Monthly Archives: January 2014

French Toast

A neighbor, a hefty woman with floppy arms, lived alone, and liked children. Whenever I stopped in for a visit, she’d have a treat to offer me. She handed me a large chocolate Easter bunny once, and then asked what I wanted for breakfast.

“French toast!” I sang, bouncing up and down. The neighbor put on an apron and shooed me out of her kitchen with her jiggling arms. 

In the dining room, I sat on a chair with my legs swinging. I got up to stretch. I walked around and traced my hand over a flower arrangement, almost knocking the vase over. My eye caught a candy dish that sat in the center . . .

“Don’t you touch anything,” the neighbor called from the kitchen.

“I’m not,” I replied and returned the purple jellybean that I had licked.

A black cat-shaped clock hung on the wall. I followed the big, moving eyes and long, swinging tail—back and forth, back and forth, tick-tock, tick-tock. I gazed across dusty photo frames that filled the shelves and windowsills and wondered if any pictures were of her as a child. I wanted to thumb through her assortment of worn-out picture books and Life magazines stacked on bookshelves and floor. But I didn’t dare.

The aroma coming from the kitchen made my stomach rumble. I heard her pounding footsteps and raced to sit back down. The neighbor put a plate in front of me stacked with golden-brown French toast. She poured warm maple syrup over the fluffy slices of sweet bread. I knew I never smelled or tasted anything so delicious. My one regret: eating too fast and becoming full too quick. Then I watched, horrified, as she collected my plate and tossed the rest into the trash. I would have brought the rest home to share with Mama and eat later.

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

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Food, Memoir

Looking Back – My Reasons for Writing

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One of my cousins from across the miles posed a couple of great questions, giving me food for thought. He asked:

Why do you write? And why do you write about the family?

My answer to him:

First of all, I write because I know I have a story to tell. As a kid, eventually I discovered we were dirt poor. In my teens looking back, I realized that I was neglected and forced to grow up too fast. I was ashamed of my childhood and bitter for being my mama’s mother. As I “matured,” settled down, married and had children of my own, along the way I found I was a stronger person because of some of the things that I endured as a child. Once I embraced the God of my grandparents, I became a much better person, too. NOT that I had it all together; I still had a few things to learn. But I learned that it was much better to let go of the bitterness and to forgive, than to hold onto the junk. I also learned that I didn’t have to be a product of my environment! I could rise above the ashes like a phoenix and become so much better. That was my freedom — still is — and God has called us to liberty, not to be in prison. Sure I made some mistakes along the way, but I learned from them as well. It starts with a made-up mind! While I’ve managed to confront my past, I believe my past hasn’t spoiled me, but has prepared me for the future. I may not be perfect but whenever I stumble, I can wipe the crud off and walk on. I share my story that I might help one person – and if I have done that then I have done a good thing and God gets the glory.

I mention family because the little girl growing up — although she may have felt like she was all alone most times — was not an orphan and did not live on an island unto herself. There were others around who helped to nurture her in one fashion or another, even, the antagonists in her story. And yes, some were heroes. She cannot tell her story without mentioning those she looked up to. For it to be truthful, she had to address some real and raw emotions and mentioned the flaws — the good, the bad and the ugly.

The story is not fiction. It is written how she remembers the events that took shape in her life as a child, a teenager and into her adulthood. All the memories do not take her to a happy place. She has had to dig deep to find them. To some, those “happy” places may be simple and insignificant, but to her they were her life-line.

His response:  

I am keeping this to remind me what it takes to be selfless.

 Thanks 

CD

I did not expect THAT answer 🙂

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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January 22, 2014 · 4:56 PM

What I Took Away and Then Some

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I’m stepping out of my comfort zone here. I normally don’t write anything political or about war or conflicts between nations, states or parties. But having seen Lone Survivor moved me in such a way that I feel compelled to share what I took away after watching the movie in tears with my husband and someone else (who has asked to remain anonymous).

The audience in the theater was silent during the entire show. The movie was tense, almost unbearable, while I squirmed and gasped holding my husband’s hand tightly. These Navy SEALs were brave men, tough men, a man’s man. They lived hard, fought hard, died hard. We know by the title that only one of these men lived to tell their incredible story. But here’s what I took away …

At the end, as I watched the credits and some actual footage of these men, a stark reality hit me. The video showed segments of these real men interacting, laughing and engaging in tender moments. They wed, danced with their bride, held their newborn. I witnessed a new bride kissing her husband over and over with crumbs of wedding cake on her face, mingled with tears streaming down. At that moment she is living her dream.

These soldiers who died were someone’s son, brother, uncle, boyfriend, fiancé, husband, father. I wondered about the women left behind and to suffer in silence. We don’t hear much about them: Left behind is the torn heart of a woman who loved a soldier. Her heart aches and bleeds, paying the price of loving someone whom she has had to share with strangers while he fought for their country. I pray she finds comfort and strength knowing that her courageous solider didn’t die in vain.

And lastly, while walking to our cars, the one who had joined us to watch Lone Survivor with tears in his own eyes said, “I learned a hard lesson tonight. I would’ve killed the goat herders originally. And then when I saw what the man and the boy did for Marcus — even though it put their lives and the villages in jeopardy — I was convicted. They did the right thing. It wasn’t the easy thing.”

And those words moved me more than anything …

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Lone Survivor, movie

“Tout de Suite!”

Through half-drawn curtains, I watched the other children at play, chasing one another in a circle, chanting, “Duck. Duck. Goose!”

Humpty-Dumpty, the daycare where Daddy dropped us off that morning operated on a strict schedule. I knew I didn’t belong there. At lunch time, they made me sit in the dimly lit kitchen to finish the tough, chewy meat on my plate while the others went out for recess. Just when I cleaned my plate, they announced, “lights out.” I hated nap times too.

By age three, my parents were separated. My brother Ruben lived with Daddy while I stayed with Mama. Daddy had started coming for me, but on one visit he said I could stay and didn’t need to go back. I was perfectly happy. I didn’t know that Mama never agreed to him keeping me. Early one morning, determined to know where he took Ruben and me before he headed for work, Mama hunkered down inside a taxi and followed him to the daycare.

Later, parents came to collect their children. While my brother and I waited for Daddy, we played on the swings. That’s when the clunking sound of an engine caught our attention. We were not expecting them, but Mama and her boyfriend Jimmy—my new step-dad—drove up in a gray jalopy. Mama stuck her head out the window and waved us on.

“Tout de suite!” My mama shouted in the single French phrase that she knew, her arm pumping for us to hurry.

Trained to move fast whenever we heard the phrase, we bolted in their direction.

Jimmy yelled at Mama, “Stay in the car, Ruthie. I’ll get ‘em.”

Jimmy hoisted Ruben over the massive stonewall, and dropped him down the other side. Then he grabbed me by the arm and lifted me before sprinting toward that old heap. We clambered in and sped off. I glanced back to see the daycare worker running after us, screaming. Mama and Jimmy, cackling with glee, celebrated their successful kidnapping scheme. A strong odor of beer permeated the air inside the car.

I looked over at my brother pretending to be brave, but wide-eyed. I glanced down and noticed my scraped knees. A lump lodged in my throat; a tear escaped my eyes as I thought: What will Daddy think when he comes for us?

(Intro to Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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January 9, 2014 · 10:22 PM