It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that to be true. In the “village” of my family I feel like my Tia (Aunt) Mary helped raise a lot of us kids. She had the ability to be a stay-at-home mom and took care of so many children, with love, some discipline and lots of care.
My Tia Mary is also my godmother, or in Spanish my Nina. I always felt a special love for her. I feel like she gives all the children in her life special love and care, but being her goddaughter I felt a little bit of extra love from her. She picked out my name, Monique. My mom wanted my middle name to be April and had trouble finding something that went well with that name. Today, and as a kid, I feel like she is always supportive, encouraging, loving and never runs out of positive affirmations. She is also fun, likes a good margarita, a good party, takes brisk walks every day for fitness, and can still rock a tank top and denim shorts.
When I was in first and second grade I went to school with my cousin and some mornings I remember walking over to my Tia Mary’s house with my older sister Marina to meet up with my cousins and walk to school together. It was so nice living in the same neighborhood.
Some of my favorite memories are walking to her house after school and being greeted with a small snack. Then we’d dive into homework. I remember her really putting an emphasis on education, much like Mom (my grandmother). She patiently helped us do our phonics, reading and fill in our math worksheets. Oh how patient she was with me as I cried tears of frustration trying to figure out double and triple digit subtraction!
Sometimes after school some of us kids would sit in her room to do extra phonics tutoring. She’d set us up with the booklets and play the tape and we would follow along. Once we were all done with our homework we could play. I’m so lucky to have cousins my age and close to my age, because we were all playmates and loved being together.
Other things I remember are the fun parties she threw. Well, she still does 😉 But back then when we were all kids, it was different as we all ran around together and the adults barbecued and drank beers together. She’s always been a fun-loving hospitable person. She always had an “open door policy” in her house. Don’t knock and wait for someone to answer, just come on in! Then we’d be greeted with warm hugs.
Sometimes, she would watch after us when we were sick. My mom needed to go to work and didn’t want to leave sick children alone at home. So we’d stay at Tia Mary’s house and she would take care of us so well. On long breaks like summer or spring, we’d be at her house all day long. There was always warm tortillas with with beans to eat and the promise of a couple cookies and tall glass of cold milk if we ate all of our lunch. We had plenty of time to play together with dolls, action figures, video games or visits to the nearby park. Tia Mary also made sure to squeeze in a little education by putting some Bill Nye the Science Guy on the TV.
A few years ago, I witnessed one of my younger cousins being disciplined by Tia Mary. Her voice, the way she did that, was exactly the way she would discipline us. And I thought, “Another generation getting Tia Mary’s love.” When I say “discipline” I mean…correcting negative behavior. She will be loving and friendly until you start acting up. She will put you in line with a few stern words. It is all said with good intentions and love. She’s making you take a step back and realize the attitude you are projecting, that ungrateful, negative, or angry behavior will not be tolerated. I don’t know if my words are clearly describing what I mean, I hope it’s understood!
One more memory… Having a bunch of cousins was awesome because we frequently had sleepovers at Tia Mary’s house, and she was always happy to oblige. Before bed she would make sure we brushed our teeth, changed into PJs, and tuck us in, then bless us and kiss us goodnight. I always got a warm, happy, fuzzy feeling when she did that.
So that’s Tia Mary! My fun-loving aunt who was always open to taking a child under her wing to give her special care.