Los Juegos – A Childhood Memoir

As a child, back when I lived in Mexico, my cousins and I used to go to a place we called los juegos. Los juegos —Spanish for the playground— was a special place for all of us. Back then, I believed los juegos were the happy, go-to place for kids everywhere. This was also one of the places where I felt the safest.

The playground was managed by the local government of San Luis Potosí, which charged an entrance fee of one peso per kid. A security guard was always on duty, managing the entrance door and collecting the entrance fees from the fingers of eager children ready to go climb and run around every corner.

As I said, I felt safe in this place. Perhaps it was the security guards, whom I thought were policemen. Maybe the uniform they wore or their professional demeanor put me at ease. It could also be due to the fact that both my grandmother and our moms felt it was safe letting us go to this playground. Granted, we had to go as a group, never on our own. Back in those days going places in groups was all my cousins and I did.

I have many happy memories of los juegos:my cousins and I meeting new friends and playing with them, all of us spending long hours and entire weekends playing there. When we eventually were all played out and made our way back home, oh my, we were all so very hungry and thirsty!

Now as an adult, I reminisce a lot about these fond memories. And as a mother, I dreamed of one day taking my kids to this special place where I was once happy.

The opportunity finally came during our trip to San Luis Potosí in 2019. Unfortunately, since December is one of the coldest months, los juegos remained closed for most of our time there.

During that trip, we spent almost three weeks in San Luis Potosí, visiting friends, spending time with family and taking in the sights. Between our packed schedule, the Christmas holiday festivities and days (most of them) when los juegos were closed during our time there, I was not able to take my kids to my favorite childhood playground. However, we did manage to squeeze in some time at a playground at one of the places we visited.

The place we went to is called Los Adobes, an hacienda-style restaurant with a big playground in the back reserved for customers. It is a family-friendly restaurant with a country-style atmosphere. After customers enjoy a delicious buffet-style meal, they can go outside and enjoy the playground and the beautiful pond in the back of the property.

Los Adobes, an hacienda-style restaurant located between San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato.
an hacienda-style restaurant with a big playground in the back.
the beautiful pond in the back of the property.
Maguey plants outside the restaurant.
Maguey plant outside the restaurant.

The views there were just breathtaking: the playground was kept in great condition and the food was delicious. I think the playground was the best part of my family’s outing that day, though the food came in at a close second.

After we got back from our trip to Mexico and while looking at the pictures of this trip, I saw my daughters’ faces illuminated with a big smile while running around and enjoying the restaurant’s playground. I realized that it didn’t matter if we weren’t able to make it to my favorite childhood playground as long as we were together at a playground in Mexico making new memories.

Looking at the beautiful sunset over the mountains, between San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato, my daughters were helping me relive my most cherished childhood memories and for a moment I was a happy child once more, spending endless hours playing in a playground.

a happy child spending endless hours playing in a playground.

A Bonfire Ritual to say Goodbye to the Year 2020

The last full moon in 2020.

To say that “this has been a challenging year for all of us,” would be an overused and cliché statement.

I have been hearing this phrase over and over from newsletters to social media posts, and honestly, I’m tired of hearing and reading it.

It has been a difficult year for all of us. I don’t need to be reminded of this and conclude this year on a gloomy note.

I wanted to close the year 2020 on a positive note. So, I decided to end this year by doing something different; just like this year 2020 has been…different.

I looked out the window and got a glimpse of this beautiful, round, yellow circle staring right at me from the horizon. I had forgotten that it was a full moon on December 29, 2020. The last full moon of 2020.

I ran to the computer and read that this was a cold moon, the ancient name given to the full moon in December.

No wonder I was feeling very emotional that day, since I woke up that morning.

I was totally mesmerized by the beauty of the full moon. I had never seen it like that, right after sunset.

The cold moon, the ancient name given to the full moon in December.
The cold moon, the ancient name given to the full moon in December.

I told my daughters to get ready because we were having a bonfire that night.

I’ve been wanting to do a bonfire in December, but it’s been really wet this month in the East Coast. So, I kept putting it off until a better day. “Today was the day,” I said to myself.

I ran outside and started prepping the fire pit. My youngest daughter got so excited by just watching me get excited about the bonfire. I had stored a bag of marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate, and graham cookies since the summer. I was getting ready for this day without realizing it!

We lit up the fire pit and we were completely hypnotized by the glow and movement of the fire.

A Bonfire Ritual to say Goodbye to the Year 2020.
A Bonfire Ritual to say Goodbye to the Year 2020.

I was inspired to write, and so, I wrote on a piece of paper all the things I wanted to let go this year. I asked my daughters and husband to do the same.

I wanted to let go of all the negative feelings accumulated through this year; whether from watching the news and media to the difficult situations we experienced as a result of this pandemic.

After we wrote our notes on a piece of paper, we threw them with mighty force into the fire and watched them burn and turn into ashes.

We threw them with mighty force into the fire and watched them burn and turn into ashes.
We threw them with mighty force into the fire and watched them burn and turn into ashes.

We concluded our bonfire by singing karaoke, eating s’mores, and admiring the beauty of the full moon.

Goodbye year 2020.

You have taught good lessons to every one of us!

I’m feeling nostalgic about this year, especially knowing that this is the end of a season, and the beginning of another one.

But, I’m ready to start the year 2021.

I am ready, committed, and inspired to start all those projects I’ve been putting on hold.

Here’s to a new year full of health, blessings, love, and making all our dreams come true!

Happy New Year!

Welcome year 2021!

Happy New Year! Welcome year 2021!
Happy New Year! Welcome year 2021!

Our First Halloween in the U.S.

I remember very vividly the first year after I moved to the U.S.; both the changing foliage of the autumn season and the concept of Halloween were foreign to me.

Beautiful tree changing foliage in the fall.

My family and I moved to U.S. in the 90’s as I began my teenage years. We moved to a small, rural Midwest town in Illinois. Every autumn, shortly after the start of a new school year, the leaves would change various shades of yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown. The humid summer air would start turning cool and crisp, announcing the transition to autumn.

Autumn also reminded me of coming home from school and looking forward to watching the Simpsons. After The Simpsons there was Roseanne, and then Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in that order. My Mom would have dinner ready right after The Simpsons. Watching The Simpsons always reminded me of Mexico as this was my favorite show before we moved to the states. Of course, back in Mexico I used to watch it in Spanish.

The first new friends we made there were another Mexican family who, like us, migrated to the U.S. from Mexico. This family had three sons and had lived here in the states for a while. We spent our first Halloween in the U.S. with them. One of their sons spoke to me in English, but because I barely knew the language, I only answered in short sentences.

I remember they wore spooky masks and carried pillow cases to collect candy that night. My sisters and I didn’t go trick-or-treating with them because we didn’t quite understand what it was. It seemed fun: seeing all the kids knocking on doors, asking for candy, as they yelled, “Trick or treat!”

Kids knocking on doors, asking for candy, as they yelled, “Trick or treat!”
Kids knocking on doors, asking for candy, as they yelled, “Trick or treat!”

We didn’t give away any candy that first year either, because, as I mentioned, we were not ready for or really understood what Halloween was all about. I felt very intrigued by the whole thing, especially after seeing how much fun our new friends had trick-or-treating.

After that unforgettable, first Halloween, my sisters and I started participating on the Halloween festivities. Most of my fondest memories growing up in the U.S. take place in the fall; with many of them revolving around Halloween. Every fall became a memorable moment in my mind, as I navigated through the difficult experiences of moving to another country and learning a new language, a new culture, and a new place to call home.

Now that I am older and a Mom, fall has become one of my favorite seasons of the year. It wasn’t until this year that I began wondering why this season was one of my favorites. Perhaps because it reminds me of those first years in the U.S. Those memories became so impressed and vivid in my mind partly because of the newness of it all, but also, I believe, because back then I felt anxious every time I started a new school year. Beginning a new school year in a foreign country while learning a new language will make most kids feel that way. Perhaps the new weather, which was so different from my native Mexico, was something I became fond of. And perhaps autumn reminds me of the good times I had with my family when we first moved to the U.S.

Changing tree leaves turn into red hues.
Changing tree leaves turn into red hues.

Living in the East Coast now as an adult and a parent, I now look forward to seeing the humid, stuffy summer heat turn into a nice, cool and crisp air, as the changing tree leaves turn into red, gold, and brown hues. I love going to pumpkin patches, buying everything that’s made with pumpkin, and going to see the changing foliage around the landscapes.

Fall will always remind me of my first years in the U.S., cool and crisp evenings while walking home from school, Halloween nights watching funny horror shows, and fond memories of my family together in our new home.

The pictures here are a collection from one of our first Halloween nights in the U.S. and the other ones from a previous visit to a Pumpkin Patch.

Bright orange pumpkins at a pumpkin patch.
Bright orange pumpkins at a pumpkin patch.

A Witch and her Cauldron display at a Pumpkin Patch.
A Witch and her Cauldron display at a Pumpkin Patch.

Pumpkins Patches are part of Halloween festivals in the U.S.
Pumpkins Patches are part of Halloween festivals in the U.S.

Halloween brings fond memories of my sisters and I growing up in the U.S.
Halloween brings fond memories of my sisters and I growing up in the U.S.

Different types of pumpkin varieties at a Pumpkin Patch.
Different types of pumpkin varieties at a Pumpkin Patch.

A Halloween display at a Pumpkin Patch in the U.S.
A Halloween display at a Pumpkin Patch in the U.S.

Corn Stalks and Pumpkins what Halloween is all about.
Corn Stalks and Pumpkins what Halloween is all about.

 

 

 

 

Lighting a Candle in Memory of my Grandmother

Today I am lighting a candle in memory of my grandmother.

She passed away on a sunny summer day on a Wednesday morning on June 24th.

A day like any other, when everyone was going about, getting ready to go to work and start their day.

I have written about grieving for my grandmother in previous posts because this is the one person in my life whose loss has affected me the most, but it’s also the experience that God has used to cause me to grow the most in my spiritual life.

When I first found out she passed away, it took me a while to process the news. After that, I felt all sorts of conflicting feelings: anger, hurt, disappointment, sadness, fear, and more. For the rest of that year I spent my days praying and being close to God, who comforted me as I found a way to move forward.

The first year was tough. The second, a little more manageable. By the third and fourth I felt I could manage with God’s help. And now, during the fifth year, I feel I can share my feelings with people and with those I love.

During the first couple of years after her passing I used to grieve about what could’ve been. What hurt me the most was not having spent the time I wanted to with my grandmother. All the things we could’ve done together as grandmother and granddaughter: all the times she could’ve sat with me and shared her stories growing up in her hometown or taught me valuable lessons about life. I grieved for the relationship we could’ve had and we didn’t. This hurt me the most after her passing.

But one of the most important things God taught me during this experience was to let go.  Let go of what could’ve been and didn’t happen. Letting go of the relationship I always wanted to have with her but couldn’t. Letting go of all the things I wished she did for me and the things I dreamed we could’ve done together.

God helped me to accept the way things are. He helped me forgive those who I needed to forgive in order to move on. He taught me I should instead do something with the things I do have control over.

Because of that, I chose to forgive.

By forgiving her, I experienced a great deliverance in my spirit that was long overdue.

Little by little, as I allowed God to guide me, I walked through the path that He laid before me toward forgiveness and acceptance. God took me to places where I don’t think I would’ve been able to walk on my own. I also had the opportunity to go back to the place where I was born and visit my grandmother’s house and make peace with my extended family. All of this for the glory of God.

It was through this loss that God taught me what it means to forgive someone you love. He also taught me to let go of the past, of painful experiences as well as of places that were preventing me from moving forward. He also taught me about reconciliation.

On this, the fifth observance of my grandmother’s passing, I want to light a candle and pray for her memory. I pray that she rests in peace and that God lets her know how much I love her. Also, that I forgive her and that my love for her has canceled any and all wrongdoings and hurts. I pray for the relationships between her and her children, that they also find a way to reconcile and make peace with her.

I pray that God helps my grandmother’s children to heal properly and experience reconciliation, so that they can have better relationships with their own children and grandchildren in turn. Above all, I pray that this new generation will understand the fear and love of God and will be blessed from this point onward and for generations yet to come.

Rest in Peace Abuelita Francisca and to God be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Lighting a Candle in Memory of my Grandmother.

The Point of Convergence in the Past Two Years

Exactly two years ago, I embarked on the journey of starting this blog, The Point of Convergence.

I wanted to share how this blog has evolved since then.

At first, I wanted to dedicate this blog to the memory of my time growing up in Mexico.  The more I wrote about those memories, the more I realized that I didn’t want to just continue focusing on those memories of long ago; otherwise I would run the risk of getting stuck in the past.  So, I began to write about my life in the present and in the process of doing this I realized something.

San Luis Potosí Cathedral in 2000 the place where I grew up and often write about.

In these past two years something really important and exciting took place in my life.  This last Christmas, I was blessed with the opportunity to go back to the place where I grew up, San Luis Potosí.  This is the place that I often find myself writing about, the place that has inspired me to continue writing despite everything going on in the world.  It’s the place that inspired me to begin this personal blog from the beginning.

San Luis Potosí Cathedral in 2020 the place where I grew up.

San Luis Potosí Government Palace in 2020 during Christmas.

During that trip, I got to see my extended family and reestablish new relationships.  I also visited those places that I yearned to see and which I often talked about in my blog.  I realized many relationships with friends and family members won’t be able to just “pick up where they left off” and move forward.  Some of those relationships will require more work and some might just have to be ended.

For a whole year, I wrote for this blog focusing on my life in Mexico.  Then something unexpectedly happened in my life that was very unfortunate and made me reevaluate the focus on this blog; my stepdad passed away on April 13, 2019.  During that month I didn’t have time or the energy to write a blog post.  I had one ready to publish before he passed away, but chose not to publish it.  Because he was important to me, I felt like I needed to take time to mourn the passing of my stepdad.

May you rest in Peace stepdad knowing that you are now with our Lord Jesus Christ.

My stepdad used to sit here during sunset. He’s no longer here and this place reminds me of him.

It was his passing that caused me to redirect the focus of my blog.  I decided to include a post dedicated to his memory.  For the first time, I wrote about my life in the present.  It was as if my writing took a detour in that moment; it became a turning point.  The passing of my stepdad also made me realize that although it is important to have closure and heal from past hurts, it is also important to live in the present because spending too much time reminiscing about the past may cause your present life and any beautiful moments in it to pass by right before your eyes.

After this event, I also began including God in my writing.  God is an important part of my life, so why not include Him and give Him credit for the things He has done for me?

This year in 2020, two years after I began this blog, another major event is taking place right now as I am writing this; the epidemic of coronavirus, which has taken the entire world by surprise.

This is a time of change, a time of new beginnings.

While reflecting on these events, some that brings us tears and some that brings us joy, I find comfort and wisdom in what the Bible says about life in the book of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,” (Ecclesiastes 3:4,5).

A Time for Everything Ecclesiastes 3:4,5

We are to enjoy life as it comes, with its ups and downs, and embrace every moment, even the sad ones.  Through my writing in this blog, God made me realize that living in the present doesn’t mean suppressing all of our past hurts, including mourning and grieving the loss of our loved ones.  It doesn’t mean that we are not to mourn for the things that we lost or didn’t have a chance to do.  But that perhaps we can deal with it a little bit at a time by dedicating some time to those things that have left us without closure.  Then the rest of the time, we can make an attempt to enjoy the present and create new memories.  Otherwise, life will pass you by in an instant, not realizing that you spent all that time reminiscing about what once was and is no more.

 

A Very Special Christmas in San Luis Potosí

This last Christmas I went to Mexico to spend the holidays with distant relatives.  Last time I saw my relatives was five years ago, and the last time I spent a Christmas in Mexico was twenty-one years ago.  I am originally from San Luis Potosi, a city located in central Mexico, where I spend this last Christmas.  I wanted my family to experience Christmas in Mexico for the first time.

Christmas in Mexico is very different than in the United States.  In Mexico, las Posadas is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations.  The tradition of Las Posadas comes from Spain and it was brought to Mexico and other Latin American countries by the Catholic Church.  For 400 years, starting in 1586, Mexicans have celebrated las Posadas in December.  Other countries in Latin America and in the U.S., in communities where Spanish cultural influence remains strong, las Posadas is also part of their cultural Christmas tradition.  Most of these celebrations take place in the Southwest; in states like New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California.

Las Posadas celebrations in Mexico vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and city to city.  Cities, which tend to be more populated and where people are more influenced by American culture, tend to have their own variations of las Posadas.  Their celebrations may include prayers and a piñata, followed by dinner.  The Mexican state of San Luis Potosi is divided into Municipios or municipalities.  Some of the municipios, specifically those located in more rural areas, celebrate las Posadas in a more traditional way.  Their prayers are longer and more involved.  A traditional Posada includes a reenactment of the Nativity story, followed by a dinner, and breaking a piñata.

During our visit this year, my relatives and I organized a simple celebration for the children on Christmas Day.  The day before Christmas, my aunt and I went to Mercado República, a very famous food market close to the Historic Downtown of San Luis Potosi, to buy food and other things for the celebration.  Most people go there to purchase food and gifts for las Posadas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Mercado República is a famous food market in San Luis Potosi.

It was really nice to be back to this market as it reminded me of my childhood days, back when I lived in Mexico.  I took my daughter with me and we walked around the many long isles of decorative, festive piñatas, hand-made art crafts, fresh fruit and vegetables, food stands selling freshly made tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, pozole, menudo, and other popular Mexican dishes.

This food market is so big that it would take a whole day to see every isle.  It is usually visited with friends or family members who plan to go shopping and eat at the food stands available there.  The food is delicious and there are usually more than two food stands selling the same dish, but each with their own flavor twist.

This mercado or food market has been around for decades.  Despite the fast growth of commercial businesses opening in this city, including many American franchises such as Walmart, Mercado República continues being part of San Luis Potosi’s cultural tradition.  Although the majority of people who visit and shop at Mercado República are working class, many people from different social status come here to purchase the items such as hand-made art crafts and hard to find ingredients that cannot be found anywhere else such as certain spices or fresh herbs needed for some Mexican dishes.

Tejocote is one of the many ingredients found at Mercado República

We walked around the mercado and I spotted a ceiling full of colorful piñatas –some with five, seven and even nine points.  I chose a seven-pointed star piñata for our night’s festivities.  My aunt tries to find pinguica or pointleaf manzanita, a type of shrub needed for her nacimiento or nativity scene.  Many households set up nativity scenes on Christmas in addition to the popular Christmas tree.  Homes decorate their nativity scene in different ways; some like to set up a small nativity scene right next to their Christmas tree, while others like to set up a large one in their living room or a part of the house where it can be seen.

a ceiling full of colorful piñatas

Breaking a seven-pointed star piñata at las Posadas is a cultural tradition in Mexico.

A Christmas tree decorated with colorful piñatas at Plaza de Armas in San Luis Potosi.

Nativity scenes are set up during Christmas season in Mexico

We also bought velitas or small candles for the children as part of las Posada celebrations.  The candles are used to pray during the novenas, a series of prayers and songs performed at las Posadas.

After praying the novenas and singing villancicos or traditional Christmas songs we were ready to break the piñata.  According to Catholic tradition, the seven-pointed star represents the seven capital sins in Catholic religion while the nine-pointed star piñata represents the nine months the Virgin Mary was pregnant.  Spanish priests used the breaking of the piñata as a method to teach indigenous people in Mexico biblical concepts, such as the seven deadly sins during their evangelization.

Children take turns hitting the piñata at the end of a traditional song, which includes this lyrics, “dale, dale, dale no pierdas el tino porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino” – “go, go, go don’t lose sight of it, if you do you will lose the path!”

Each child has a turn until someone breaks the piñata and all the candy and fruit falls to the ground!  Many years ago, piñatas were made of decorated clay jars.  Today, they have evolved: the inside or the main body of the piñata is made of cardboard and newspaper.  I do miss the old piñatas made of clay jars because they were harder to break and allowed more people to take a turn.  However, the new ones are lighter and therefore less likely to hurt the children when the pieces fall to the ground.

After breaking the piñata, a delicious dinner follows with tamales, ponche, atole, and other favorite Christmas dishes.

All the children present enjoyed la Posada, and I enjoyed it along with them.  It reminded me of las Posadas from my childhood.  It’s been twenty-one years since I spent a Christmas in Mexico.  I had forgotten what it was like to look forward to Christmas as little kids do.  I feel grateful to be able to relieve this part of my childhood with my own children.  This Christmas was very special and I will treasure it for years to come.

A Very Special Christmas in San Luis Potosí.

A Fond Childhood Memory of Día de los Muertos

altar for Día de los Muertos in Historic Downtown San Luis Potosí

When I lived in Mexico one of my favorite holidays, along with Christmas, was Día de los Muertos. 

The first Día de los Muertos memory that comes to mind, is getting off the public bus with my Mom at el centro or downtown square.  People go to el centro to buy specialty items such as arts and crafts, fruit and vegetables, as well as other items needed for the altar de los muertos. 

There is an old saying in Mexico: “A quien madruga Dios lo ayuda.”  The English equivalent would be, “The early bird catches the worm.”  Many Mexican business owners and blue-collar workers live their lives by this mantra.  Many street vendors, whose livelihood depends on selling goods in these open markets, work hard to stay on top of the competition.  Getting to the market early in the morning, setting up their tents and displaying their wares before anyone else, sets them apart from the rest of the businesses.

That day, standing in el centro with my Mom, was a beautiful sunny, breezy, and chilly morning. I guess it could be no different than any autumn day here in the United States with one exception.  In Mexico, fall is a season of reflection and culturally it is celebrated in a very different way.  As I write this anecdote, right in the middle of October, I am looking out the window in my home.  It feels and looks like any autumn day in Mexico.  However, here in the States, the comings and goings of people start slowing down to a trickle; everywhere there is silence and calm.  People go to work and children go to school while daylight wastes away.  Then, when daylight disappears, people hurry inside, keenly aware that the cold and windy days are announcing that autumn is in the air and it’s almost time to hibernate for the season.

In Mexico, autumn is a time for reflection, but by no means it translates into sadness or boredom.

The following is one of my anecdotes of when I was a child living in San Luis Potosí, Mexico celebrating el Día de los Muertos;

“As I got off the public bus with my Mom, holding her hand the whole time.  All of the sudden, the air around me felt alive.  I felt the energy and commotion radiating from the street vendors gathered there.  I could feel their dedication and optimism as they busied themselves setting up their tables and tents.  They came to el centro to sell all kinds of goods for grown-ups and kids alike.

There were tons of colors everywhere, spilling from every nook and cranny in the market. It came from the papel picado decorating the streets everywhere with bold colors such as bright blue, red, orange, purple, and green.  The color also spilled forth, in red and yellow hues, from the different seasonal fruits on display; calabazas (pumpkins), squash, sweet potatoes.  And of course, the market was colored as well by the incomparable and unique flor de cempasúchil, the flower that represents Día de los Muertos.

I saw calaveritas de azucar (Mexican sugar skulls); one of my favorites.  You could buy calaveritas and have the seller write your name on them – there were chocolate ones, white ones, big ones and small ones, even cute, tiny ones.

The smell of copal and of freshly-made tortillas and roasted chile from the food vendors was a feast to all of my senses.  It made me hungry as I walked around with Mom looking at the merchandise from the street vendors.  The sun-tanned women with thick and brown skin, almost as tanned as mine, looked at me with a smile.  They asked if I wanted to buy a calaverita de azucar with my name on it.  I asked my Mom if I could have one and she agreed.”

Woman with Cempasúchil Flowers
Photo Credit: Jaime Cristóbal López

Walking around the streets of Historic Downtown San Luis Potosí, or any other city or town in Mexico, during Día de los Muertos is a jolt of stimuli.  All of the senses –touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste –were stimulated at once, creating powerful, fully-fleshed memories that are easy to recall.  That is how I am able to easily go to that memory whenever I want to.  I want to keep this memory forever.

So, whenever I see a gloomy, overcast autumn day here in the US, where I now live, I close my eyes and travel down memory lane back to that mercado.  I smell, see, feel, taste, and hear in my mind the joyful moments I spent as a child during Día de los Muertos in San Luis Potosí, and I sigh with satisfaction.

Poem to my Grandmother

On October 4th my grandmother would have turned 84 years old.  I wrote this poem for her.

My Grandmother in 2014

“Dear Grandmother,

Today you would have been 84 years old

I miss being able to call you anytime I want to

I miss when you used to call me and my mother on our birthday

I miss that afternoon when as a child, I had to say goodbye to you

I miss your Mexican cooking, your white pozole and your tamales were the best

I miss when you used to rise early, like the sun, to start your day off

I miss your scolding, even your unpleasant screaming around the house has become something to miss

I miss seeing you laugh and seeing you happy

I miss hearing you sing Lola Beltran’s ranchera songs as you washed your clothes by your garden

I miss being able to knock on your terracotta painted door

I miss your house, la Casa de mi Abuelita, always waiting for me whenever I visited Mexico

I miss that playground, los Juegos, around the corner of your house where many fond childhood memories are still kept

I choose to keep these loving memories of you forever in my heart

I love you and miss you, Abuelita!”

My grandmother’s white pozole

My grandmother’s tamales

The Lost Relationship with my Far-Away Cousins

I remember the day of our kindergarten graduation, it was sometime in May 1987 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

Back in the days there were no digital phones with cameras and most families didn’t own a personal camera.  In those days, professional photographers were available around the school to take pictures after graduation.  It would take a couple of days to develop the pictures and then photographers would go to the family’s house and personally deliver them in exchange for their service.  This is how it was done in Mexico in the 80’s during school graduations, before disposable and digital cameras were available.

The day on my kindergarten graduation, one such photographer approached my Mom and asked her if she wanted to have a graduation picture taken.  My Mom agreed.  The photographer would usually take two pictures, one of the child and another one with the child’s family.  In my case, the photographer took one of me as I received my kindergarten diploma and then he asked my Mom who she wanted to have on the picture for the second one.  Having my cousins only a short distance away, my Mom asked us all to gather around for a picture.  I remember feeling very happy that my cousins were around at that moment.  Having a picture taken with them made this day special, one that I still remember up until this day.  My cousins loved the idea as well and they listened to my Mom’s command.  The photographer snapped the picture.

This is how one of my best childhood memories became captured in this photograph.

24 years have passed since I left my grandmother’s house, the place where I grew up with my cousins.  This is the house where I spent the early years of my childhood and so my cousins became more than just cousins, they were my cousin-sisters.  In Mexico, the term primo hermano is used to describe cousins, whose mothers are sisters or brothers and they’re brought up together in the same house.  They become more than regular cousins, almost like sisters or brothers.

We always played together despite our mothers’ quarrels and disagreements.  Sometimes our mothers wouldn’t allow us to play together because they weren’t talking to each other.  But we were just children and like most children we disregarded our mother’s wishes and still played together.

We loved playing out in the streets.  Our favorite place to play was Los Juegos or the neighborhood’s playground; a fenced, private playground just a short walk from my grandmother’s house.  We would also play outside my grandmother’s house.  Our favorite games were hopscotch, hide-and-seek, and tag as well as many other pretend plays that elementary school-age children played before the invention of iPads and video games.

Everything changed as we grew older, more so after my family and I migrated to the United States.  The long-distance, along with problems in the family, and that certain magic that a child abandons as they get older, damaged whatever relationship we had as children.

Through the following years, I always tried to visit my cousins on the few times I went back to Mexico.  But every time I went back to visit them they grew more distant towards me.  Eventually, there was not much of a relationship between us to speak of.  It was my grandmother’s passing three years ago, that moved me to reach out to them.  It was an effort to comfort one another as we came to terms with the loss of our grandmother.  That is when I realized that you cannot just go back to how things once where and pick up where you left off.  Somehow, I thought that our treasured childhood memories were enough to remind them of the relationship we used to have.  It wasn’t.

I mentioned in my tribute in my grandmother’s post, The Ones We Leave Behind, that one of “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.”  But I would also like to add that another painful process is the realization of a lost relationship, not due to death (loss of them physically), but because distance and time withered the relationship.

I have lost many of these relationships as a result of migrating to another country.  Some of those relationships were lost because of distance and time, and some, like the ones with my cousins, involved other factors.  All these realizations are part of my grieving process; the grieving process of moving to another country as a child and leaving my previous life behind.

I haven’t given up on my cousins.  In my heart and mind, they remain my childhood companions and are part of some of the most treasured memories I have.

It is my hope and promise from God that I will be reunited with my far-away cousins once more, and although we might not be able to just pick up where we left off and continue the relationship we once had as children, I am certain that a new relationship with them is on its way!

My cousins from San Luis Potosí, Mexico

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