Monthly Archives: November 2013

He Was a Great Man

JFK

Provided by Linda Flowers – Nov. 25, 1963

The week before Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house, I enjoyed the peaceful ambiance where I always felt loved and cared for. My grandparents showered me with attention. I looked forward to the upcoming holiday, especially Grandma’s stuffed pavo with tons of mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce.  

On that particular day, I lay on their living room floor, watching the crowds on TV who stood in respectful silence observing a funeral procession. The clopping sounds of horses’ hooves echoed as they pulled a carriage carrying a coffin draped with the Stars and Stripes. I knew the world lost an important man. As I studied the sorrowful faces of my grandparents and peered into their misty eyes, my heart broke, too.

Days later, I shall never forget a serious Grandpa gazing out the window deep in thought. With a sad but loud voice, he bellowed, “He was a greaaaat man! He was a greaaaat man!” I would come to realize that Grandpa referred to none other than President John F. Kennedy.

© M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under JFK, Memoir

Thanksgiving 1976

I stared at the TV, hearing the drone but not paying attention to the program. Earlier I had eaten to my heart’s content, wishing I hadn’t stuffed myself the way we did our turkey.

Before too long, I felt a strong urge. Alone and frightened, my heart raced.

I pressed the button.

And pressed again.

I shouted.

No one came.

In desperation I banged on the wall, yelling, “Hello, anyone out there? I have to push! I have to push!” Doesn’t anyone hear me? I . . . have . . . to . . . push!

I pounded on the walls, about to put a hole through it. At last, a nurse ran in. Much to her surprise—and my anguish—she found me fully dilated and ready to pop.

A lot of activity happened at once. Oddly enough at the same instant, I felt like an ice cube. The nurse noticed me trembling and threw three blankets over me. She fetched Mr. Wonderful in the lounge, already stretched out half-asleep. After waking him, they gave him a hospital gown, a cap, and a mask. After he followed them to the delivery room, they instructed him where to stand.

With my knees bent and feet in stirrups, an assistant leaned me forward.

“Now push,” my doctor instructed. “Push, hard.”

I took a deep breath and held it, managing a couple of pushes, one or two deep grunts and a long groan, feeling the blood rush to my brain. “I . . . can’t!” I gasped. “No more. I’m tired.”

“Come on. Keep pushing. Bear down. A little more.”

“Arrrrgh!”

“Shush. It’s okay, honey,” Mr. Macho-turned-coach drilled. “Stay calm.”

YOU stay calm! IT HURTS!

“Humph,” Donny snorted.

“All right, now give me one big, long push.”

“It . . . b-burns!” God, I feel like I’m tearing!

“Okay, now stop. Stop pushing a moment.”

PushBreatheBear downDon’t pushBreathe! My mind zoomed from ninety to zero. Oh, what am I supposed to do? Why hadn’t Donny and I completed those Lamaze classes? Finally, the answer came to me: In order to refrain from pushing, I had to do a series of shallow breathing. Pant. Like a dog.

Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant.

Donny watched the whole process bug-eyed and ashen-faced.

Some macho-man he turned out to be. 

2:56 a.m.

Gorgeous. Chestnut hair. Almond-shaped eyes. Rosy cheeks. Ten fingers and ten toes. I was in my teens and just delivered a beautiful, healthy 7 lb. 6 oz. baby girl. My baby girl! Thank you, God. With the ideal name for her—in memory of my beloved grandma and my deceased sister—I named her Anna, with Marie being her middle name.

Once home, I savored the miracle before me: An innocent life at peace in her crib. A life I had only known as bittersweet; a life filled with much adversity from being alone, cold, hungry, and frightened. My mind twirled with unanswered questions. Could I protect this child and keep her safe? As her mommy, I wondered if I’d always be there for her, and not fail or disappoint her. Would we have a close relationship? Would she always feel my love?

(An excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

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My firstborn’s birthday is just a few days away. About every four years, her birthday lands on Thanksgiving Day.  From day one, she is a reminder of all I am thankful for. She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. When she came into my life, she began a circle of three.

As I watched her grow, she taught me the rhythm of a mother’s heart beat for her child.

heartbeat

To my beautiful daughter:

Anna Marie, there’s a lot more to the story that had transpired before this excerpt about you posted here, as well as a lot more that occurred afterward. I suppose your curiosity is piqued right now, but I’m afraid, you’ll have to remain patient and stay tune along with the rest of the audience until my book becomes published.

I love you.

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© M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved

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November 21, 2013 · 10:01 PM

Love Spoken Here

Visiting Daddy in the early seventies, on weekends and during summertime, I remember how he loved to watch Lucha Libre. His favorite wrestler then was Rocky Johnson (the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Also a die-hard Yankee fan, Daddy loved his baseball team.

“¿Vite? You see dat?” Daddy shouted and pointed to the TV, asking no one in particular. “Man, dat Mickey Mantle can hit dat ball sooo hard . . . !”

Daddy and my stepmother Gloria were raising my brother Ruben. Yes, I was a bit jealous. Although Daddy spoke both languages to me, I never became as fluent as my brother had become in Spanish. I understood the language more than I could speak it.

Daddy enjoyed many hobbies. He knew his fruits and vegetables having worked on his father’s land in his prime. He loved gardening and showing off his avocado and gandules (pigeon pea) plants that he himself planted as much as he loved chewing and sucking the juice from raw sugar canes.

Although Gloria hardly spoke English, we communicated well enough. She treated me like her own child, showering me with loud smooches and tight squeezes. When she spoke to me in Spanish, I’d answered her in English and in my broken Spanish. In the mornings, she’d asked if I wanted “Con Fley” because she knew I liked cereal, and then asked if I wanted her to fix me a huevo frito, too. She was such a great cook; we all loved her comida. To see her working in the kitchen preparing mouth-watering delicacies was a common sight. Meals were her priority. She often cooked wearing rollers under a hair net, sometimes in a floral house-dress and always chanclas on her feet.

Back then, feathered friends scurried about in the backyard, a number in cages were nestling on eggs. I liked feeding the ducks and watching them swim in the pond. Not so much with the chickens though, I knew they were for consumption. But I couldn’t keep from watching in agony whenever Gloria ran after one, caught it, and then wrung the poor creature’s neck. It gave me the creeps. Then I’d stay clear from the messy job of plucking feathers. Gloria also chose whatever Daddy planted in the yard to compliment with anyone of her flavorful traditional entrées, whether her arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), or pernil (roasted pork). Each dish was first sautéed in sofrito (a mixture of bell peppers, garlic, onions and capers blended into a paste) in a deep caldero. The aroma alone made your mouth water. Gloria served side dishes of fried sweet plantains, large Florida avocados, simmering red beans with new potatoes, and always with a big pot of yellow rice.

One Sunday after a tasty meal of chicken stew, we drank café con leche, a strong espresso made with hot milk and sugar.

“Mary, did you like Mami’s pollo guisado?” Daddy asked, sipping from his cup.

“¡Si!” I answered, practicing my Spanish. “Muy bueno.”

“Oh, yeah? You wanna know somteen’?” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.

“¿Que?” I asked, blowing on my cafesito, too hot to drink.

“Dat’s no chicken you ate . . . dat was un pato.”

A duck? I stared at Daddy, and then at Gloria, then at the leftovers in the pot. I didn’t feel so good. My stomach felt queasy. I raced to the bathroom without a moment to spare when my entire lunch came up.

Gloria helped wipe my face in the bathroom and pleaded, “Ay, Marí. Perdóname.

I knew she felt terrible about what happened. But when I looked out the window, I couldn’t quit thinking about how I fed those cute, adorable ducks. And I had eaten one!

With no hard feelings over anyone about the duck incident, I enjoyed being at Daddy’s house and forgetting my troubles back home with Mama. I noticed the way Gloria fussed and cleaned house; the same way she enjoyed cooking: fast, thoroughly, and con mucho gusto. She didn’t like dirt. She had every chair in the house, even the couch covered with plastic! When time to clean the bathroom, she threw a bucket filled with soapy water on the floor, walls and tub, scrubbing, mopping and drying until everything was squeaky-clean. She never relaxed until evening when one of her novellas came on TV. Daddy and Gloria were affectionate and called each other pet names. Because Daddy’s skin was brown, Gloria called him, “Negro.” While many knew my stepmother as “Pita,” Daddy called her his “Mamita.”

Seeing their love in action made me smile. Although Gloria didn’t speak English, her hugs and warmth said more than the words from my own mother.

And she could cook.

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Gloria making her famous pasteles.

(Excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace ) © M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved Note: Featured in La Respuesta online Magazine, Dec. 2013 Culture section

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November 14, 2013 · 9:15 PM

This Language On Love

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So, in reading “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, he describes in great detail how the word love can be very confusing. We love activities, objects, animals, nature and people. We even fall in love with love. He points out that we use love to explain behavior. “‘I did it because I love her’ says a man who is involved in an adulterous relationship. God calls it sin, but he calls it love. The wife of an alcoholic picks up the pieces after her husband’s latest episode. The psychologist calls it co-dependency, but she calls it love. The parent indulges all the child’s wishes. The family therapist calls it irresponsible parenthood, but the parent calls it love.”

Now I’m not by any means of the imagination a psychologist, a professor, a clergywomen, or a counselor. I am just an ordinary woman. I’m a girlfriend, a daughter, a cousin, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, and a grandmother. But like many, I think all too often we speak the wrong love language. I definitely have.

In my youth, I did some stupid things out of “love” for a guy. And because I loved him I thought, surely he will come to my way of thinking. He would love me in return, enough to change his behavior and better himself. After all, hadn’t I bent over backwards for him? Worshipped the ground he walked on? Became his doormat? In order to gain his undivided attention, I forgot who I was.

In my teens, I covered my husband’s transgressions. I hid his secret, sin and shame. My way of thinking was: This is why I exist, right? That’s my job, isn’t it? His wish was my command. Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen – if only I knew how to cook then. My smile hid the pain in my heart, as well as makeup did the bruises on my face. I hid the grocery money, emptied the liquor bottles, refilling half with water hoping he’d never noticed. I’d called his boss to say he was sick in bed after another blackout episode. I told myself: I protect my interest. I do it all in the name of “love.”

I was tired. But because I loved my children, I eventually allowed my kids the freedom of choice. They started listening to the “hip” music their friends were listening to, and watched certain movies because I knew they were old enough and smart enough not to repeat negative behaviors. Yes, I was inconsistent, worn-out, and haggard. I practiced tough-love, church activities, rules and schedules, but then lost the victory in my own personal life that I toss responsibility to the wind. I got lazy. It became every person for himself. I started doing my own thing. I felt defeated. Cold-hearted. Bitter. Since I had lost the battle as a wife, for a moment, I had also forgotten that there was still a war to fight for called Motherhood.

That was many moons ago. And I’m happy to say, although far from perfect, I continue to strive to communicate this language in a healthy way.

Just some rambling thoughts today, as I reflect over Gary Chapman’s point of view about the language of love.

What are your thoughts?

© M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Gary Chapman, Love Language

She’s Not Tough, She’s Tenacious

At my grandparents’ home, weekends were our shopping days at Pantry Pride. Grandma pulled her two-wheel cart behind her, and Grandpa and I carried the rest of the groceries, chitchatting along the way.

“You know, young lady,” Grandpa said, “You’re going to have long legs when you grow up.”

“Are they going to be long as yours, Grandpa?” I asked, trying to keep in stride.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Will they be long as Grandma’s?”

“Well, I’ll say there’s a good chance.”

“What about Mama’s?”

“Yep. I think they’re going to be longer than your mother’s are.”

“Then I’ll be taller than her.” I skipped along thinking about it.

“Yes, yes, I think you’re right,” Grandpa chuckled.

We couldn’t walk at a fast pace on account of Grandma’s bad feet.

But one morning we left for church later than usual. Grandma insisted that Grandpa and I run on ahead to stop the bus when we saw one. We took a shortcut along the sides of the railroad tracks. Trotting over the loose gravel became tricky, but we hurried on determined to catch that bus.

“Papa,” cried a small voice. We didn’t hear that first call. The cry came again, followed by a moan. When we turned, we never imagined seeing Grandma laying facedown over pebbles and rocks. Grandpa moved with surprising agility and helped her sit up.

Grandma’s forehead bled from the fall. I cowered at the sight of so much blood. I felt sorry for her and helpless. Why couldn’t I have stayed close and given her my arm to hold onto?

Together, we walked back to the house. When we got there, Grandma limped into the bathroom and Grandpa helped her clean her face with a washcloth. To our surprise, she then insisted that we go back out.

“We are goin’ to church even if we are late,” she said.

“Aren’t you going to at least change your blouse?” Grandpa asked.

“¡No señor!” Grandma said with finality. “I’m goin’ just as I am.”

(Excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace )

© M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under family, Tenacious