I checked the rice for the third time; adjusting the oven so it would encourage each grain to soak up the broth and form a fluffy pillow ready to pop into my mouth.
I moved in a fluid motion around my kitchen as I chopped the garlic cloves, red onions, sweet and spicy bell peppers, then heard their sizzling song as I tossed them into the pan over the fire. The nacho toppings were done, the beans were boiling in a soft murmur, and the sangria! Ay the sangria.
Here I am, a modern strong-headed woman, following in your footsteps.
I used to look at you, confused and angry as I saw your figure bent over the oven, the stove, and the table – furiously stirring, chopping, and tasting your feast that would feed the entire extended family.
I was angry that you let them put all the cooking on you; annoyed that you didn’t see that they were taking advantage of you. I wanted you to say, “Basta! You will make your own meals and host your own parties, and leave the heaping mess of beer bottles and discarded bones in your own backyard.” But every year you would cook a turkey, your famous costillas, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, rice, beans, the list would go on and on.
But I never heard them say thank you and I was pissed, in a way that only teenagers can be. I hated that you had to come home from your longs hours on your feet as a cook, only to be welcomed by the heat of your kitchen, your work never done, only stopping in the wee hours of the night. Only to wake up at 5 to get to work. Why? Porque ama?
Yet here I am, running around buying all of the supplies, ingredients, and necessities for the party – in the metro no less, just to see my chiquitas smile…
You confuse me in so many ways yet I love you so much. I can’t bring myself to be truly angry at you; I try by recalling all of the pain you gave me to inherit – but it’s a farza. I love you mami.
Everything you have done, you thought you were doing for us. Whether I agree with the steps you took along the away or not- my heart still beats thanks to you.
The girls aren’t spoiled with material things but sometimes I wonder if I smother them with all of the things I want to do for them.
Will they know mami? Will they know how much I love them, how my whole body swells with pride and joy at the mere thought of them.
As I grow up and see my friends around me; I understand you a little more. I don’t condone what you did but I get it. I have so many friends that grew up like me: short on love and full of need.
As they became young mothers some of them took all of the emptiness from their childhood and filled it with the love for their own offspring. Their children, like my own, saved them. They were done looking for love in loveless sex, booze, packets of powder, and needles.
But a lot of them grew up and turned into their mothers: slapping their kids around to unload their fury at life, becoming self-obsessed with self-pity, and abandoning their kids emotionally while they continued their search for the right elixir that will dull their pain. They are stuck in childhood, arrested emotionally and erratically lashing out in anger.
No one was there to hold your hand when you were left alone to care for your siblings. I can’t imagine how lonely and scared you must have been. You had no one but strangers to turn to when the migra came to the factories where you pulled double shifts before you could even be called a young woman. So alone, so full of pain; I never realized just how strong you really are.
I need to tell you how I feel. I wish I could take you in my arms and cradle you in them, guarding you from harm – the way your parents were unable to do for you. That’s what I do with my own girls, I express feelings I was unable to express with anyone else. You and dad grew up in fragmented harsh realities; you did the best you could and I thank you. Thank you for showing me what strength and resilience is, even when I had to use it around you both – thank you.