When I think about growing up Latino, I am forced to think about my grandmothers. These are the only two women that were in my life that always seem to remind me of what I am. I was closer to my maternal grandmother than I was to my paternal one, but that does not mean that I do not still think about either of them.
My maternal grandmother was called “abuelita”. She was the head of the family and as far as I could tell was the sweetest woman in the world. Always treated me like I was special. In fact, mi abuelita treated me perfectly. I remember her being in her bed alot and being sick often enough. She would have her walker and walk around her apt. But, no matter how she felt, she always made the best food.
I just thought about this when as I writing. Mi abuelita was the first woman I wrote a poem for. I must have been in like that 3-4 grade. We were celebrating her birthday and there was all kinds of food and a delicious cake. My aunts and uncles were giving her presents. I remember that I had no money so I used to make cards (it is what you do as a kid; take some construction paper and fold it in half…draw something) and when I saw what every one was giving her I became self conscious.
I wanted to just give her the card and walk away because it was just words on some made up card. She saw me and (she always spoke to me in Spanish) told me to come to her. So I cautiously walked up in my shy way. Mi abuelita asked me what I have in my hands. I told her that it was a card that I made and that I wrote a poem. At this point, I just wanted to just give it to her then run and put my head under a pillow because I feel everyone’s eyes on me. Then she asked me to read it.
Truth be told. I do not remember what I wrote. I just remember that the poem was about her and how I struggled so hard to rhyme the word pleasant. So I remember that I used the phrase..”pleasant as a pheasant” (boy, I can put those words together cant I???). At the end of my poem, she grabbed my arm and thanked me and told me that my words made her feel very good. I could feel her encouragement. I will tell you when she died years later, I am not sure that I cried any harder than that day.
My paternal grandmother was called “abuela”. I did not see her as much as my abuelita but I remember there was a time that she used to take care of me as a kid. Family issues being what they were, I was still able to see her when the chance became available when I was older.
What I remember about her the most was everything was in Spanish! The feel of her apartment was just so different to me. Sure, she kept old things around but they were very ethnic. Mi abuela had a small radio in the kitchen that played Spanish music and talked about the news. When the tv was on, we watched novelas and/or anything on Telemundo. I would also watch her cook. I was always amazed how she cooked everything. If I was lucky, she would let me chop or cut anything to help her. All her instructions were in Spanish.
There are very few regrets I have in life, but one of them is not spending as much time with mi abuela as I got older. She died a few years ago. When I look at my mi tia that I stay with when I visit NYC, I see mi abuela in her. So this is part of the reason why I feel the need to take of my tia when I see and when I eventually move back to New York City.
I feel that my 2 grandmothers always reminded me of where I came from. Through culture, food, religion, and most importantly, their love.