. My sister and I began our caregiving for dad more than 15 years ago, it was quite a journey that ended just last December. I now have a decade and a half of experiences tucked into my journal, where I tend to process everything. A journal is a very inexpensive therapist and a patient listener. 

As I moved along in my caregiving experiences I realized that my apa was telling his life stories and experiences, hijole! I am thankful that I started taking notes.

I had to have a pen, paper or any available writing tool and surface to record his stories. The most random activities or situations provoked dad’s early memories and I had to be quick with the draw of my pen. Sometimes, I was quick enough to open up my notes on my phone, but other times, napkins, newspaper pieces, scraps of packaging or backs of cartons, asi es, I began to capture his story. Ya se, you’re probably wondering why I just didn’t video him. I did try a few times, but I’m terrible with my phone and it’s camera. Grabbing a pen was quicker.

As life would have it, my apas life, se fue gastando poco a poco. As dad got weaker we got busier with his needs. It was too hard to remember to write notes, I had to focus on the present with him. We had to talk about current things so he wouldn’t forget his children or brothers. He had too many nietos y bis nietos to even try to stick them into his memory. I had to lay aside my yellow folder where I collected my notes. I didn’t realize that those current events would soon also be stories to share.

Closing A Chapter

In those last days as I watched my father close the chapters of his life, I was frantically writing posts for my blog. It was therapeutic, quizas a desperate attempt to hold onto him here on earth. What in the world was I gonna do without my dad? It was rough to turn to the last page of our time with dad. I had a lot of time to plan this moment, it wasn’t supposed to happen asi nomas. Really, I don’t know what I hoped for or wanted to see in this last page. 

Since my dad’s passing I’ve kept writing, but his stories had remained in my files barely opened. My yellow folder sat tucked away in my desk drawer. 

I have plenty of reasons, excusas, to explain my paralysis in writing the “collection of my dads stories” book. One big one was the lack of information. Many of his memories lack description or have gaps. Could his accounts, his memories be considered a story if they lacked detail? I mean, he did give me all the information he considered vital. So I’ve sat at my desk, many days just twiddling my thumbs, wondering how to proceed.

Renewed Vision

Out of nowhere, mi prima shared some youtube videos of the history of my apas childhood towns! La Mina del Amparo. It was right there on the world wide web! Pero como? She saved the day, the book, and maybe even the writer.

Esperate, I had researched El Amparo and did have some info already, it was all buried in my files, like the treasures in the minas of old. Something revived in me and I had my vision again. Pues entonces que hice? Unfortunately some things come to us almost too late at times, but I am thankful for whatever I can get. I made plans to go visit with 2 of my apas siblings.

 My prima, who is one of the daughters of one of my dad’s younger sisters, helped me make arrangements for a day trip to see her mom, my Tia Chepina (Josefina). 

It was time to see dads brother and sister, I hadn’t seen them since before dad passed. I was on a mission to get more information and get a link into my family history. Anything and all things would be written down. I pulled out my yellow folder and opened up my files. I had a lot of gaps to fill. I got organized, hay si, muy professional, I wrote down all my questions. I called my sis hoping she would join me, I needed her back up or support, and she jumped on board . Did I tell you I can always count on my big sis?

One of my dad’s younger brothers, Jesus (Tio Chuy), lives here in San Diego, so I picked him up and we drove to Los Angeles.  Mira nomas!, everytime my sis and I looked over at tio Chuy, we saw our apa, unable to describe what happened there in our gut. 

A Sea of Emotions

It was day packed full with emotion. My father was the oldest of 9 children, 7 boys and 2 girls. He was 6 years older than this brother and 16 years older than his hermanita. Tia said that there was 2 years between each child and Tio sadly pointed out that there were only 4 siblings left.

Tia Chepina cried so much at the loss of her 2 oldest brothers who died within months of each other. She had been unable to see them or attend their funerals, covid pestilence marred her final goodbyes. In those last days with my apa, I called her so she could at least speak to him.

It was five days before he passed, and his birthday. He stepped into his 96th year and she was wonderfully amazed at his longevity. 

Apa: (speaking very loudly) Bueno!?

Tia Chepina: (speaking just as loud) Manuel! Hola hermano, como estas? Feliz cumpleaños? (Tia wanted to make sure he would hear that clear resounding happy birthday wish 🥰)

Apa: (speaking just as loud) Bueno!? No se oye. (His last few years the phone always confused him so he was unable hear it clearly)

A few days later, marque su número, easy to dial when you don’t have to look up a number. I hoped hearing his sister’s voice would spur him on in his new year. She cried and expressed her love for him, he wasn’t responding anymore, but her words did not fall to the ground. My dads sister lavishly gives us the love she had for him. 

Now that they are in la tercera edad, my tia is 80 now, they’ve given up their main house and live in a cozy loft upstairs for just her and her husband, disculpa, mi tio Mundo. When we arrived she was busy making caldo de res, imaginate! Que sabroso! I will always put up with L.A. traffic for her cooking. We shared a simple, wonderful meal and I was overwhelmed. While it was sweet, I felt my fathers absence. I rolled my tortilla and gazed across the table to my Tio Chuy, apas little brother. He head bent down, he focused on eating his caldo. Did I mention he is 89 years old, a strong man! Zepeda genes are strong, I’m picturing dad sitting straight up, proving his agility at 95 still. 

Some Missing Links

I came away with some missing puzzle pieces. How my parents met, this was a gold nugget! That’s for another post.

 I got a very small glimpse of my amas mother and I was left thirsty for more. She too had a large family. 

I came away with a better view  of when dad came to America. That time line of his early adult days trying to “find himself” como dicen los gringos,  I loved my tias description of seeing my father for the first time again since being in America. 

Tia: Llego Manuel con su pantalón de mezclilla. Yo y Consuelo no podíamos dejar de mirarlo. Usaba esos pantalones Americanos. She was getting her first eye full of the famous Levi Strauss jeans and couldn’t stop staring at him.

Me: Levi’s? Con botas y sombrero? He had to have been also wearing his cowboy boots and hat verdad?

Tia: Si. Tan guapo que se veía mi hermano. Creo que nos trajo unas muñecas.
With a sigh she admired her handsome big brother and remembered as an after thought that he brought them dolls del Norte.

Tio: Si, todos se fijaban con esos pantalones Americanos, eran muy diferentes. Tio was impressed by those jeans too!

Tia: Manuel siempre fue muy guapo. (She was making sure we all knew it wasn’t just the pants that made him so guapo! 🙂

Oh my goodness, my heart pitter pattered at the idea of her seeing her big brother so handsome looking like a cowboy, my brothers Arturo and Hector look alot like him. Of course Marina and I looked over at each other. Claro que si sabemos how good looking he was, some nurse was always shocked at his age because he looked so good. Imaginate, if she would have seen him in his youth, olvidate!

I must say that while I did ask muchas preguntas and they were absolutely in their glory remembering their youth, I left with plenty of questions  still unanswered, and many new questions. Each new puzzle piece fills in a piece of my dads history and reveals more still to uncover. I’m not sure if I’ll get much more answers, pero we were all happy to have spent the day together. My sis and I cling to whatever we can of our father. I’ve made plans with my prima to do this trip again.

Holding on to My Dad’s Prayer

These past few weeks have been trying times. Sickness hovers over our lives trying to scare us into a corner of not living but existing. Hard times and bad news, make us desperate por tener un momento de tranquilidad. As we hold our breath not knowing what to expect, tears wash out and my heart aches for those loved ones I will not see again until eternity. Not knowing the appointed time, the wait feels endless. 

 I will not lie and say I’ve sat and “waited” for the day I see my ama again, she’s been gone for over 30 years, but I have longed through the years for that mother/daughter relationship & connection. I have a sister in Christ, my  friend who has five beautiful daughters, and oh, I can tell those girls have connected with their momma. Me acuerdo, when I was a new homemaker, “building” my own home. I was barely a few weeks on the journey, I was given a chance to call my ama. I was having a cooking crisis and she rescued me, the stroke she had (a post for another time) didn’t hinder her from coming to my aid.

In her cooking stilo, como todas las mexicanas she set me straight: 

Me: “Ama, ¿cuáles son los chiles que se usan para la carne con chile?”

Ama: “Pues ¿cuales son los que tienes? “

I had forgotten those cooking lessons with my ama! The main lesson was work with what you have, but make it work! I wonder if I’ll be able to share with her my mothering experience with my one daughter? Aguanten me por favor, Un poco culeca. Mi ama would see my daughter and fall in love with her immediately.

Y mis hermanas, Patty and Lupe, se adelantaron! They rushed ahead of me and Marina almost 13 years ago and beat us to heavens gates. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t angry. I had quite a few things to teach my “older” sisters and they me. In the middle of my busy life, while we 4 sisters were enjoying and sharing the episodes of life,  they finished  their race within 3 months of each other. In shock I had to say goodbye for now. Pero sabes, death always feels like that, when you expect it, and while you wait for your loved one to pass, you’re still shocked by it, when you don’t expect it, it knocks you down and takes your breath away.

My apa, no tenia prisa, gracias a Dios , almost took him a century to walk this road on earth. Geographically he was in very small places, almost insignificant, but he broke up much fallow ground and planted many seeds of experience and left quite a legacy of children and grandchildren to carry his name on. Eso! Don Manuel!

 He has only just gone home 8 months ago and the void of his departure esta muy tierno aun. In our home our backroom is still “Tatas room”

I will say that I’ve occupied myself with a goal, a hope or God’s plan to see them again.

My Dad’s Prayer of Gratitude

This long season of pestilence has caused me to examine life.  What are the things that I’m grateful for? The big things and the minute details of my life that I tend to take for granted sometimes, like my daily bread and the very air I breathe that God gives. It was a solidifying reminder to finds my dads prayer.

For as long as  I could remember my apa prayed this prayer at meal times. I can picture him now at our table, ready and waiting to see if he would be called upon to pray. 

“Gracias te damos Senor por estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta.  También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares. Perdónanos nuestros pecados , pero  siempre que se haga tu santa voluntad. Amén”

Sometimes a line or two was switched up, but it had the same meaning:  

“Gracias te damos Senor por estos alimentos que no nos pones en la mesa.  También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares. Perdóna nuestros ofensas, pero  siempre que se haga tu santa voluntad. Amén”

 As if someone switched on the lights,  I have truly paid close attention to my apas prayer and realized how profound it truly was. Too many times we throw our prayers out to God without any real conviction, especially at mealtimes, were hungry and we’ve been waiting for that good food so were in a hurry. Hijole! Imaginate, as God sits down to eat with us and hears our “Thank you Jesus, bless this food” my fork halfway to my mouth already, I say “amen”. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a good morning in my prayer already  that I am careless when I thank God for his provision. Whatever the reason, prayer at mealtimes in my life has been lackadaisical. Once in a while, I whisper in my mind, I really am grateful Lord, y si estoy agradecida! despite my mouthful.  My apas prayer has reminded me to be grateful for my life, for the blessings and most importantly grateful for the Blesser.  

Aguanta otro ratito while I unpack his prayer. 

“Estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta”

Thankful for his provision. These days as many fight for their lives, the very air we breathe is a gift from God. ALL our basic needs are remembered in this simple line.

También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares”

Thankful that we can approach the very throne of God for our needs and our loved ones. They’re too weak, too tired, too much in pain to ask for themselves, but we can stand in the gap for them. A thoughtful prayer that remembers those that are struggling and asks God to also help them in their time of need. Orita mismo, I can think of several friends, loved ones, and friends of friends that are in desperate need.

Perdóna nuestros ofensas”

Thankful that God, the creator of heaven and earth graciously forgives our trespasses. I find it interesting that this line for forgiveness is after asking for the basic needs for ourselves and others. Asking forgiveness of our daily trespasses, my apa knew that even while our needs are endless so is God’s  comfort and grace. A prayer that humbly acknowledges our sinful state that without God in our lives we would be wretched and lost. 

I’m so glad that finally my heart has grabbed ahold of this prayer and I agree with Dad in it and say yes and amen!

 Today let these words  provoke you into true thanksgiving.

Life Lessons While Raising Boys

A Strong Latina Woman

My boys always tease me and my sister Marina about being tough, strong latina ladies and maybe we are. I mean, I have shared with them stories of growing up and how my big sisters and myself had to face, “the giant”.  Dicen que, we are always ready to “throw down” to defend our home, kids, each other and our rights. There is some truth to their playful bantering. They love to share the stories of my “fight for rights”, always exaggerando by adding the perfect action words. They make me laugh out loud! Porque soy latina, a dash of chile does make some of the episodes of life spicier. They have witnessed a few… Ok, more than a few. It’s a tricky balance, stand your ground while standing in ‘Corem Deo’ osea, ‘in the presence of God’ 

Hopefully I’ve taught my kids by example, and preferably a good one. As they see my “strong latina” roots, my prayer is always that they would also see the grafting of God into his family.

It has been assigned to me the task of showing, NOT just telling them how a christian should behave through stress and fatigue. Hijole! Here’s one episode of a day in the life of the Greenes with they’re Mexican American born again ama. I fumbled, but I think I recovered.  Of course, when my sons retell the story, they add a lot of salsa to the story to spice it up… Here’s my version: 

It was time to take my boys for their monthly haircut, by the time a month went by, they were looking quite mechudos!  They liked going to Sals barber shop, at age 12 Emery was beginning to care about his appearance and this barber cut his hair to his liking. I liked Sals because it was very close, affordable and convenient, until this particular day. 

As usual, I was in a hurry, homeschooling had ended later than I’d hoped and I had to get dinner going, I was hoping to squeeze in 2 haircuts. The shop was busy, everybody wanted a haircut on the same day! Every chair was full. My boys only wanted Dennis to cut their hair, he was chistoso, but he tended to take too long. Heavy sigh, they had to get in line for their cut. Although it was going to interrupt my things, I decided we could wait… a little while.  After signing in, Dennis informed me with just a pinch of impatience in his voice, that ALL the customers were waiting for him to cut their hair, it didn’t matter that 2 other barbers were available, he was the star barber. Then, he proceeded to inform me that he must first take his break. I looked over at the patiently waiting customers, showing no concern that Dennis was going to take his break. No, it wouldn’t do. I didn’t have that much time to sit around. I said to my sons “Let’s go” and turned to leave but they dragged their feet behind me. This is the part of the story that the boys like to tell, the drama.

Dennis followed me out with a comb and scissors in his hand and pointing to me he said “I need a break too!” Really?! I stopped and turned around to face him. He seemed a little taken back, but stood his ground gripping his comb and scissors. My almost teen, Emery, was looking like he wished he could delete himself from the scene.  I said “Take your break! I’m not stopping you. I don’t have time for your break!” (Emery would add that I was pointing my finger in his face and menacingly walking toward him) I turned and stomped off expecting the boys to be right behind me. Emery was embarrassed  and he sheepishly said to Dennis “Sorry.” Que?! I was the mistreated customer! I had nothing to apologize for! I almost turned around and accused Dennis of turning my own son against me.

I drove home, the boys felt my indignation, they went straight to their room when we got home, almost as if they had gotten in trouble. Why shouldn’t I be angry? I wasn’t asking for a freebee, my impatience wasn’t toward him at first, or was it? I was a regular customer, couldn’t he have put me at the front of the line? De repente! I stopped in my tracks, All those indignant thoughts  smashed up against the conviction I felt. My countenance changed. Pero, it wasn’t my fault, how was I being a terrible example to my sons? Didn’t they have to see that other people couldn’t walk all over me? Right here, picture my youngest; Thomas, saying, in his loud voice like his ama  “Yea, my mom was ready to take that barber down!” 

Maybe I should have slowed down enough to consider the situation? He was pretty busy, and still had a line of customers, he probably did need a break. I should have nicely said “I’ll come by tomorrow instead, what’s a good time?” Heavy sigh. I braced myself, sabes, it’s hard for me to say I’m sorry, I call those “expensive” words to give. Hijole, now I had to tell my kids I was wr…wro…wrong, whew! I went and apologized to them first and told them that I was going to apologize to Sal too.  Both Thomas’ light brown brows and Emerys dark ones shot up in surprise. I added that it was not the way to talk to people or the way I wanted to be treated. Talk about eating crow! Or choking on sweet humble pie. I mean, no big deal to just never go back to that shop right? Wrong! I wanted them to know God’s right way of handling situations. I do have to say I’m glad they weren’t with me as I swallowed that piece of pie.

Dennis saw me as I pulled up and he seemed ready for me. I took a deep breath and walked the few steps to his shop, it felt like the march of death to self! He came out to meet me, the shop was still full of customers. We face one another like the old cowboy westerns when a duel was imminent. He stood his ground, waiting for me to draw first. I immediately dispelled his wariness. “I’m just here to apologize for the way I behaved earlier” and to his credit, except for a lift of his eyebrows he didn’t react. He said, shoulders relaxing, “No problem, you can bring your boys back, I’ll cut their hair.” I said “Thank you” and tried to walk away with grace in my step while  in my very humbled state. 

Afterwards, cuando estaba sola and I told my journal the whole scene, I was glad that I did it. I could tell that Dennis was glad to still have a customer. My boys were pleased with me, they already knew how hard it is to admit you’re wrong, then, to see  their strong latina ama allow God to show a better way is priceless.

In the Greene family when episodes happen and we can laugh about them because we’ve survived them, they always turn into novelas

I wonder if this post evoked your own past novela scenes and lessons learned in life.