Tag Archives: motherly love

Daughters of Mine

28 Jul

After a hectic day of work full of several meetings and deadlines, I rushed through rush hour traffic to pick up my girls by 6 PM from the Horizons Day Camp, where I had guiltily dropped them off for the first time that morning.

After spending a short weekend in LA being enveloped in sisterly love celebrating my mother’s birthday, I was back in Silicon Valley where I’ve been living for a year now.  We got home around midnight which made my early morning routine a little foggier and a little bit slower.  After fighting the urge to sleep in, we made our way to Starbucks to pick up coffee and chicken and hummus boxed lunches for the girls because I didn’t have a single thing in my fridge that could quickly materialize into an edible lunch meal for my girls.

I ordered ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches for them to eat while I sipped my coffee and slowly came back to life and thought how nice it was to be able to grab breakfast at a coffee shop on a weekday like we used to do in LA.  Lost in my thoughts as we made our way to the day camp center, my girls sang new songs they had made up, recited stories and asked me question after question which reminds me, I need to define equinox to them as this morning when they asked, the morning coffee had not peeled away the sleepiness that I have been fighting for the last week of 4 hour sleep nights.

They seemed excited to go to the day camp and meet new friends.  As we walked into the center we heard a child crying for his mom which made the girls reassess the desirability of the situation and they quickly clung to me asking me not to go.  “Take me with you mommy, I can stay at work with you.  Don’t leave me here.” “I can’t sweetheart, you will both have fun and remember, you have each other.”

As I walked away heavy with guilt, I couldn’t shake off the blanket of sadness that seemed to suffocate me and threatened to make me cry.  In the car, I wondered if I was doing the right thing – working and studying towards a better tomorrow at the cost of seeing them race to adulthood before my eyes without me being there MORE.

They’re not toddlers mind you, they are 8 and 9 and are pretty independent and strong young girls.  I have always marveled at their resiliency and capacity to adapt to new environs.  I was confident that they would be fine but I felt this urgency to be by their side gnawing at my nerves all day.  During lunch I spilled water on myself as I wondered if I should have gone to visit them instead of eating my meal with colleagues.

After a meeting that ended at 5:30, I rushed to my car and looked at my map app.  I jumped on the 101 S towards Palo Alto and exited a couple of miles after to avoid the parking lot of traffic ahead. My estimated arrival time slowly got away from me, 5:48, 5:52, 5:58.  It tortured me as I took surface streets and it recalculated urging me to take a U-turn and teetering between 5:58 and 5:59 pm.  As I missed the left turn and had to wait another eternal few minutes on the intersection of Page Mill and El Camino, I willed the lights to turn faster, the arrival time to freeze at 5:59 and my girls to be okay.

As I finally pulled into the office park, I quickly parked in a loading zone and jumped out of the car like a madwoman running in my heels across the plaza to pick up my girls before 6 pm and hoping that they weren’t the last kids in the center thinking I had abandoned them.  As I walked into view, they came over and greeted me with their gorgeous big smiles and started showing me the lanyards they had made, the art work, describing the three new friends they had made until I interrupted them to hurry up and get to the car which was illegally parked.  As we dashed back to the car I couldn’t help but feel silly for having been so worried.  Of course they would have a good time, of course they would make friends – they were my daughters after all.

In the car, they took turns spilling out the contents of the day as I recuperated from my bad mom guilt trip hangover.  At the red light I turned over my shoulder and excitedly reminded them that we would be going on vacation in two more days. “We’re going to have 8 days of nonstop time with each other girls, we can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, cuddle sessions, all of the time and attention that you want.”  Bella looked lost in thought.  “Are you okay Bella?”  “Uhm, yes.”  “Aren’t you excited?” “Yes.” (In a very non-excited voice).

I couldn’t help but sigh deeply inside.  Here I was carrying the world on my shoulders all day, feeling like the worse mother in the world because I HAD to work for a living, because I am ambitious enough to move out of my hometown LA to pursue a better future with a loving partner and father to my children, because I come home tired after long stressful days at work to cook and be a good mom and then stay up late to study for my evening classes as I work towards my degree, because I wish I could stay home with them during the summer and be there for all of the moments of childhood that seem to keep slipping through my fingers – and they were oblivious to all of it.  Just like I was when I was a child.

When my mother would wake up at 3:00 AM to cook dinner before she got ready for her shift at work which started at 4:30 AM I always wondered why she bothered working so hard, I was critical of her dedication to us.  When I would come home after school and I saw her sleeping on the sofa, exhausted and still in her work uniform as a cook, I felt a mixture of sympathy and love with an edge of annoyance that I never got to talk to her, that she never greeted me, that she wasn’t like the other moms that were home all day waiting for their children to get home to ask them about their day.  Now as a mother, I am grateful for the wonderful mother that I had.  She has her imperfections like we all do but her qualities far outweigh the human qualities about her.  Her desire and hard work towards a better tomorrow, her strength through bad financial, emotional and marital times, her love for her grandchildren, her hugs filled with aromatic coffee, her gentle smile, her love and acceptance, her belief in all of her children, her tenacity to overcome a horrible childhood, her generosity in love – all of these things and so many more keep her in the pedestal in which I have her.  My own guardian angel watching over me, reminding me that someday my own daughters will see the sacrifice that mothers make for their children.  Reminding me that these daughters of mine will be just fine because I’m raising them to be like my mother raised me to be: resilient, hardworking, confident, ambitious, and kind.

 

The SuperFlyingMonkeys at the San Francisco Golden Gate Slides

22 Mar

LA Morning Commute with the SuperFlyingMonkeys

19 Mar

Bronzed Beauties

5 Mar

Running
little legs
Giggles that chase
fear away

Stopping only
for a look
a nod
and they’re off
running
again

Warm light
bouncing off
sun streaked hair
Bright red
shiny cheeks
Riding high on laughter

Smiles
growing wide
Eyes full of wonder
twinkling on the water’s surface
Breaking it
as they jump in

Endless giggles
Bouncing off

Jumping higher
Reaching heights
of carefree happiness

Sunning
Bronzed limbs
in the glow
of California desert nights

Link

Please Support: Los Angeles Theatre Academy Presents: Pastorela “Camino a San Conrado”

21 Dec
Pastorela: Opening Night 7PM

Pastorela: Opening Night 7PM

This past week, I was honored to become a Board Member of this incredible non profit that promotes theatre, music, dance, and the happiness that results in these adorable children. Please support this important and dear to my heart endeavor! The girls will be borreguitos (sheep).

Opening Night TONIGHT at 7PM $15 Adults $7.50 kids 5 and Under FREE. Experience the cultural holiday tradition of a Pastorela in a beautiful setting surrounded by trees and the gorgeous LA sky. Listen to the angelic voices of DoReMi and just try to contain your fits of laughter induced by our comedic take on “El Camino a San Conrado” followed by Pinatas! Who doesn’t like pinatas?? :) Los-Angeles Theatre-Academy is the first theatre for kids, by kids, in Los Angeles. We are a non profit and gratefully accept donations via our paypal account. Please check out our website http://latheatreacademy.com/ It’s tax deductible.

Thank you, Gracias! De Todo Corazon!

Susana Benavidez, Board member, Los Angeles Theatre Academy

Santa Comes to Mexico?! First time meeting my family in Chihuahua, MX

28 Nov

I was six years old, flying to Mexico – that country that my father always whistfully spoke about – to meet my father’s family for the first time.

Memories of that trip come in bursts: arriving at the airport, the chaos of a Mexican airport drowning out the sound of my father’s voice, staying close to them, fearing getting lost in the crowd. 

In the plane, my dad sat between my older sister and I as my mom sat with my baby sister in another row.  I remember her being nervous while my father acted calm but I could feel that he too was nervous, wondering how he could protect his family 30,000 feet in the air.

When we landed in Chihuahua, we walked outside, lugging our luggage, only to find that the last bus to Villa Coronado had already left.  We waited in the dark street with the smell of fried dough emanating form the street vendors.  My father was able to coach a taxi driver into making the five hour trip through the backroads of the desert.

We had brought a lot of luggage, at least two of which contained clothing, home goods, and other gifts for our relatives, so much that they didn’t fit in the trunk where the taxi driver kept his spare tire.  “La dejamos!”  My father shook his head, rejected leaving it behind in case we got a flat and would end up stuck in the cold night out in the middle of nowhere. 

So he offered to carry it with one arm hanging out the car window.  The driver looked at him incredeously, “Apoco la puede cargar?”.  “Used no se preocupe, yo la cargo.” 

So we all piled in.  My mother and sisters quickly fell asleep and though I could feel my eyelids growing heavier and heavier, I wouldn’t allow myself to doze off.  I had to stay awake and help mi papi in case anything happened.  I was convinced that if I stayed awake, nothing would happen.  The night was cold, with the wind blowing up a steady wall of dust into the car as my father gripped on to that spare tire. 

It was dark as the black of my eyes, the headlights illuminated only about a foot and a half of the road ahead.  The crunching of the plants below the tires were accompanied by unidentifiable birds, the hiss of a snake, the howling of coyotes.  A chorus under the blanket of the most gorgeous sky I had ever laid eyes on. I got lost in the stars, the longer I looked, the more I saw, deeper and deeper into an encompassing beauty that hipnotized me.  I grew up in LA, the most stars I had seen in my life were three at once, with a high likelihood that one was probably a small airplane. 

The sound of the conversation between the driver and my dad was a source of comfort.  The elongated vowels, the ssh of the “s”, the drawl of each ending word in a sentence; this form of Spanish was new to my ear and I liked it.

We finally arrived at the wee hours of the morning to this sleepy town charmingly frozen 50 years in the past. 

Unrecognizeable in our dusty state, our hosts – our family in Chihuahua – slammed the door on my father’s face in greeting to his thunderous knocking. 

 Granted, when a hushed voice inquired as to who stood at the door at this ungodly hour, “Quien Es?!”, he cheekily responded with a booming interrogation, “Aqui vive Jose Benavides?!”  He asked for himself, he the son who had not stepped foot on that door in at least 20 years and who had left in the cover of darkness for reasons better left  unexplained in print.

 He knocked again, this time with a gentler touch on the door, a languid caress of leathery hand to wood not touched since he was 19.  The door opened again slowly and he smiled into the dim crack of light and asked his sister, “No me reconoces Ricarda?”  I heard the snap of her inhale and yelp of emotion before she stepped back and swung the door open to reveal an ample stocky frame of a woman smiling up at him with tears in her eyes.  She let out a loud shriek of joy and grabbed him and then smacked him for scaring her. 

 I looked around and I saw two girls around my age, brown-skinned like me, dark hair, almond-shaped eyes still heavy with sleep but shining with curiosity.  I saw adults all around me hugging and shoving, crying and laughing, kissing me, hugging me.  I went along with it all, so much so that my sister asked if I knew who they were.  “No, I have never seen them before.”  She stared at me with feigned annoyance until she too became part of this rotating human touching machine. 

 I crouched down and crept away, searching for air and a respite from all of the affection from strangers.  And I saw him.  Mi abuelito.  He was a giant, with graying hair below his cowboy hat, a face so full with wrinkles that they seemed to form the Chihuahua sierras across his broad forehead and hatchet sharp cheekbones.  I stood dumbfounded before him, my greatest love affair about to begin with a man who will always hold a reigning place in my heart.  He looked down at me and as I gulped I could feel the saliva slowly trickling down my throat and the shivers covering every inch of my arms.

 “Tu eres Susy?”  His low but booming voice asked me.  I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh, so I stood there silent and immobile. 

 I felt the gentle but firm shoving of my father’s hand on my back and it broke my stupid-like trance.  I walked to him shyly.  He held out his large hand and when I took it, it felt as if it has been molded to hold my own.  His rough farmer hands gripped mine and I stood there silently next to him knowing that I belonged to him.

 Before long the commotion died down to a whisper and became a chorus of grunted and hummed affirmations.  I looked around at my cousins, four in all, and noticed my youngest cousin eyeing my hand that was held by my Abuelito with suspicious jealousy.  I stepped possessively closer to him.

 My tia Ricarda corralled all the kids into two bedrooms and I slept with that young cousin in one bed as my sister slept with my other cousin on another bed a couple of feet away. We didn’t talk.  A soon as I felt the embroidered pillow cover scratch my cheek, the exhaustion of the day’s travel hit my body and knocked me out until the next morning.

 When I opened my eyes again it was still dark, but I heard hushed voices and followed them into the kitchen. 

 My father sat with my Abuelito, my tia Ricarda, and her husband, all chattering in a quiet sing song way over tin mugs of coffee and homemade flour tortillas as fat as pancakes. 

 They looked up at me and my tia quickly got up to pull out a chair for me, spread a thin layer of fried beans on my tortilla and gave me a tin cup full of leche, creamy on top with nata, freshly milked from the mooing cow outside.  

 My days were spent in this way, observing, nodding, smiling, and staying close to my Abuelito.  Soon the house came alive with the song of morning as kids rise from bed: banging and clanging and howling, as they get dressed for the day’s chores.  I picked up a broom and started sweeping and fell into the rhythm of this new and old country.  

 Soon my primas were our best friends, we, their shadow from El Norte, magnets for friendly waves and questions about Los Angeles.  We followed them to the tortilleria to pick up the fresh corn tortillas milled for the town, to the Carniceria for the day’s fresh cuts of meat, to the Papeleria, for the day’s supply of paper goods for the small store my tia kept at the front of the house. 

 Everywhere I was welcome with, “Eres hija de Pepe?”  Like a proud little hen I pumped up my chest and broadly smiled as I answered, “Si!”

~~~~

 As Christmas approached, the wind pierced your body as if with an ice pick, sharp pain that drilled down into your bones.  But every night I ignored the cold and continued to sit by the frosted window and waited in anticipation.  Would Santa Clos come here to Mexico?  Did he know I was here?

 On Christmas Eve, after Mass, we gathered around the living room as the adults toasted and warmed the room with their mirth.  I don’t remember what we ate, I might have been too nervous for the following morning or I might have just been avoiding my tia’s awful cooking. The house was packed, with our other sets of primas and primos joining us for this night, crowding the house with love. 

 As the day grew late and night took over, the adults began to shuttle us to bed.  I clearly remember being tucked in and feeling perfectly warm and happy with my newfound extended family.  I fell asleep with the sweetness of affectionate hands caressing my hair and a smile lingering on my lips. 

 Before dawn I was awake and slightly uncomfortable, something cold and hard was pushing up against my face.  I got up and looked down to find a baby’s lifeless face staring at me.  The plastic limbs were lightly colored to match my skin; the doll’s body was full of water which made it feel like a real baby’s delicate body in my arms.  I looked around and my mouth hung open as I realized that we all had toys by our pillows and slowly, like a leaky faucet, the thought trickled down from my brain to my mouth and I yelped out, “Santa Clos! Santa Clos vino!!!!” 

 All of my cousins quickly leaped up from their sleep as if I had pressed an on button and the sound of packaging tearing and cooing of motherly girls cradling their bebes filled the two rooms.  We ran from primo to prima, comparing what we had received from the dear Santa Clos who apparently also traveled to Mexico after all.  I looked out the window and smiled thinking, what a clever fellow to make me doubt him and then embrace him even more after he found me in this town with oil lamps, unpaved roads, and one phone for the entire community, what a wonderful clever and loving fellow indeed.

Letter to my Dear Eliza on her 7th Birthday

13 Nov

When I see your face, your uninterrupted innocence, and feel the silkiness of your cheek when you rub it against mine in affection I am mesmerized.  I am awestruck and grateful for the simplicity in your joy and outlook in life; by your dreams full of cotton candy clouds, rainbows bursting through the sky, pink princesses leading the world; and your mommy loved above it all. 

You hold my hand, tilt your head to the side, giving me one of your crooked half smiles that can’t contain itself and I am filled with a radiating warmth that makes the world around me livelier.

 I work hard instilling a joy for life, an appreciation for everything around us; whether it is observing the morning dew glittering on a blade of lime green grass or sitting quietly taking in the fiery and purple hues of our LA sunsets.  I pray, in my own way, that you take what happiness you can from each moment in life and that these moments become a permanent state of happiness for you.

Each time I threw a penny in a wishing pond, each time an eyelash fell and we pressed it against our fingers, every birthday cake wish since I’ve had you two, I have fervently wished that you grow to be Happy and Kind – wonderful women.

 Along the way of finding ways to improve your chances of a better tomorrow, I have found bits and pieces of happiness myself.  As I looked for a better education for the two of you, I found a way to use my skills to volunteer and received a higher sense of fulfillment.  As I pushed you into the arts, I became immersed in a colorful world of music, acting and dance. 

 We have grown happier together.  We have grown stronger together.

 Today you are seven years old. 

 I was 21 and a mother of two with a growing sense of dread and an urgent need to raise you on my own before you were marred with witnessing what I did as a child.

 No one knew what went on nor do they need to know.  I set out with the two of you and we carried on as three.  It is the hardest decision I have ever made.  Not because of what I needed but for fear that I was being weak by not putting up with a bad situation so you could have your father. 

 In many ways I have never been a child but more of a half adult.  I experienced life’s travails and physical exigencies while still trapped in a child’s body.  Like a Matryoshka doll, I forced forward the strength of an adult to appease the need of others when inside I was physically and deep down, emotionally, still a child. 

But since the first moment I laid eyes on you, I Loved you.  You were my renewed link to life in many ways, my dear.  With time, I have found my own place, independent of you two, I discovered self-love.  But what remains unchanged are the tears that threaten to spill from my eyes, the ache in my chest, in my soul, when I think of you and the love I have for you. 

 I say all this in tribute to you; to the strength that you have as a seven year old, to have lived through the many low’s that life dealt us in the past but retaining only the good.

 You take heart in the beauty of dying embers even when the fire burned.

 Your eyes, full of honest and raw adoration looked up at me and thanked me for a weekend that reminded you of how special you are.  I will never forget what you told me that night.  I share it in hope that it inspires the formerly unloved to focus on the care and love of their own children instead on love that was not received. 

 The night was bitingly cold but we happily lingered in the moment as we walked back from your birthday dinner.  I took your small fingers in my hand and caressed them with the magic that hung, suspended in the air.

 You stopped and looked up at me, your eyes shining with tenderness, and asked me,

 “Mommy, you know how you can happy cry?”

 “Yes?”

 “When you read me your card, you made me happy cry.”

 —The contents of said birthday card will remain private because I whispered those words, meant only for you, into your ear—

 “Iza, you’re making me happy cry now.”

 “Thank you Mommy.” And you hugged me tightly.

 That in a life continuously assaulted with the love for Things, with the need of bigger, better, brighter!, you chose to focus on and appreciate the love that I show you, made my wish come true.

 

 

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Zack Hunter | Phenomenological Fiction

Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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