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Archive for the ‘mothers and daughters’ Category

We had a gas stove in the kitchen. It was almost always on. Good things came from that stove and the best part was that my mother was always there, at the stove, near the stove, using the stove and wherever my mother was, I wanted to be.

My mother made flour tortillas for every meal. She was in the kitchen making the dough–the masa–before the rest of us were out of bed in the mornings. When I was dressed and ready, I would go into the kitchen and watch her. I sat at the red formica table and watched my mother bring the rolling pin out then she would dust the table with flour and take one of the little dough balls and set it in the middle of the flour. She’d begin to move the wooden rolling pin back and forth over the little ball, flattening it, turning it over, and flattening it some more until it grew big enough and thin enough to cook. By then the black cast iron griddle (called a comal) was hot enough to cook the tortillas and my mom would put the thin layer of masa on the griddle for just a few seconds then flip it over. She would spend the rest of the time walking the four steps between the stove and the table to flip the tortillas over as she kept rolling out more tortillas to cook. I was always scared that she would burn her fingers when she turned the tortillas over.

I loved the smell of tortillas cooking on the griddle. Tortillas, when they are cooking, smell of warmth and freshness. The smell meant that when the first one was cooked and had cooled a little, my mom would let me have it. I would be the first one to take the round flat tortilla and fold it in half, tear a piece off of it and put it in my mouth, tasting all the work and the love my mother had put into that one perfect tortillas.

I was always amazed that none of the tortillas burned while she rolled out more and more. It all looked so easy. Somehow my mother timed it just right. While she rolled out the tortillas, I would sit at the table and talk to her, asking her questions about what she was doing and why she was doing it and what would happen if she did it differently. She would answer my questions and sometimes she’d laugh and ask me why I was so full of questions. I asked her once why her fingers didn’t burn when she turned the tortillas over and she said it was because she didn’t use the fingers. She said she used her fingernails. That’s why she couldn’t ever wear pretty polish on her fingernails, because if she did, it would burn. Another time I asked her how she got the tortillas so round and perfect. My mom said the secret was to run the rolling pin over and back just one time, then to turn the tortilla a little bit before running the rolling pin over and back again. She said you had to keep doing it like that, roll over and back, flip, roll over and back, flip, until the tortilla was ready to cook. Sometimes she would tell me I should run and play outside with my brothers and sisters but I never did. I liked to be inside, with my mother, next to her, talking to her and learning from her. As she cooked on the white O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove, my mother and I kept each other from being lonely.

When the tortillas were all done, enough for the nine of us, she would put everything away and start on the food. I got to stay and watch and when I was old enough, I got to help her with the cooking. That’s how I learned to make tortillas and my three sisters didn’t. That’s how I learned to make the enchiladas, tostadas, the menudo, chile verde, and all the other foods our family loved to eat every day and my sisters didn’t. That’s how I got to spend many hours talking to my mother and listening to her, learning from her and letting her learn about me, and my sisters didn’t.

My mother did other things in the kitchen and I learned to do those, too. I remember that she used to iron in one corner of the kitchen and I remember her sewing our clothes when we tore holes into them. But one special thing that I loved most that my mother did in our pink kitchen was sing. She almost always had the radio on and when the radio was on, she would be singing. She knew the words to all of the songs and when there was a new one, one she didn’t know, she would take a piece of paper and write the words then she’d put it next to the radio until the next time they played the same song and when they did, she’d rush over to the radio, grab the paper and write down more of the words until she had them all. Then the next time the new song was on, she could sing it without looking at the paper. I loved hearing the music but I loved hearing my mother sing more! I learned the words to some of the songs and sometimes I would try to sing them too. One song I liked was called El Caballo Blanco. It told the story of a white horse that escaped and ran from one city to the next, admiring the countryside of Mexico. I liked that song because I had been to some of those places. When the white horse died in Ensenada at the end of the song, it always made me sad.

Sometimes my mother would take me by the hands and twirl me around the kitchen as the music played and as her mouth sang the words to the songs. My mother loved music. She loved singing. She loved dancing.

When I think about my mother, these are the times I like to remember. Those days were filled with wonder and love and the p

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When I was a teenager, I was often caught up in the romance and sentimentality of song lyrics. One of those songs was Eighteen Yellow Roses, sung by Bobby Darin. For those that haven’t heard it, you can hear it here. The song’s lyrics tell the story of a father’s realization that his little girl is growing up. One day a bouquet of eighteen yellow roses comes for the daughter, and the dad says “…eighteen yellow roses will wilt and die one day but a father’s love will never fade away.” I had a different kind of relationship with my father and I think it was a longing for something I was missing that made me love that song. I used to turn the volume up every time I heard it on the radio and that was a lot because I always listened to the oldies station, even as a teenager.

As my own eighteenth birthday approached in December of 1973, the song became more and more special to me. I had no hope of getting the roses as I had no boyfriend. My father was also gone from our home so having him around for my 18th birthday was up in the air. On Christmas morning, the day I turned 18, I was surprised to find a bouquet of 18 yellow roses and more surprised to find that the card on the flowers had my name on it. The bouquet was from my mom. She wanted to do something special for me and in my eyes, she had done just that.

My mom continued to gift me with yellow roses on my birthday for a number of years. In fact, yellow roses have sort of become my trademark. Now, when I get them (and it’s rare these years) the gift is made more special because I know that the persons giving them to me (my kids) know how special they are and intend to give me something very special.

yellowrose

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My Nanowrimo novel writing was interrupted yesterday.  I am at 41,103 words and have to finish by Sunday.  I wanted to finish by Tuesday night.  It was a goal I had set for myself.  However, on Sunday morning my daughter called and said she wanted to come visit me.  I was very pleased that she was coming.  I spent the day cleaning and doing laundry and getting the guest room and guest bathroom ready for her.  She will be here through Tuesday evening.

Today we went all over town.  We left early because she wanted to go out for coffee.  I thought we were coming back here after that.  We didn’t.  We went from coffee to breakfast to antique stores, Powell’s Books, and walking around taking pictures.  She had made an appointment at the Admissions Office at a college she is interested in so we went across town to the 3 pm appointment.  While she was in with the lady in Admissions, I sat and waited for her in the cafe.  I had left without anything to write on because we were coming right back.  So as I sat, I looked for ad pages with a lot of white space in a local weekly free magazine.  When I found the pages, I pulled them out and used them to pick up writing on my Nanowrimo novel.  I haven’t typed it up yet but I think I probably wrote about six or seven hundred words.  With luck, I can type it up later tonight, (we’re going out to dinner shortly) and add a bit to it.  I’d be happy if I could get to 42,000 words by the time I turned out the light tonight.

Oh well, I have til Sunday.  I don’t have my daughter here all the time.  I think when I put her on the plane tomorrow, I will wish she was staying a lot longer.

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I’m 52 years old but my hair is almost entirely (well about 80%) white, which makes me look at least ten years older.I’ve been dying my hair for many years.I do it at home from one of those bottles you can buy at WalMart or Target or Big Lots.About two years ago, I realized that if I don’t color it every four or so weeks, it looks pretty bad and I am treated older.This I don’t like so I try to do it often.Earlier this year however, while I was in the packing and moving stage of my out of state move, I went about three months without coloring it.It looked horrible.I felt and looked about 70 (well at least in my book I looked a lot older).When I came up with my final load (well final minus all the stuff I left in storage), the first thing I did was go to Target and get a box of hair color.That was a while ago.I’ve been so busy that I hadn’t even noticed that my hair was pretty white all over again (not “pretty white” but a lot white).It had been two and a half months since I had colored my hair.By then I had gotten some stuff from storage, including three bottles of hair dye.So I grabbed one and dyed my hair.

Now you have to understand that dying your own hair, while very much like shampooing your own hair, is not as easy as it sounds or looks.You need to be able to get every bit of it soaked in hair color.Every strand.This was easy.Before.Like a few years ago.Now it’s not so easy.I can get the hair I can see, in the front, top and sides, but I can’t get the hair in the back.

I colored my hair and two things went wrong.First and most obvious, I apparently grabbed the bottle my daughter had bought for me to put in her hair.It’s black.I don’t ever color my hair black because it’s just too dark for me.It’s too severe of a look, especially for a 52 year old.I usually use a dark brown, which is my natural color.So the first thing I noticed when I washed it all out and took the towel off is that I now had dark, dark, dark black hair.Oops!

The second thing that went wrong was unknown to me for a week.My daughter came over yesterday and we spent the day together.In the middle of one store, she grabbed my hair and shrieked, “You missed a spot!Oh my you missed a HUGE spot!Oh Mom!It’s all white in the back!”

Apparently my hair has gotten too gray for me to do by myself without really messing it up by missing a huge spot.So I either need to go get it done at a salon, find someone to come help me do it at home, or get my daughter to come over and just take a look and make sure I’ve gotten all of it in the back.Doing it at a salon is far too expensive and I don’t know anyone in town to come help me.I guess I will have to trust my daughter to come when I need her to come so she can inspect the back of my hair.I also need to get two bottles of the same color so that I can use two bottles to make sure I get it all, if necessary.

In the meantime, I will walk around with a skunk stripe in the back.Aging stinks!

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As I wrote in Nana Diaries Part One, my mom has been visiting. In the evenings, she sits in the living room and watches her novelas (Spanish language soap operas) which air only on weekdays. She doesn’t have anything that she watches on weekend nights. I don’t watch a lot of TV but there are two shows I do watch on Sunday nights. One is Desperate Housewives (okay, I know it’s trashy but I’m hooked and it often has comedic value); the other is Brothers and Sisters (I really, really love Sally Field).

The first Sunday she was visiting, she sat down to watch Desperate Housewives with me. I started to explain who each character was. After about five minutes, she got up and left the room and didn’t return until the end of the show. She said something about the women on the show being descaradas which translates to something along the lines of disgraceful (literally meaning without face).

During the commercial break between the two shows, she came and sat down on the couch, once again. Then Brothers and Sisters began. It was the season premiere and they were recapping what happened at the end of last season. As some of you may know, the show Brothers and Sisters has a key character who is gay. In the last season’s final episode, the gay brother married his partner. When that bit of recap came on, my mom said, “Uuuggghhhh! They got married?” I nodded that they had and kept watching the show. I was so involved in the show, I barely noticed when she left the room and didn’t return. About half way into the show, I realized she hadn’t come back. That’s when I realized that it was the show’s handling of gay marriage that upset her about this show.

The second week, she didn’t try to sit with me for either show. She kept herself busy in the kitchen, going through boxes and boxes of photographs. I think we were both happier that way. I enjoyed my shows and she didn’t have to see anything that insulted her.

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My mother has a name but ever since she first became a grandmother in 1969, everyone has called her “Nana” (pronounced Naw-Naw). Some people don’t even know her name. They just call her Nana.

Nana lives in southern California and it has been a long, long time since I lived any closer than an hour away from her. Right now, I live about an 18 hour drive from her. However, we were both in the San Francisco bay area recently and I brought her home with me. She is enjoying being away from home. In a way, she’s running away. Here, she has nothing she has to do. She is watching her Spanish language soap operas in the evening; we’re talking a lot; we’re going through boxes of old pictures and sorting them so that one of these days I can put them in scrap books! In the day time, we’re driving around so she can see some of the city and the areas around here. She hasn’t ever been in the Portland area before and she loves it here.

Having Nana here is good. We haven’t spent much time together in a long time. It helps me see how I am like her and how I am very unlike her. It also lets me see the ways I don’t want to be and hopefully I can keep from being like her in certain ways. Not to say that she’s not a good person but she’s 76 and “that” generation is intolerant of a lot of the things and people that many of us accept gladly (and many things and people a lot of us pretend to tolerate and accept). Nana is also deaf. She wears hearing aids and depending on the volume she has them turned to, she sometimes speaks very, very softly and very, very loudly at other times.

One day last week, we went to the Rose Garden and on the way back, we suddenly both got really hungry. You know, that hunger that comes from out of nowhere and quickly has your stomach threatening to eat itself (as my daughter is fond of saying). I haven’t lived here long so I don’t know a lot of places to eat. I wasn’t in my neighborhood and I figured it would be at least a half hour before we got anywhere near where I would know which restaurants were around. I noticed that we were on 39th and approaching Hawthorn. I knew my daughter’s favorite coffee shop/diner was just a few blocks away so I headed toward it. Once inside Cup and Saucer, we waited for a table and as we were sitting down, my mom says, in a VERY loud voice, “Did you see his hair? That guy. His hair looks so weird!” Then she proceeded to turn and point at the guy walking out the front door. I was so stunned that I couldn’t say anything fast enough and before I knew it, she had continued: “How awful it looks! Did you see?” I shook my head, not really saying that I hadn’t seen but indicating how incredulous I was of what was going on. She went on: “He has the sides shaved and he has this long thing like a Mohawk and then it goes down in long braids like the black people wear (dreadlocks)!” I thought I was going to die. I was so glad I couldn’t see any of the people in the booths surrounding us. I hoped they couldn’t see me. I changed the subject as quickly as I could but she still kept turning around to see the young man in the unusual-to-her hair-do.

The rest of our lunch was uneventful. Delicious. And thankfully, uneventful!

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You taught me to be like you

I thought that was what I wanted

That night…

Sound, peaceful sleep

Harshly interrupted

You tried but you couldn’t help it.

You took it and all we heard

From you was quiet.

In the morning we waited

For him to leave and then

We ran into your room

You smiled at us, peacefully

Covering yourself so we

Could not see

You taught us

Your beautiful green eyes

Were now surrounded by

Blackness, bruises

You taught us

With your silence

You said you were fine

No, it didn’t hurt

You taught us

I cried. Your pajamas were

Ripped, shredded

You smiled with calmness

And you taught us

I was just like you

Everyone said, it made me happy

Then.

You taught us

I was different

I pulled out of it

I would not take it

You taught me

I learned not to be like you

My sisters did not.

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