The Ones We Leave Behind

In June, it will be three years since my grandmother, my only grandmother passed away.

While on my way to the Smithsonian museums, a concert and a folkloric festival, I received a phone call from my Mom.  She was calling to let me know that my grandmother had passed.  Deep down inside I always knew it would be my mom calling to inform me she was gone.  At that moment, I didn’t know what to say or what to do.  I simply stopped right where I was, letting everything sink in.

That day, I simply kept going through the motions, finishing what I had originally set out to do.  I stayed until the concert ended and slowly made my way back home afterwards.  However, the fact that my grandmother was no longer on this earth started to sink in little by little.  I was not able to cry until two days later when I managed to look at her picture.  It all has been a process, three years ago I wouldn’t have been able to write about her publicly and it wasn’t until recently that I am able to do it and share this experience openly.

The hardest thing for me during this process was having to mourn her loss from a distance.  Being so far away from her, from the rest of my relatives in Mexico, made her absence in my life more pronounced.  I realized I wasn’t just grieving my grandmother’s passing, I was also grieving for the country I left behind when I moved away from San Luis Potosi all those years ago.  Her death made me realize I never gave myself time to properly grieve for the things and the people I left behind.

Back when I was little, before starting preschool, my grandmother used to take care of me while my mom was at work.  In those days, we lived in my grandma’s house from time to time. But no matter how far away from my grandmother my mom moved, I always managed to make my way back.  Whenever things wouldn’t go well with my mom, I always told myself I would just move back to my grandmother’s.  One time, I even left my mom’s house to go visit my grandmother and walked many miles, like an hour’s worth of walking, to get to her house.  Needless to say, when my mom found out where I was, she gave me quite a scolding.  But as a child I felt super confident and proud that, while being so young, I managed to safely make my way to my grandmother’s house.

In those days, my grandmother’s house was my safety blanket; the place to go to when things didn’t work out.

Everything changed after my mother, my sisters and I migrated to the U.S.  All of the sudden everything I knew was taken from me, including my grandmother’s house.  At that age, this was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

I’ll never forget when I had to say goodbye to my grandmother, how the car that we were driving in passed by her house and without stopping drove away.  The car continued it slow, sad pace as it made its way pass my neighborhood, by my new school where I had just begun to make a new group of friends, as well as by the private school where I used to fantasize about the boy I liked who went to that school and I just watched him from afar.

As we drove away I could see the railroad tracks running parallel to our car.  The railroad was the highlight and the street marker of the neighborhood where my grandmother’s house was.  I was afraid to look back because I felt if I did I would burst out crying.  Instead, I resolved to keep my eyes fixed forward.  I kept this up until I realized we were standing at a crossroad’s point, between four intersections.  To my right was the school I loved and I would miss with all of my friends.  To my left was the convenience store where people gathered around to take the public bus and find out the latest news.  Behind me was grandmother’s house, my childhood and my extended family everything I was leaving behind.  And in front was the place where the taxi was heading, the way to the central camionera or bus station which would eventually lead us to the other side, the new country where we would live, our new home.

As the taxi passed that crossroad I finally stole a quick look behind me.  That’s when it hit me, all of it at once: this was going to hurt… a lot! Leaving everything I knew and loved up to that point behind in search for something better was not going to be easy.  But what hurt me the most, I realized, would be breaking away from my grandmother’s safety blanket.

The hardest part for those of us who leave families and relatives behind in our native country in order to better our lives, is the day, the hour, the minute when we get the news that our grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, beloved friend or family member passed away.  The grieving process is different for those of us who have to hear the news from afar and we miss out having the opportunity to spend time right there next to them, watching them get older, sharing stories with them and most importantly letting our new generation of children grow next to the older generation.  We grow apart in a land far, far away…

For many centuries, families have migrated to this country, the United States, in hopes of better futures.  They want to live the American Dream, they watch other people do it and one day, they risk everything they have and believe wholeheartedly that it can become true for them as well.  However, not many of them realize what they will have to give up in order to make this dream happen.  Yes, it can happen for you too, the American Dream, but there is always something that you have to give up, always a price to pay.

When I was brought here, I was stranded somewhere in the gulf between a young girl and an older child; one who didn’t have a saying in how or what things should be done because parents make these kinds of decisions.  But I was old enough to experience what many immigrants in the U.S. have to go through in order to survive or better their lives, to lift themselves from the conditions they were born in.

I miss my grandmother some days more than others.  She is always in my thoughts; in the Mexican food that I prepare in her honor, when I garden I feel connected to her because she used to love gardening as well.  I am no longer sad and I’m grieving properly regarding her parting all thanks to God who comforts me.

The grieving process changes as time passes and it is true what I once read about losing someone you love; “you never really get over it, but you find a way to carry it with you.”

The Point of Convergence blog is dedicated to her memory and to the memory of the country I left behind in order to make a new one my home.  It is symbolic of the place, the crossroads, where I found myself once as a child looking back realizing what I was leaving behind.

May you rest in peace Abuelita,

Your Granddaughter

Lizzeth Montejano copyrighted 2018

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A Fond Memory of my Sister

An image can evoke different feelings in different people.

Every human being is a collection of different experiences.  An image of a place, say a children’s park, evokes different feelings to each person according to their own experiences.

It wasn’t until I began journaling, jotting down memories from when I was a child living in Mexico, that I noticed something interesting.  I noticed that the majority of the pictures I took during my various trips back to Mexico are of places in the Historic Downtown of San Luis Potosi; the city where I was born and raised before my family and I migrated to the U.S.

Although I haven’t been able to go back and visit Mexico as much as I would like, the few trips I have been able to make always led me back to the Historic Downtown.  I realized that I always made it a point to go to this particular place in San Luis Potosi to take pictures of the area.  These particular photos were taken in 2000, a trip I made when I was 19 years old.  While looking at these photographs, I wondered why a 19-year-old would want to take pictures of historic sites when there are other more important things while on travel.  Looking back, I feel that a typical teenager would not be interested in pictures of cathedrals, museums, theaters and such places.  Teenagers would rather spend time with friends, taking pictures of their time together and other events such as parties, but not of historic sites, right?

Catedral de San Luis Potosí – San Luis Potosi Cathedral
Teatro de La Paz – Theater of La Paz in San Luis Potosi

In the process of writing about these photos I asked myself this question: why did I take pictures of all these places?  Using writing, the photos, and dreams, God gave me the answer; I use to live near all these places! This was a fact that I had forgotten…

These are the places my mom, a single mother at the time, would take us to when she had half-days off from work.  In those days my mom worked a lot.  We walked along the Historic Downtown some afternoons, which on occasions turned to evenings.  I now recall spending many afternoons and Sundays prancing around these unforgettable places.  This is why, subconsciously at least, they became special to me.

These two photos brought back a fond memory of a Sunday afternoon with my mom and younger sister.

“We were strolling around the Historic Downtown – the folkloric music that played every Sunday around the plazas was typical of those days in San Luis Potosi.  Back then, Sundays were special days, when families took the time to spend it together.  Everyone took their children to the plazas and bought them cotton candy and came to watch the various live cultural shows that took place after morning mass.  Older people spent their days sitting on the benches, watching people pass by or spending time in the afternoons.  The joyous laughter of children at play would touch the hearts of older folks, bringing in turn a childish smile to their faces; as if they were reliving their childhood memories through the children’s plays.

Some people would come to sit and feed uncooked rice to the doves.  The image of twenty or thirty black, beige, and brown doves surrounding a bench crowding around the person feeding them, became a pleasurable memory forever etched in my mind.

In one of those Sunday afternoons, my mother, sister and I walked by one of those people feeding the doves.  At the time, he was surrounded in what looked like a living blanket of feathers.  My little sister cheerfully ran towards the gathered doves wanting to catch them.  She tried holding on to as many as she could, scaring the poor doves in the process, causing them to fly away.  My mom and I just smiled at each other”

I now know these are the happy moments I had to leave behind because there was no room left in my suitcase.  Rediscovering these lost memories connected me to my place of origin, reminding me that no matter where I go or how far I travel, San Luis Potosi is just a photograph and a memory away.

Templo de Nuestra Señora del Carmen – Temple of our Lady of Carmen
Catedral de San Luis Potosí – San Luis Potosi Cathedral
Templo de San Francisco – Temple of San Francisco in San Luis Potosi
Jardín de San Francisco – San Francisco Garden

“There is no Growth without Change”

It’s interesting to see how perspective changes overtime.

Photos can help us see our own perspective and track how it has changed overtime.  For example, below are three photos of the same place: a cathedral in San Luis Potosi, where I’m originally from.  Each photo captures different times I’ve traveled back to Mexico since moving to the United States.

Three different photos in three different times from three different angles.  These photos help me understand myself and how my perspective has changed throughout the years.  The first photo, taken in 1998, four years after leaving Mexico, I was visiting the historic district in San Luis Potosi.  This magnificent and colonial cathedral was calling my name, asking me to pay attention to her.  Standing in a kiosk I snapped the photo without really focusing my camera as is the case with a rookie photographer who has just gotten started.

In 2000, I went back to the same place to take another picture, this time with a different and newer camera.  By now I had taken a few more photos since the last time I saw her, so I felt I could do her better justice this time around.  I stood far away at an angle where the majestic cathedral could be fully viewed by my camera lens.  She smiled at me, joyous to see me once again and ready to pose for me, as if she had been waiting for me those two years.

The latest picture is from my 2014 trip to Mexico.  By now, I felt very confident as a photographer, having traveled the world already on a few occasions. I felt confident that I knew what angles would snap an almost perfect picture.  I bent on one knee, my camera pointed lightly upward, looking towards the sky, but also wanting to capture the movement from that day’s beautiful sky as well as the people moving across the cathedral minding their own business.  I took that photo with much confidence.

The cathedral, tall immovable building that it is, was still there waiting for me.  She was still the same with some minor renovations.  In the same way my people from San Luis Potosi, their way of thinking, their culture and traditions, remained almost unchanged.  Nonetheless, on the other side of the lens, the woman who stands there now admiring this grandiose cathedral as if it was the number one wonder of the world, has a new set of eyes and a new heart.  She has traveled the world and has marveled at some of the most amazing man-made and natural wonders of out there.  She traveled new paths, and on occasions created her own way forward, heading into places where no one else in her family even dreamed of, let alone dared to go.  And after all these amazing experiences she still refuses to let go of the conviction that this place is still the most amazing place in the entire world!

As a young teenager, I refused stubbornly to leave behind my comfort zone, along with everything I knew and everyone I loved.  And yet, had I not left, I would not be marveling and appreciating my place of origin right now – the place where I was once happy as a child.  It took leaving my country behind in order to appreciate it and yearn for it in the way I do now.  It took me leaving my country in order for me to grow.

Catedral de SLP
Catedral de SLP