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Archive for the ‘memoir’ Category

Trigger Warning: sexual assault

The only good thing about it was that it was over quickly.

It was Valentine’s Day and out theater group was performing in the dining hall. The performance was excellent. We were all in top form. The audience understood all of the jokes and the nuances. There was applause at just the right time. When it was over, the twelve of us went up to my dorm room to celebrate. Someone had beer. I put on an album…not sure but I vaguely remember that it was something by Santana. They didn’t stay long. Within the hour everyone had left, except him. He looked through my albums and asked if he could play a different one. When he walked to the closet where the stereo was kept, he shut the door which led to the hallway. I didn’t think anything of it because you sort of had to if you wanted to open the closet doors completely.

The music played and he took my hand and started to dance with me. That was fine. But soon…too soon…he had grabbed both of my arms behind my back and he was pushing me down on my bed. I shook my head and said no. He smiled and covered my protests with his mouth. He said I should not be scared. But I was. I didn’t want this. I didn’t know him except from our weekly class meetings. I tried to push him off of me but he was too big; too heavy. I tried to wiggle out from under him but I couldn’t. My hands were pinned under me; they hurt; they were twisted. His left had covered my mouth and I could not breathe. His right hand ripped at my white dress then at my underwear. I shouted and I shook my head but his mouth silenced my shouting. He was too big for me to fight off. Then there was more pain. My wrists. My chest as I tried to breathe. My head had banged against the metal bed frame. My legs were twisted. With the pain came the damp between my legs and from my eyes. He got off of me; fixed his clothes and left. He smiled at me as he was left. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t speak. I felt broken. I felt like I was dead. I felt like I didn’t matter. I felt like what I wanted was of no consequence.

The only good thing about it was that it was over quickly. Only the memories have lasted. I have squelched them but they seem to be coming more and more frequently now. I think some secrets have to be exposed. Maybe then the memories will stop.

 

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Note: This was originally posted in 2008. It is one of my favorite Christmas stories because it brings back the magic of Christmas that most of us had long, long ago.

I grew up in a large family.  There were seven kids plus my mom and dad.  My dad was the only one who worked, as was the norm in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My dad drove a fork lift at one of the local canneries.  The only way there would ever be any money for Christmas gifts was for my mother to save money in a Christmas Club account at the local Bank of America where she made a weekly deposit.

One year my brother David, who was about eight years old that year, fell in love with a toy he saw on a TV commercial.  It was a cannon that shot hard plastic balls.  It was called the Mighty Mo.  The commercials showed the Mighty Mo crawling over and through rough terrain all on a miniature scale, of course, but it looked really neat.  The clincher was the footage of the cannon balls launching out of the Mighty Mo!

David had to have one but we were taught to not ask for anything, not even for our birthdays or Christmas so he couldn’t ask for one.  We lived a block away from Safeway and my mom used to send us on daily trips for the odd supply she needed before the next week’s big grocery trip.  Safeway carried a few toys then.  They placed them on the shelves high above the produce department as those shelves were normally empty.  On one of the trips to get something for my mom, David was thrilled to discover that Safeway had about two dozen Mighty Mos on their shelves!  After that day, David volunteered to go to Safeway every single time my mom needed something.

Every day David returned from his Safeway run to report exactly how many Mighty Mos were left on the shelf and every day, as the number dwindled, he gave my mom his report in a sadder and sadder tone.  First there had been two dozen then only eighteen.  Soon there were less than a dozen and when there were only four left, David was really sad. About three days before Christmas, David reported, with tears in his eyes, that there were no Mighty Mos left at Safeway.  When Christmas arrived, David was the only one of us that was not excited about it.  We all wanted him to be happy like we were but nothing got him excited.

On Christmas morning, we got up and my big brothers helped us girls get dressed and ready to go upstairs to open presents.  That’s what we did each year because it gave my parents a little extra time to get up.  When we got upstairs, David was the last one to go into the living room where the tree was with our Santa gifts unwrapped.  When he came in he found us all with huge smiles on our faces and our eyes intent on his face.  He didn’t know what was up until he looked under the tree and found his Mighty Mo with a big red ribbon on it!

We all enjoyed that Mighty Mo for several years.  David especially liked to shoot the cannon balls out of the Mighty Mo from the top of the stairs in the back yard.  It was a fun toy.  I only wish my brother David was still around to tell the story himself.

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I like posting “throw back Thursday” pictures on Facebook and I’ve posted a couple here but I get tired of posting pictures of myself and I don’t like to post pictures with other people in them unless I have their permission so when I saw Trent post a throw back Thursday memory on his blog today, I decided I could do that, too!

As most of my regular readers know, I’m originally from California but have been living in Oregon since 2008. Today, in Portland, it is one of those days we’ve been waiting to have for a long time…our summer-like weather. The sky is a beautiful blue with a few wispy clouds and the temperature is 80 degrees. Not horribly hot like it can get but a very nice change from the 50 degree weather we’ve been having!

To me, nothing says summer better than music by the Beach Boys! I love their music. I taught it to my kids and I also taught it to my inner city students the year I taught fifth grade! Now that was a scene but I’ll save that for another day. Today, I will tell you about the first time I saw the Beach Boys in concert. It was on May 24, 1975 in Oakland, California at the Oakland Coliseum for A Day On the Green (a series of all day concerts organized and promoted by Bill Graham in the 1970s).

I had looked forward to the concert for weeks. There was a group of us from the dorm going but too many for the two cars in the group so I was riding the Greyhound with three friends (Laura, Jose, and Ramiro). The night before the concert, there was an impromptu dorm party and, while I enjoyed the party, I did enjoy it a little too much via drinking a lot of booze. I was a freshman that year and at 19 years of age, I had not ever had alcohol other than a sip from my dad’s beer or wine, so during the late part of freshman year, I was drinking too much (not often but still too much). The next day, I was so hungover that I didn’t even hear the alarm. One of my friends got the RA to open my room door and she got me out of bed and got me dressed, including some very hard to keep my feet in “flip flops”. My friends knew that there was no way I would want to miss the concert which was being headlined by Chicago, the Beach Boys, and Riders of the Purple Sage, with a lot of other local groups performing as well. So off we went for our LONG walk to the bus depot which was about a mile northeast of the campus, not too far but we were starting from our dorm which was in the far southwest part of the campus so we had to walk about four miles, maybe more. Well, they walked, I sort of dragged along as they pulled me along. The bus ride from Palo Alto to San Francisco was about an hour then we had to walk to the local city bus stop to take a bus across the Bay Bridge to the Oakland Coliseum for the concert. We finally made it and found our friends in the block of tickets we had purchased. The warm up bands were great but my head was pounding. Someone bought me a beer, saying it would settle my stomach and make me feel better. So by the time Chicago came on, I really was feeling much better, but I had a horrible headache. I enjoyed Chicago and then a couple of small bands then the Beach Boys came on to a wild reaction of standing, clapping, singing, and dancing California fans! Including me, headache and all.

By the time the Beach Boys had played, I was exhausted and still had that horrible headache. One of the car drivers was leaving early and asked if I wanted to go back with her because she had an extra seat. I agreed, having seen the two bands I most wanted to see, and off we went back to Palo Alto, to the dorms, to the dining hall, and to my bed for sleep.

That was the first of about ten times I was lucky enough to see the Beach Boys perform in concert. I’ve only ever seen them in California so I wonder what song they open with in other places because in California they always open with California Girls. (I hope that link works…my plugin for sound is not working on my laptop so I can’t check.)

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Blogging From A to Z

When I was a little girl, around three years old, I spent a lot of time being sick. There were lots of doctor visits, lots of medicines, and a lot of trips to the hospital. I had a lot of pain in my throat and it seemed like it was always sore, like I always had a cold. Finally, Dr. Johnson told my mother that it was time to get my tonsils take out. I would have to go to the hospital to have an operation. My parent’s had insurance for it but because I was so young, the insurance said they would not cover the surgery until they got another doctor to examine me and say the same thing so I had to go to more doctors and more visits and be sick some more.

Then one day my mother got a phone call from the hospital. It was okay for me to have the operation. For several days, my parents took me shopping at night time, after my father was home from work. I got a little suitcase made of wood with colored pegs and a little hammer. It had a chalkboard too. It was mine. I did not have to share it with my sisters. It was for me to take to the hospital with me. I also got a pink nightgown and a pink robe to take to the hospital. I think there were new slippers and I know there was a new blue hairbrush. All these things were for me. All for me. No one else. Just for me. I was feeling really special to be getting the operation.

On the day of the operation, my father had to work so my mother and I walked to the bus stop and took the bus downtown. We had some breakfast and then we got on another bus that left us closer to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital, it was almost the night time. After we waited a long time, they took me to a little room where there were only doctors and nurses. My mom could not go in with me. The doctor told me to look up at the ceiling at a large circle that was like a light but it had no light coming from it. I was supposed to look at it and count backwards from 100 but I didn’t know my numbers so I was confused. Just a couple of numbers later, I was asleep and I didn’t know what happened until I woke up in a room in a crib with a lot of ladies in it.

That night, after work and after dinner, my mom and dad came to see me at the hospital. They brought me a little doll that was going to stay with me and sleep at the hospital when they left. I liked the doll but when it was time for them to leave me and go back home to my brothers and sisters, I gave the doll back to my mom so she could take it back to the store because I wanted to go home with her. My mom’s pretty green eyes were wet and she smiled and said I had to stay there overnight but that if I was a good girl, I could go home in a day or two. My mom and dad kissed me and hugged me and as they turned and waved at me from the door, I smiled at them but I was crying. I smiled at them because I didn’t want my mommy to cry. I didn’t want her to see me cry so I just smiled at them and waved with one hand and wiped the tears away with the other hand.

That night, after they left and after all the ladies in the beds around me were sleeping, I cried. Being in the hospital was not fun anymore. I didn’t want to stay there. I wanted to go home and I wanted my mommy.

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While reading blogs yesterday, I came across this one in which the blogger wrote about how she always felt she was unlucky when she traveled by air until the one day her luck changed. It’s a nice post. You should go read it.

It reminded me of my air travel story. Well, I have a lot of them but there is one in particular that I will share today. In 2009, my son gifted me with a trip to Australia for Mother’s Day. He had planned on going by himself then on Mother’s Day, he surprised me with a travel guide to Australia, a Cheshire cat smile, and the words “you’re coming with me, Mom”! I was humbled by his thoughtfulness. And I was excited. Australia was one of those places I had always dreamed of visiting but never thought I would get there.

Our flight from San Francisco took us to Los Angeles where we then boarded Qantas headed to Melbourne. It was a 15 hour flight. The seating was better than on a domestic flight but for that long of a flight, not a lot can be comfortable. My son and I had hoped that we would have empty seats next to us or somehow be able to spread out a little bit. I’m short (only 5′) but my son is tall (he’s 6’2″) and needs more leg room. We ended up next to a 70ish couple and we were in the last row of that section so no one behind us. I let my son have the aisle seat that was assigned to me and I sat next to the woman who was teeny tiny. I don’t think they spoke English and if they did, they didn’t say a word to us during the entire flight (they spoke Japanese to each other). About an hour into the flight, the woman took a nap. That was great except for one thing. She had stretched out putting her head in her husband’s lap and her feet in my lap! No matter how much I nudged her feet off of me, she would put them back on my lap. We got through the flight without any problems other than the fact that her feet were on me. I couldn’t sleep but it was a great excuse to have some of Qantas’ complimentary Bundaberg rum…and I did as rum is my favorite boozy drink!

We had a wonderful two week adventure. At the end of the week we flew from Melbourne to Cairns with a stop in Brisbane then a few days later we flew from Cairns to Sydney. I’ve written about the trip on this blog and I think if you search it for “Australia” you will find the posts and lots of pictures. But I’ll get on with the return flight which proved to be different from the flight to Australia.

My son had tried to get us seats together on the way back but had not been able to. This made me nervous because I really don’t like sitting next to strangers and because I often need help when I travel (due to a back injury and to being so short!). I suggested that he ask at check in if there were any way we could switch seats with someone so we could sit together. However, my son has not been raised to rock the boat. He tends to (not as much anymore) accept things as they are given to him. So he didn’t ask. The flight was delayed so we sat waiting and waiting then when the check in crew arrived, I took Tony’s boarding pass along with mine and went up to the desk. Tony said don’t do it. There wasn’t anyway to change the seating, he said. But I told him that it wouldn’t hurt to ask and reminded him of what a long flight it was. Our seats were about three rows away from each other, not even close enough for me to get his attention to help me if I had needed help. So I explained to the agent at the desk that my son and I were traveling together but our seats were three rows apart and asked if there were any seats next to each other, or even aisle seats across from each other. She took the tickets and said in her Aussie accent, “Oh my lord! They didn’t put you together? We can’t have that! I’ll take care of it!” So we waited about five minutes; my son was very nervous. I don’t know what he thought would happen just for asking. Finally, she called me back to the desk and handed me new boarding passes, saying she had changed our seats. When they began to call the rows to board, I noticed that we had been put in a different section of the plane because our section was the first to be called to board. We hurried to board and when we got to our seats, we were amazed! We had been moved to a window row with only two seats. Two big, wide, roomy, comfy, leather seats! We were in business class! Along with the better seats with a lot more legroom came a better meal, more variety in the complimentary drinks, a lavatory for just a few rows, and better service. Tony’s eyes got big! He couldn’t believe it! He enjoyed the flight so much and was even able to sleep for a good portion of it. He looked at me and said, “I guess it never hurts to ask!”

So that was a good lesson for him to learn. He saw that I asked nicely. I wasn’t demanding, at all. I just asked. And they responded with courtesy, understanding, and efficiency!

And I think it might have been our reward for not being rude to the lady with her feet on my lap!

Waiting for our plane to come home

Waiting for our plane to come home

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When I was in high school, I took journalism. I had been on the school newspaper staff in middle school and I knew I wanted to be on the school newspaper staff in high school. However, at the high school you couldn’t just be on staff. First you had to take a year of journalism then you could be on staff. My freshman year I signed up for the required Journalism I class and found out I was the only freshman in the class. I stuck with the class through learning to write effective lead paragraphs, including the Five W’s, writing clear headlines, interviewing techniques, research, and a whole lot more. I truly loved everything about journalism.

My sophomore year, I was finally on the newspaper staff (the Cardinal Tribune). I loved chasing down stories and our faculty adviser took us to some events that we could write about for the paper. I remember going to see William F. Buckley, Jr. at the campus of San Jose State (front row seats, no less) and I also attended a dinner where Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was speaking. Those are two I remember quite well. We also were encouraged to see movies at the theater and review them for the newspaper. Sports events at school were also high on the list. It became a great way to get out of the house because my parents were very strict and rarely let us go any place so if I said I had to cover something for the newspaper, we could go!

My junior year, I was the Sports Page Editor! I mostly assigned stories and read them and handed them back to the writer to rewrite them when necessary. I wasn’t then, nor am I now, into sports so I felt it was better to leave the writing to others. I did attend football and basketball games and an occasional track meet but I mostly did not write about the sport. I would write about the fans, the spirit squad, the fan, and the experience of attending the game. I did cover one sport, though. I had a friend on the wrestling team, Manny Alvarado, who asked me one day why the newspaper never sent a reporter to cover wrestling matches. I quipped that if his team started winning, I would start sending a reporter to matches. So Manny said to me, “Come to my match and I’ll pin my man!” So I went. And he did! After that, I always covered the wrestling team!

By the time I got to my senior year, I was the only person in the history of the school (okay, it was a relatively new school, I was in the sixth graduating class) that had ever taken Journalism all four years. By then, I was going with our adviser to proof read the newspaper at the print shop the afternoon it was printed. We would find all the errors, fix them, and give our OK then that night the paper would be printed and then delivered to our school by noon the next day so we could distribute it during sixth period.

Journalism class and the newspaper staff were probably what taught me more than any other class during high school. I learned not only the newspaper business, but I learned how to look at things from different angles to get the best story. I learned how to ask questions and listen to the answers. I learned how to approach people and experiences that I might not normally have approached. I learned how to take direction and how to give it. I learned how to take criticism and how to give it. I learned how to take responsibility for my deadlines, for my articles, and for my decisions. It was a wonderful eye opener for me. The friends I made in Journalism and on the school newspaper, are still friends now, some forty years later.

Journalism had a lot to do with who I am now and for that, I will never forget (Journalism) Room 609, Mr. Del Rio (our faculty adviser), or the Cardinal Tribune.

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My Grandma

My grandma died in late January of 2007 but had she lived, she would have been 106 years old today, February 23. She had three children that collectively gave her 14 grandchildren. Those grandchildren gave her 32 great grandchildren and at the time of her passing, she had somewhere near 14 great great grandchildren.

I grew up in San Jose, California (near San Francisco) and my grandmother lived in Corpus Christi, on the Texas gulf coast. When I was growing up, I only saw her once a year. She would get on a Greyhound bus in Texas and take the three day ride to San Jose. She would stay with us for at least two weeks each summer, sometimes longer. For a long time, we were the only grandchildren she had in California so we got to keep her to ourselves. Later, my uncle moved there too so we had to share Grandma with those cousins. She always brought an extra suitcase that was filled will surprises for us kids and when she went back home, it would be filled with souvenirs and trinkets that she got in California during her visit. That was actually one of the things we loved about Grandma coming to visit us…when she was visiting, we would take her everywhere, even places where we didn’t get to go when we didn’t have her for company. We would go to Fisherman’s Wharf, to Playland At the Beach (which is no longer there but was an amusement park right across the beach in San Francisco), across the Golden Gate Bridge, and to all the tourist spots along the way. We would also go south to Santa Cruz to the Boardwalk on the beach there and to Half Moon Bay and Monterey. We took her to visit some of the California missions, too.

Then when it was time for her to go home to Texas, we would pile in the car (there were 10 of us including my parents and my grandmother) and drive her to the Greyhound station where we would all stand and wave and cry as her bus drove off and the long wait until the next summer began.

In between visits, we got birthday cards from her and I remember that she always sent a a $2 bill. Two dollars, although not a fortune, bought a lot more in the 50’s and 60’s than it does today and honestly, just because it was from Grandma, it meant a lot to us.

I miss her. I did drive from San Jose to Corpus Christi with the three kids once time. I wanted them to meet her and her to meet them so we made the long drive, taking it a little slower because it was just me driving and I stopped often to let the kids run around and stretch so it took us four and a half days. It was important to me. They got to meet their great grandmother and they saw the house where their grandmother grew up in and where I had visited as a child.

Happy birthday, Grandma.

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Mama Knows

Yesterday, while discussing lies and liars with Kim, we both mentioned that moms always know when their kids are lying. It made me think about how my mom could always guess when one of us was lying and then she would trick them into admitting the lie.

For example, one summer my brothers were working picking apricots in one of the many orchards in the area (I grew up in San Jose, California where there were once many orchards with apricots. prunes, peaches, and other delicious fruits). Every morning they would leave together and in the late afternoon, they would return one by one as they would take their time getting a ride home with various friends. After a couple of weeks, my mom noticed that my brother, David, was not wearing the beat up clothes that he should be wearing for working in the fields and then when he got home, his clothes were clean and in perfect condition, unlike that of my other two brothers who would arrive home with dirty clothes and dusty shoes after working all day picking fruit. She figured that David was not going to work. He was probably spending the time with his girlfriend. So one day, she asked him why his clothes were not dirty when he got home from work like that of his brothers. David’s answer: “I work clean.” She let it go and then the next morning as the boys were getting ready to leave for work (my father would take them and drop them off on his way to work) my mom said to David “Say hi to Mara for me!” (Mara was his girlfriend). He didn’t even flinch. He just smiled and said, “Okay. I will.” And off he went. It wasn’t until he was in the car with my brothers that he realized that she had caught him! He went to work every day after that.

Another time, my mom grew curious as to why the jewelry store catalog was coming to the house addressed to David. She got to thinking and figured that he had spent his summer work money on a ring for his girlfriend. So one afternoon when David got home from school, (he was in ninnth grade so about 15) my mom asked David, “So did Mara like the ring you bought for her?” David smiled and excitedly said, “Oh yeah! She really likes it. She wears it every day!” And then it hit him. He was caught again!

So see, no one could lie to my mom and get away with it. Is it any wonder that I grew up not wanting to lie even if it would save me?

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That’s my father’s birth date.

I have six siblings.  Well, three surviving siblings, as all three of my brothers have left this earth.  We have all had mixed feelings about our father.  At times there has been nothing but hate.  At other times, there has been pity.  And a long, long time ago, there was love.  I’ve read what one of my sisters has posted about him on social media and it isn’t at all good.  She hates him.  She has always hated him and has always been afraid of him.  She’s younger than I am by three years.  I mention her age because I think that she missed out on the best of my dad.  Her memory does not go that far back.  She chooses to remember only the bad.  That paints only one side of him.

I have had a lot of negative feelings about him through the years.  I’ve even posted some of them here on this blog in the “early years” of posting.  But I have had a lot of time to think and remember and I hope I have grown more mature than I was in those “early years”.  Or perhaps I’ve just made a conscious choice to remember more than the negative when it comes to my father.

What do I want to remember?  I want to keep in my mind that he was fatherless all his life.  He had no male role model.  He left home to support his mother when he was only twelve years old, just a boy really.  He married my mother when he was eighteen.  He became a father when he was barely twenty and by the time he turned twenty-nine, he was a father seven times over.  That’s a lot of perspective to keep in mind.

I’m old enough to remember home movies.  My dad always, at least as long as I can remember, had a movie camera to take home movies of us.  Black and white at first and very poor quality then later, the movies are in color and in much better quality.  Some of the last ones even have sound. What’s on those movies?  My family, including the part of my dad that I want to remember; the part I am thinking about today.  I remember the movies and his laughing face as he played with us.  I remember the smiles as he pushed my older sister and I on the swings in the playground at the San Francisco Zoo.  I remember images on the screen and in my mind of walking hand in hand with him, him taking tiny and slow steps so as not to trip me up.  I think I must have been about a year and a half.  I remember the images of him lighting the candles on our birthday cakes each year and then quickly moving out of the way so the birthday girl or boy could blow them out.

I wish there were home movies of him dancing with me as I stood on top of his shoes and held on to his arms as he danced.  That’s how I learned to dance when I was very young, probably only seven or eight.  I wish there were pictures or movies of me sitting on his lap as he read the newspaper to me or as I sat with him to learn the capitals of different countries.  It was a favorite thing to do with him–sit and talk and have him teach me riddles that made no sense in English but did in Spanish.  I remember him teaching me a couple of still very difficult tongue twisters in Spanish.  I remember going with him to watch wrestling matches at the civic auditorium because my brothers no longer wanted to go so he took my older sister and me.

Those are some of the things I choose to remember today, as he sits alone with no family on his 85th birthday.  Now that’s a different story to tell, how he ended up without any of his family, but that’s not a story for today.  Today is for the happier times.  Today is for my father in the days I used to call him “deddy”.

Happy birthday, Deddy.

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Yesterday’s post mentioned that a part of my Christmas memories is making tamales.  You’re probably wondering why.  Well, making tamales is a long and tedious process and unless you make them to sell them, you don’t make them every day.  Tamales are made for special occasions and usually it is a communal affair.  That’s what makes it so special.  For us, we made them either for Christmas or for New Year’s Eve but not for both.  It was a special time because everyone came over.  It was our whole nuclear family plus aunts and uncles and sometimes family friends.  The dining table would be taken from the dining room to the kitchen so we could all work there.  It’s kind of messy, or it can be, so we did it in the kitchen where it was an easier task to clean up.  There would be music on the stereo and lots of food and drink.  And laughter. And joy.

When a batch was ready to go on the stove to steam, my mom and dad would stack them (there’s a special way to do it) in the steamer and put them on the stove while the rest of us kept spreading the masa on the ojas and scooping the meat and rolling them up.  Even the youngest of the group had a job.  For years the younger ones weren’t really allowed to help except for one job…it was our job to rinse the corn husks (ojas) and soak them so they would soften enough to spread the dough (masa) on them.  That was an important job because you can’t spread dough on stiff, dried corn husks or they will crack and tear!

We used to make a lot of them…probably ten to twelve dozen.  There were a lot of us to eat them, too!  My family alone had nine people in it and then there were the aunts and uncles to take some home, too.  Any that were left were frozen so we could enjoy them again in a few weeks without having to do it all over again.  Unfortunately, they were so delicious that they didn’t last long and after they were long gone, we began to look forward to the next time we would all get together to make them again.

Family.  Food.  Fun.  Laughter.  Joy.  What more could you want?

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