Category Archives: familia

Through My Lens

Picture1As I reflect upon my vacation this year, I center on the glitter to the glue of my family. The stuff that makes them glow through difficult circumstances, yet, not fall apart. It is the Strength in their sails,
the Laughter through the tears, and the Lightanchornew in the darkness. The waves may beat on the boat called Life, but their faith in God is the anchor that
keeps them from drifting afar.

Through my lens, I observed how one remains playful and young at heart, can laugh at themselves silly and enjoy the simple things in life.
14923_10204703715180608_5675463751065842269_n 10600375_10204703715860625_6913583592732597383_nThrough my lens, I saw how one so small can love so big; remain warm and engaging, loveable without reservations.10556236_10204728125950862_5977327558787419493_n

Through my lens, I noticed that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! They refuse to sit down, roll over or give up on life. They know tomorrow is on the horizon, another day for new beginnings.10374430_10204728701285245_6597456912167368273_n

10559740_10204703690339987_8489302758064957017_nThrough my lens, I observed that age is just a number; it doesn’t mean that one ceases to exist, to learn, or to do.10606108_10204704812728046_6739570265579190164_n

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Through my lens, I got to witness such amazing selfless love. The sacrifices and serving of others: putting themselves last, while thinking of others first.

10436271_10204678200342753_1091761609782845600_nI heard the cry of their heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Compassion. Thump. Thump. Forgiveness. Thump. Thump. Passion. Thump. Thump. Sincerity. Thump. Thump. Tenacity. Thump. Thump. Love. Thump. Thump. Puerto Rican heritage.

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What did I learn in my ten days of vacation? If I can be just one example of what it means to love and to be loved, I’ll overcome what life may throw at me. I’ll face each trial with a certainty that God is still God of the ages and He continues to work on our behalf. No matter what.

Plans don’t always work the way we think. Situations may take a different turn than what we planned. We aren’t always prepared for the what-ifs. We aren’t perfect. But we are family. And the greatest gift of all is family.

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© M.A. Pérez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under familia, family, Vacation

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

Mi Boricuan Familia

I just returned from an accelerating  week’s vacation, which was also a surprise visit to my family in Florida. Other than planning everything with my younger brother, I didn’t want any beans spilled, so I gave no clues and left no hints. My ten-year-old grandson accompanied me; his first time on a plane. He was so excited and never at a loss for words the entire flight.IMG_0624[1]

The trip and the family time together were awesome!

My first stop was at my older brother’s. The shock on his face and the familiar choice words that he uttered in seeing me were priceless. His entire household welcomed me warmly. My three tall nephews are strapping young lads. We all talked at once and managed to hear every word. Soon, my sister-in-law and I enjoyed some overdue and much-needed girl talk alone (after kicking out all the boys).

1092153_158266174363129_1689987005_oThen we drove to my dad’s home where I was greeted with more1157638_10201825671551316_948345146_n hugs, tears and kisses. (Click on the link to a video and listen to my daddy’s exclamation phrases over and over of: “¡Ay, mi madre!” as well as, “¡Ay, Dios mio!”)

Before too long, savory food waft from the kitchen calling my name. I couldn’t wait to sample my step-mother’s Puerto Rican cuisine. She did not disappoint and prepared a delicioso feast of pollo frito arroz_con_gandules(fried chicken), plátanos fritos (fried plantains), and arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). Mmm hmm good! ¡Que rico la comida!

IMG_0694[1]My sister later drove into town (also surprising our daddy – yes, it’s in our blood) and soon we were catching up with the latest news over family, food and fashion. I got to exchanged stories with her fine son, amazed by his sharp wit, then observed he and my grandson enjoying one another’s company with the latest video game. Finally, my dad announced it was time to play dominoes, beating everyone in the game just the way I always remembered.

In the days that followed we shopped, ate to our heart’s content, spent the day at the beach, the pool, 1095099_10201755977529307_1400669289_nand shared pictures on FaceBook (a vast differencemai kai from having to pull out dusty album books like the old days). Lastly, we enjoyed taking Daddy to Mai Kai Polynesian Dinner and Show.

I wanted — needed — to be present to help celebrate my daddy’s 80th birthday that Sunday, and so grateful to be able to escape my hectic schedule to make the grand event. If not, I would have been filled with regrets. Now I have wonderful additional memories to hold onto for a lifetime.

With every visit, conversation and reminiscing, we simply picked up where we left off so long ago. It felt good to be “home” again and reunite with my boricuan familia.

And now you know where I have been this past week.PicMonkey Collage

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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August 17, 2013 · 1:39 PM