Archive for the ‘childhood stories’ Category

When my kids were in their teens, they became followers of The Princess Bride cult! They discovered the movie and watched it over and over and over again. We bought the VHS tape then the DVD. My daughter now owns it on Blu Ray. It got to the point where they could recite the dialog as the movie played. When they had friends over, they watched the movie. In the hundreds of times they watched it, I never sat down to watch it with them. I would me in ear shot and most of the time I could see them, especially when it was a mixed gender group of friends watching it, but I always gave them room and never sat down to watch it. Every time they watched it, I would remind myself to sit down and watch it some day when they were out of the house but it never happened.

Then this weekend linkup was announced and I figured it was my chance to watch, at least I would have an excuse, and it is on Netflix so no money involved. Yay. So I watched it last week. Did I like it? Well, I kept meaning to watch it again so I could write a good post about it but I guess I didn’t like it enough to watch it a second time. Why? Well, something you don’t know about me is that I don’t find a lot of “humor” funny. I don’t like slapstick. I don’t like the ridiculous being passed as humor. I don’t like “jokes” about bodily functions. Yeah, I’m kind of a dud that way. So I didn’t find a lot of humor in it. Yes, there was some humor that I thought was truly funny. And even though I grew up in the times of the women’s liberation movement and hated it, having been brought up in a very traditional hispanic family and believing that the woman’s place is indeed in the home and all that. Somehow along the way, from the 1970’s to now, I grew up and realized that I was wrong. So it kind of bothered me that it was all men made out to be the heroes and it also bothered me that Buttercup expected everything to be done for her as if she were a fragile flower. I didn’t like the “As you wish” attitude.

What did I like? I loved that it was a grandparent reading to a grandson. The family aspect of it was wonderful. The reading being passed on from one generation to another was very authentic to me. It showed the value of generations of a family interacting with one another and it showed how storytelling and reading are valuable. And even though the grandson was at the age where he did not at first value the reading or the grandfather, by then end, he valued both and looked forward to more visits from the grandfather and, presumably, more storytelling. I love storytelling and I have a lot of stories that I’ve told my kids and students. I love how at first they aren’t too interested but as soon as the story gets going, they are hooked! That part was very real to me. I’ve had it happen.

If I were rewriting it (and I will admit that I have not read the book) I would write it as the grandfather telling/reading the story to both a grandson and a granddaughter. I would write in some kind of dialog about the gender roles and maybe, by the end of the story, each of the grandchildren might see some valid points in the other one’s views. Oh, and I would clean up the language so it would be more understandable, a little more modern. I think that would add to the story.

Will I watch it again? Yeah. I will. Not sure when but maybe the next time we have a cold, rainy weekend and I don’t have grandchild duty, I’ll put it on and give it another look. Then maybe I will write about it once again.

Do I recommend it? Yup! I hear the book is absolutely wonderful, too. Maybe I’ll pick up the book one day.

If you’d like to read more blog posts about The Princess Bride (book and movie), check out the linkup!

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My regular readers will remember reading about the not so sweet side of my dad. That is all true but I am choosing to remember the sweet side of my dad, especially now that he’s gone (he died in May of 2015).

One of these memories is of when my mom went to the hospital “to bring home” my little sister. My brothers were at school. My sister and I didn’t go to school yet. My dad stayed home to take care of us. I remember sitting in the corner of the kitchen, out of the way, next to my sister, while my dad mopped the floor. He was cleaning as much as he could while my mom was gone so she would not have to do it when she got home. So he scrubbed the floor then waxed the floor while we sat and watched. He talked to us the whole time. When he was finished and the floor was dry, he moved the chairs back to the table and we sat as he baked cookies. We weren’t used to him baking or cooking but when he did do it, we knew there were be special sweetness to enjoy. He didn’t use a recipe. He just did what he remembered. He made little bite-sized cookies for us. They had anise in them and were covered with powdery sugar. They were delicious. My mouth waters for them when I remember.

A few years later, I remember him making candy for us. He hammered a nail on the kitchen wall and when the candy was “cooked” and cool enough to touch, he hung the mixture on the nail and began to pull it into a long, thing rope, pulling over and over until it was just right. Then while it was still pliable, he cut it into little pieces, just big enough for our little mouths. It was delicious pulled taffy. He didn’t do that often but when he did, it was such a treat, not just the edible kind but the kind that made us look up to him with smile and sweet love and anticipation.

That’s the part I like to remember when I think of him. That, and dancing with my feet on top of his; “reading” the newspaper with him before I could read; having him push me on the swings; listening to the stories he told us about his childhood.

I hope you all have wonderful, sweet memories of your dad to look back on.

Happy Father’s Day.


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Blogging From A to Z

When I was around nine years old (around 1964), my dad went to go see about a car he wanted to buy. We had a family car but he wanted to get a car for him to drive to work in so that the family car would “last longer”. Besides, he explained, my oldest brother would be driving in another year so it would be good to start looking for a car that he could drive to work so that my brother could drive my mom around town. She didn’t drive so when she had to go some place, she would walk. Sometimes that meant walking or riding the bus across town with sick kids in tow or sometimes it meant having to walk home from the doctor way after it was dark. My dad worked in a cannery so in the high season (May through November) he often had to work late into the night, until all the trucks coming in and going out had been unloaded and loaded.

A few hours after he left, he came home with a new car. It was a little Volkswagen beetle. It was from being new. It needed paint. It had some bumps and bruises and the interior was well worn. He had gotten a good deal on it and it was very cheap on gas so he was happy. We all thought it was a great car. It was cute. It was new to us. It was different from anything we had ever driven in. We all ran out to the driveway to see the car and we all wanted to go for a ride. So we all piled in the car…all NINE of us. My youngest sister sat on my mom’s lap in the front seat and the other six of us sat on laps in the back seat. Off we went! When we were only about two miles away from home my dad realized that the gas tank was almost empty. We had to get gas or we would end up walking home. Luckily, there was a small gas station a block away (the Spartan gas station which was still standing the last time I was in town around six or so years ago).

There was just one problem. My dad didn’t have any money on him and my mom had left without her purse so she had no money. My dad found about thirty-five cents in his pocket and my oldest brother had fifteen cents. Between the nine of us we managed to come up with something like 78 CENTS for gas. When the young man came to the window, my dad said he needed 78 cents of gas. Seeing the incredulous look on the kid’s face as he took in the back seat packed with kids sitting on each other, my dad added that the car wasn’t ours. We were just test driving it. The kid pumped the gas and cleaned the windows. My dad waved him away from checking the oil and said it was fine as he handed the young man the 78 cents for the gas.

Taking the money, the kid looked at my dad and said, “Sir, I think maybe you should look for a bigger car.” My dad nodded and we drove off with a straight face. It was only when we drove out of the driveway that we all cracked up at the look on the kid’s face as he counted the nine bodies packed like sardines in the back of the little white Volkswagen beetle. I’m sure the kid could hear us laughing blocks away!

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Blogging From A to Z

I remember sitting for hours and hours as my mother untangled my hair every couple of days. There were four of us girls and she would line us up and we would take turns coming and sitting on our knees between my mom’s legs as she brushed out all of the tangles. Then when she finished, she would start again only this time it was putting our hair in curlers. She used to use large pink rollers for where our hair should have large curls then little ones for the smaller curls and finally pin curls (using bobby pins) for the tiny curls around our faces. We always had long hair and it took hours to take care of it but it was important to our mom that our hair be just right so she spent long hours making sure it looked perfect.

One summer she put a Lilt home permanent in my hair because my hair was very fine and would not hold the curl for very long so she permed it. I remember the chemical smell of the product and how important my mom said it was to get the time perfect or my hair would burn. I didn’t want my hair to burn and I sat obediently, not making a sound or moving a finger, so that my hair would not burn.

I think that’s what taught me to always have long hair. That’s the way I was raised. It was ladylike to have long hair, not short hair. In fact, all four of us sisters still have long, long hair, even though we are all in our late 50’s. That’s just the way we grew up.

I think too that the importance of women having long hair is one of the reasons my mom took it really hard when she had to have chemo therapy last year. She dreaded losing her hair but she knew it was coming. When it did, she refused to leave the house. Even though I had bought her a number of pretty scarves and hats to cover up her baldness, she would not go out except to doctor appointments. She wanted a wig but she wanted it to look like her own hair because if it didn’t, people might think she was bald! Go figure! I offered to buy her a wig online and have it delivered to her but she was afraid it would not be right and then she would feel bad about returning a gift and she’d keep it. So finally, I was able to go visit her. I had been going down to see her every couple of months but had not been there since before she lost her hair. When I got there, I made it a priority to take her to the next town over (well, a few towns over; it took an hour to get there) to a shop I had found online and I had her fitted for a wig. She finally found one that she liked and the woman who worked there was wonderfully patient with her until my mom was happy with what she had found. She was like a new woman with that wig! She was ready to go shopping and out to eat wearing her new wig!

I guess for us, maybe we’re like Samson. Our strength is in our hair. We keep it long to keep our strength. It doesn’t matter if it is almost completely gray. It’s the length that holds the key to our ladylike ways…to our strength.

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After reading a friend’s blog post I couldn’t help but recall the first time I was successful at one of those things that everyone could do but me.

I think I was in fifth or sixth grade so probably around 11 years old.  My brothers and sisters, even the younger ones, could do that thing where they fling a towel at something and make it snap. I couldn’t.  That was only one of the many things I couldn’t do that everyone else could do.  Whistling was another.  I still can’t whistle to save my life. But on this one day, two of my brothers were determined to teach me how to fling that towel.  They kept giving me lessons but I couldn’t quite do it.  It was something about not being able to snap my wrist correctly.  I kept trying.  We were in the dining room and all of the sudden, I did it!  Yay!  Then there was a big “oops”!  I had hit a long hanging runner of my mother’s ivy plant that she had hanging on a planter on the wall.  And yes, it had snapped off!  I began to get really nervous about getting in trouble.  Then came the “oh no!  Oh no!”

My brothers kept saying it was okay.  I should just pretend that I didn’t know anything about it.  I should not confess like I had thought I should.  They were adamant.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it was because they were afraid they would get in trouble for teaching me to do that inside the house.  I should have listened to them.  I didn’t.  When my mom came in the room about five minutes later, she asked what had happened to her plant and I apologized and explained that I had done and how it had happened.  I should have listened to my brothers.  She was mad.  She slapped me and called me a few choice names.  She was really angry.  She didn’t usually spank us or yell at us like that but she was angry.

Now it’s kind of funny but then, it was not.

Yeah, sometimes it’s best to listen to the voice of experience, even if it tells you to do something you don’t think is right.  Actually, I’m not  to sure about that conclusion.  I’ve never been good at lying, either out and out lying or by omission so I’m pretty sure I could not have pulled it off even if I had tried to listen to them.

Some days are like that.

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It’s Christmas once again and the world is beginning to fill with magic just like I remember from my childhood. Secrets hide behind every corner –good secrets, not the bad ones; grownup secrets about the gifts that are hiding in packages and then the secrets of the children hiding something “naughty” they did that they think no one knows about—especially Santa.

One year, when I was about to turn five, my parents put a miniature tree downstairs in the basement which had been converted into bedrooms for my three brothers. We had not ever had any kind tree, other than the big one we had in the living room and it made us feel that the small tree was really special…two trees in one house! My mother helped us decorate the tree with tiny little ball ornaments. They didn’t put lights on it and it was kind of plain looking so my mom put some little packages she had wrapped up for us under the tree. I remember that the small presents, all wrapped in shiny paper, really made the tree look even more special to us kids.

One weekend, a little over a week before Christmas, my mother and father went shopping. When they had been gone a while, my brothers started talking about the presents. They said we should each open one present. We all had to open one because, according to my brothers who were all older than my sisters and I, if we had all participated, none of us would tattle on the others and we wouldn’t get spanked. They said once we had each opened a present, they would wrap them all up so that my parents would never find out that we had opened them. It would be our secret.

It took them a long time but they finally convinced us to do it. I was elected to be the first to open a package. I picked a shiny red one with a red and green plaid bow. Inside was a white box that now I recognize as one for jewelry but at that time I didn’t know what might be inside. I opened it and found a layer of white fluffy cotton. Once I picked up the cotton, I saw a gold shiny key. On the round end of the key were little pink flowers and clear rhinestones. I picked it up and realized it was a pin to wear on my clothes. Just as I began to smile, we heard the back door open and my parents came in. Before we could hide the evidence, my mother was down the stairs watching us try to hide the package.

She was so angry! She kept asking me why I had done it. I told her everyone was going to open one. In fact, my sister had her box in her hand, ready to open it. My brothers denied it and told her that they were trying to get me not to open one but I wouldn’t listen to them. Besides being angry, my mother was really hurt. I could see it in her eyes. She was disappointed in me and I knew she wanted to cry. The look in her face made me want to cry, or maybe it was knowing that I was going to be spanked! Then she and my father said Santa was not going to bring me any presents because I had been such a bad girl. That was worse than a spanking. I cried even more.

That was a Christmas  I won’t ever forget.   I hurt my parents; I found out that my siblings wouldn’t always get me out of trouble; and I disappointed Santa!

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The First Time

Suicide is something I’m not sure I will ever understand.  Intellectually, I understand the whys of it, but emotionally,  well that’s something altogether different.  I’ve known quite a few people who have chosen this exit path.  All in all, there have been about fifteen to twenty suicides among friends and family.  As a lot of my readers know, two of these have been my brothers.  Each of these tragedies has left its mark.  This week another friend also chose this route.  It made me think of the first suicide I was aware of.

The first time I encountered a suicide, I was about five years old.  I think it was the summer before I began kindergarten.  I didn’t know what it meant for someone to die but I knew it was a very sad thing.  My father’s uncle had died a few months before and for the first time in my life, I had seen my father cry for the uncle who took his father’s place when his father ran off before my dad was born.  My dad’s tears meant that dying was something horrible.  So when my oldest brother, Carlos, came home and told my mom that his good friend Tommy had died and that he had killed himself, I knew the emotions; I knew it was a very bad thing that had happened.  I remember how my mother, who had been making tortillas for our dinner, turned absolutely white then had to sit in the chair at the table.  She cried and cried and kept asking “Why?  Why?  What could be so bad in his life that he would kill himself?  Why?”  She kept asking Carlos if he was sure it was true.  She sent my brother to Maio’s Market on the corner to get the evening paper.  Later, when my dad got home from work, my mom, still shaking and having  trouble keeping from crying, told him what had happened.  They talked about how unbelievable it was; how Tommy had always seemed to be such a happy-go-lucky kid; how incredulous it was that he would take his own life.

I remember how my mom took care of her kitchen radio after that.  She always had before but after Tommy died, she took special care of it.  She didn’t let anyone touch it and she refused to clean the greasy fingerprints that Tommy had left on it the last time he had been at our house.  You see, my mom’s radio kept her company in the kitchen where she spent most of her day preparing meals or cleaning up after meals for her family of nine.  She would sing along with the radio and listen to talk shows and the news on it.  It was her lifeline to the world outside of our house.  So when the radio broke, she was more than sad.  My dad wasn’t able to fix it so she had no radio.  When Tommy was over one day, he asked my mom why the radio wasn’t on.  She told him it was broken.  Tommy took it apart to fix it and he did!  My mom was very grateful and wanted to pay him but she had no money that day.  Mom told Tommy that the next time he came over she would have a treat for him.  He said it was okay, she didn’t have to pay him.  He smiled at her through his black framed glasses, clearly proud of himself.  Mom hugged Tommy and thanked him before he got on his bike and rode home.

Mom never got to pay Tommy.  A week after he fixed her radio, Tommy hung himself in his parents’ garage.  He was thirteen.

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Tomorrow is the first day of school here.  I can imagine how excited kids are, whether they are happy to return to school or not, to make that trip to school tomorrow.  I was sitting here thinking of the night before I started kindergarten.

When I was little, we lived on Seventh Street about five blocks from Horace Mann Elementary School.  Before i started school, my sisters and I would go stand outside the front of the house with my mom as she watched my older siblings walk to school.  We could just stand on the sidewalk and wait and watch as they got further and further from us, closer and closer to school.  In the afternoon, we’d go wait outside to watch as they got closer and closer to us.

I used to wonder what school was like and what the people there were like.  I knew that at home we spoke Spanish all the time but when my brothers were home from school, they spoke English to each other.  Little by little I learned to speak English too but at home, with my parents, we spoke Spanish.  I wondered what it would be like at school where everyone spoke only English.

Good things came from going to school.  When my brothers came home from school, they would bring books and papers with them.  I didn’t know how to read but I loved looking at the books.  I loved looking at the pictures and at the strange letters that my brothers said were sentences that meant things.  I wasn’t used to books at home.  We didn’t have them.  My mom had a Bible and there was a big phone book but we didn’t have regular books.  My father read the newspaper when he got home from work so I knew he could read and that it was interesting to read because my dad would get so caught up in what the newspaper said that he often forgot we were sitting next to him waiting to play with him because we had missed him all day long while he was at work.

I remember too that my mother used to get magazines in the mail.  I remember Look and Life magazines.  They were big, especially to a child, they were oversized magazines with a lot of pictures  in them.  I liked looking at those pictures and I wished that I knew how to read but my mom said I couldn’t learn to read until I went to school.  So I looked forward to going to school so I could learn to read.

I remember the day before I started kindergarten.  I was so excited!  I got to wear a new dress that the lady next door had made for me.  I had new shoes and pretty new white socks with pink ruffles at the top.  My uncle lived with us then and I remember sitting at the red formica table in the kitchen, excitedly talking to my uncle Joe about going to school.  I wanted him to tell me what it would be like and what I would have to do.  I was afraid that the teacher might say something to me that I wouldn’t understand because although I did speak English, there were a lot of words I didn’t know.  My uncle said there would be a lot of time to play and the teacher would read stories to the class.  He said I would get to draw pictures and then he said I had to be careful to write my name on my papers so the teacher would know that they were mine and I would get them back.

I froze.  I couldn’t say anything.  I just sat there with tears in my eyes looking at Uncle Joe.  He asked me what was wrong.  Why was I crying?  I pretended there was nothing wrong but he knew something was upsetting me.  In the end I told him that I couldn’t write my name on my papers because I didn’t know how.  He laughed and said he would teach me how to write my name.  That afternoon, Uncle Joe and I sat at the kitchen table and he taught me to say the alphabet, which I hadn’t know before that day.  Then he showed me how to write each letter.  Finally, when I had learned how to make each of the letters, he taught me how to write my name.  Letter by letter, he taught me to write C-O-R-I-N-A.  By the end of a couple of hours, I was very happy because I knew I would be ready to go to kindergarten the next day.

The next morning, I waited impatiently on the front sidewalk as my brothers and my older sister walked to school.  My mom and my sisters and I watched from there and I could not wait until I would be walking home with my brothers and sister that afternoon after my first day at afternoon kindergarten!

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My mother worked  hard, all day and all night  to keep the house clean, the food warm, our clothing and our bodies fresh and clean.  There were so many of us that the work never ended for my mother so we were taught  to help out with the housework.  When we got old enough to go to kindergarten, we were old enough to wash dishes so we had to learn to wash all the dishes and take our turn with the others.  Another thing we did to help is that we learned to iron clothes.  So, as she cleaned or cooked in the kitchen, we would keep her company, standing at the ironing board, ironing and listening to her sing with the radio or sometimes we’d talk.  I don’t remember how old I was when I first ironed but I think I was in first grade, making me about six years old.  I began by ironing the easy things – pieces like pillowcases, handkerchiefs, pants, aprons, and finally  I learned to iron our dresses and shirts.  We would always count the things we ironed  because we were supposed to get paid for each thing we ironed – I think we started out with a penny a piece, going up to a nickel a piece by the time I was in fifth grade.  It was actually silly because, for the most part, we never got paid.  Once in a while, though, when she could, my mom would give us a nickel to get a Hershey bar or  a package of my favorites – NECCO candy.  I loved NECCOs because the word sounded like “nickels” and  I used to pretend they were real nickels and I’d buy things from my brothers and my older sister, using the pastel wafers as legal tender.  When she did give us candy money, my mother would  tell us it was the money we had earned from ironing and it made me proud to know I had worked to earn  my candy!

Once, when I was in second grade, I was in the kitchen ironing, while my mother  cooked .  My brother, Carlos, sat and talked to her.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  My father was at the cannery, working.  In the kitchen, we had the radio on to KLIV, listening to the top popular songs. When my father was home, we listened only to Spanish radio but when he was gone, my mom would let my brothers turn it to the English station.  I liked to  iron because when I ironed, I got to  spend time with my mother.   She never left us alone when we ironed so we wouldn’t burn ourselves.  I also liked staying in and ironing   because,  most of the time, I would get to listen to things my brothers and sisters missed while they played outside and I worked inside.  On that Sunday, I had been ironing a long, long time.  I had ironed a stack of pillowcases and handkerchiefs and even some of the dresses I’d wear to school.  I had earned about fifty or sixty cents so I had been ironing for more than an hour.  Carlos and my mother were laughing and talking.   I joined the  conversation and I put the iron on it’s “standing end” while I talked.  My mother had taught us to be careful and pay close attention when we were ironing.  I looked up to answer a question.  I was laughing as I felt first the weight of the iron and then the heat.  I was frozen by the scorching pain as the “cotton heated” iron ate through the layers of my skin.  I could not talk.  I could not move.  I could only smell my skin as it burned, layer by layer.  By the time my mother realized that something was horribly wrong, I was in shock.  I only remember that when the iron was taken off of my hand, it hurt so much that I passed out.  My mother called my father to come home from work so they could take me to the hospital.  It was Sunday and the doctor’s office was closed so we’d have to go to the hospital.  The office at my father’s work was closed.  Carlos and Richard rode their bikes to the cannery to find my father and tell him to come home.  He said he couldn’t come home because there was too much work.  There was no one else there to do it and no one to tell that he had to go home.  He told Carlos to tell my mother to call Dr. Johnson and see what he said they should do for me.  All afternoon and throughout the night, my mother sat by my bed, looking at my hand, taking my temperature, and crying.  I remember smiling at her and holding back the tears as much as I could so that she’d  stop saying it was her fault and so that she’d stop apologizing.  My mother layed down with me and cried.  My brothers and sisters were very quiet and behaved like angels so my mother  could take care of me.  At one point, the pain was so intense that nothing helped – not even the little orange baby aspirins – not the bandage my mother had put on – and not the tears and so I began to whimper and moan and I did not stop until everyone in the house heard my cries and felt my pain.  I stayed at home, in bed, when the others went to school the next day.  Two days later, the pain was less and so I went back to second grade, wearing a dress I had ironed on Sunday and a gauze bandage my mother had put on my hand.  I remember that the school nurse had me go in to her office every day so she could change the dressing, rub some medicine on it,  and watch  for infection because she knew my parents didn’t have the money for a doctor visit.  Slowly, the pain got less and less and months later, my hand had healed and there was hardly a scar left to remind me of the smell of my own burnt flesh or of the pain that had reached deep beneath my skin.

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[This is from a collection of memoir short stories I’ve written.  This has not been shared previously.  I hope you enjoy.]

We sat at the table after we were all finished with our dinner. My mom and dad said they wanted to talk to us. There had been something wrong with my mother since she picked us up at Ben and Mamie’s house after she got back from the doctor. My mother never went anywhere without us except when she went to the doctor. When she did that, she would leave us across the street with Ben and Mamie. Ben and Mamie were old. They sat on their front porch every day, all day long. They had grown up kids and some grand kids but none of them ever came to visit so Ben and Mamie liked it when we visited them. They were always very nice to us. Sometimes Ben would come over to our house to talk to our father and they would sit and talk and sometimes, when my father was at work and my mom needed something, she’d call Ben and Mamie and Ben would come over to help with whatever my mom needed. Mamie never came over. We only waved at her from across the street or talked to her when we went to sit on the porch with them so my mother could talk to them. So when my mom left us there to go to the doctor, we were glad to go. We got to play with toys that had belonged to their kids a long, long time ago. They kept them in the basement. That day we had played and talked and Mamie gave us sandwiches and lemonade. She called them sanweeches and limonada. After we played and watched cartoons for a long time my mother got there and she looked like there was something wrong. She didn’t sit and talk with Ben and Mamie. She didn’t even look at them. She just said it was time to go because she was late cooking dinner and my father would be home soon. She thanked them and reminded us to thank them, too. There were no smiles on my mother’s face that day. Her voice was funny, not the same as it usually was. She didn’t look at anyone, only at the ground. Then we walked back to our side of the street. My sisters and I went to play in the back yard where our brothers were. They were older so they didn’t have to go to Ben and Mamie’s but they could not take care of us, either. My mother went up the front steps and inside the front door to start cooking. When we ate dinner, my mother and my father didn’t talk to us. They didn’t talk to each other, either. Just us kids talked. We talked a lot, like normal. When we talked to our mother to ask a question, she didn’t seem to hear us. Her eyes were wet but there weren’t tears so I knew she wasn’t crying.

When we finished dinner my mother said she and my father had to talk to us about something important. We sat and looked at our mother and father, waiting for them to tell us something. She said that the doctor had told her something that we all had to know. She had already told our father and now we had to know. I looked at my brothers and sisters and I thought she was going to say that we were going to have another little baby in the family. That’s what had happened before, when the doctor told her about Irene and Gilda so I knew that we were going to have a new baby.

“The doctor says that I am very sick and I am going to die,” said my mother. She waited for us to say something. I didn’t know what it meant. I was four. What was going to happen to my mom? I looked around and I knew the others didn’t know either. Even Carlos didn’t know. He was nine. He was the oldest.

“What does that mean? What is going to happen to you?” I asked her.

“Dying,” she said, “is like going to sleep but you never wake up. You can’t wake up ever. You can’t talk, or walk, or eat, or drink. You can’t take care of anyone. You are just asleep.”

That didn’t sound too bad to me. I liked to sleep in the mornings. I didn’t like to get up when my brothers and sister went to school. It was hard for me to fall asleep at night because there was still so much going on in the house and I just didn’t want to miss any of it. That was the hard part but once I was asleep, that was easy. I could sleep a long, long time so I didn’t know why my mother didn’t want to be asleep for a long time.

“That’s okay, Mommy. We’ll take care of you when you sleep. Don’t worry. You can rest and sleep as long as you want. We’ll be okay. We’ll come wake you up when you have slept a long, long time,” I told her and I hugged her.

“No. I won’t be here when I die,” she hugged me back and I could hear in her voice that she was going to cry.

“When some one dies, they don’t wake up. When a person dies, they are put in a big box and buried in the ground. I won’t be here when I die. I won’t be able to take care of you.” She wiped tears from her face and explained that we would not have a mother any more. We would have to be good to each other and take care of each other, and mind our father. We would have to take care of our father, too.

We were all crying by then. None of us moved. No one got up from the table. I looked at my father and he was crying too. He had picked my little sister up and was giving her a bottle but he was crying. I had never seen my father cry before. Finally, it was dark outside and we just went to bed. No one wanted to watch the television. No one wanted to play hide and seek outside. We just went to bed and I could hear crying until I fell asleep. That weekend, we tried not to cry. We tried to have fun and not be sad but when one of us thought about my mother dying, the crying would start all over again.. We didn’t understand it. We just knew that things would not be the same. Our mother was going away. I was not going to have a mother any more. I wondered if she was mad at us. Maybe she wanted to sleep for a long time and go in a box and go away. I just knew I wanted my mommy to stay in our house with us, even if she was asleep.

After a few days, my mother changed and she didn’t cry any more. She was happy again. She was laughing a lot and smiling a lot, even when there was nothing to laugh at or smile at. She smiled all the time now. We were glad she was happy again but we couldn’t understand how she could be happy to be dying and leaving us. Maybe she had decided she wanted to die so she could get away from us. Lots of days and weeks passed and I waited for my mother to die. She didn’t die. One day I forgot and I went back to being a happy little girl, just in time for my next birthday.

A long time later, years later, I found out that the doctor had given my mother the wrong test results. He had taken the tests again and they were normal. She was healthy. She knew it. My father knew it. Only they forgot to tell us.

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