This upcoming Sunday is Mother’s Day so all week I am focusing on Moms! There are so many mothers who have made an impact in my life and I want to take some time to write about some good memories and even some lessons they taught me. Let’s start off by discussing the queen of the hive–my grandmother.
In the family we all call my grandmother Mom. From time to time we would spend the night at Mom’s house. Each night before tucking us into bed she would bless us with holy water from her ceramic pink rose shaped dish. We would crawl into bed and try to fall asleep before it was Mom’s bedtime. Why? Because she was a loud snorer! However, many times we couldn’t fall asleep and we’d stay up and watch some of her nighttime programs. She would watch a Spanish TV personality named Walter, who was as I see it, was the Liberace of the Spanish TV world. In his incredibly flashy garb he would announce your horoscope each night.
In the morning we would wake up to a hot mug of cream of wheat or oatmeal. Wheel of Fortune would be playing on the TV and we’d sit at the table and contently enjoy our warm cereal. One of the best things about staying at Mom’s house was the stash of Barbie dolls and outfits she kept on hand for her grandchildren. That was almost always the first thing we would gravitate towards each time we visited.
Every once in a while Mom would take us out. We’d shower and get all dressed. Once, we walked to Mervyn’s and she generously bought us each an outfit. I remember on the way home she smoked a cigarette and when she was done we stepped on it for her. At that time her balance was not very good, she used a cane to walk long distances. So of course we dutifully put out her cigarette butts for her! We were good grandchildren and didn’t blink an eye at any of her requests.
There were lots of good memories in that house. She eventually needed to downsize and moved to a duplex where she became neighbors with her sister. I always thought that was so cute, and sometimes my sisters and I would talk about being neighbors with each other in the future.
Mom’s resilience and fortitude became apparent as I grew older. She raised 8 children and worked extremely hard her entire life. Mom worked many low wage, back breaking jobs like picking in the strawberry fields or packing items in factories. Stopping only when health complications arose.
She wasn’t what you would think of as a “traditional” or “conservative” grandmother. Mom was tough and spoke her mind. Mom didn’t shy away from coarse language. She was deeply religious, her Virgin Mary shrine and poster of the Pope displayed in her home. She was conservative in that she believed that education was top priority and extracurricular activities got in the way. She always made it clear to all her children and grandchildren that education is the key to a better life. She was liberal in that she believed in fighting for her rights as a worker, woman, mother, and natural born citizen of the United States.
I was very lucky to receive an assignment in my college speech class to interview an older relative. Unfortunately, I am not fluent in Spanish so never had the chance to have full on conversations with Mom. For this assignment my older sister came with me and helped translate. Mom said a historical moment (although she doesn’t consider it historical, she’s not that old!) was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was her favorite president. Another was marching along side by side with Cesar Chavez, fighting for field laborer’s rights to decent working conditions and fair wages.
She once told my mom, “Monique is going to become a good woman.” I took that to heart. I think I know what she meant. She meant I was going to be successful, driven and possibly a bit like her. Sure, she was little stubborn (okay a lot) and at times I can be, my sisters and mother as well. Sometimes that comes in handy when you have your eye on a specific goal and will do all the hard work to get to the finish line.
Anyway, that’s Mom. Writing this makes me tear up just little because I miss her so much. She passed away May 9, 2008 just days before Mother’s Day.