Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a good time. We dress up all nice and spend time with our loved ones and we shove our faces until we can’t breathe and promise to begin our diets tomorrow. It’s a chance to reflect on all the good things we have and how far we’ve come and we begin to prepare for the end-of-year festivities. For an evening, we do our best to tuck away the things that hurt and plague us for the sake of gratitude.

I miss the Thanksgivings during which 100 of us crammed into my grandmother’s apartment on Fales Street and ate and danced and laughed and watched the football games on mute while salsa blared through the speakers. Our Thanksgiving dinner was never traditional: pernil burnt nearly to a crisp, arroz con coco, empanadas, buñuelos and natilla, lasagna (god bless my aunt Olga), you name it. My mother always brought a salad or chips ‘cause she wasn’t trying to cook. There were older cousins, the teenaged cousins, and the punky brewster little cousins. Us little cousins would sneak alcohol and we would…I actually can’t remember anything else we did, we just loved our grandfather’s Carlo Rossi wine and uncle’s Budweiser. Our aunts and uncles wore their finest clothes, but there wasn’t a single soul better dressed than our grandfather. I swear I remember people hanging out the windows like in the movies, but I definitely made that up. In my mind, those days were larger-than-life. Christmas was even better.

I miss my grandmother the most. Anyone who didn’t have a place to spend their Thanksgiving could spend it there (Don Ramon comes to mind, may he rest in peace). She’d sit in her favorite seat and laugh or eat, rose-colored cheeks, taking total control of the remote when she wanted. Or sometimes she’d just sit and watch, silent in her understated elegance. She’d quietly cry when certain songs came on (“Nadie Es Eterno” comes to mind). Her bedroom was sacred and only meant to store the coats. If we were in there, we had to be on our best behavior. I loved sneaking my nose into her powder and inhaling deep. So deeply, in fact, I can still smell it. No matter who brought what, the best dish was always the Kit-Kat/Kool-Aid combo.

While I am melancholy, not all is lost. I’ll certainly enjoy tomorrow with my cousins, believe me. It’ll just be three cousins instead of fifty. We grow and people pass on and times change and holidays are celebrated differently, and I have to accept that. It’s not a void in my heart; it’s love for the things that were.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, reader. Eat and be merry. Pick up a bottle of Carlo Rossi. Don’t be too shy to hug and love those around you. Truly give thanks for all you have and all you’ve accomplished. And I hope the memories you make are just as brilliant and unforgettable as mine.

Thankful.

In my selfishness, I have never thought to ask: Ma, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My mother was pulled out of elementary school early, and she remembers sighing in lamentation as girls walked by her house in their school uniforms, notebooks tucked neatly under their arms. She devoted herself to los quehaceres at the age of eight and hasn’t quit since.

But did she want to be a doctor? An actress? An engineer? A baker? A schoolteacher? Did she actually want to be a mother? Is she proud of her daughters and did they turn out the way she expected? Does she have any regrets? If she could start anew, what would she do differently? Or would she do everything the same? I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the answers to these questions. It’s probably time I ask.

What I do know? I know her first love broke her heart – almost beyond repair – but that her pride is unmatchable so she never looked back. Being proud doesn’t mean we don’t hurt inside, however, and I can sense it at times, when we talk about love, a certain tango comes on, or the protagonist in a novela locks eyes for the first time with who will prove to be the love of her life. My mother’s shrine of pictures and her quiet, melancholy demeanor on anniversaries tells me she dearly misses her parents and siblings that have passed. I know that she is proud of her lineage, by the way she says MARGARITA CANO when they ask for her name at the voting polls. I know that her devilishly handsome grandsons take up 95% of her heart, and that they come close to fulfilling the desire she always had for a son of her own. I know that she is incredibly bright. Her vocabulary is so extensive she uses a new word just about every day. She taught herself to read and understand English and one of my favorite images is her sitting at the kitchen table, glasses on, reading the Pawtucket Times. She is super quick with the arithmetic and could easily swindle me out of $100, leaving me with my head spinning. My mother is a great mother and an even greater person. Everyone that walks into our home doesn’t just feel welcome, they are welcome. My friends love my mother, and I am convinced they’d rather hang out with her than me.

We are so used to having our parents to ourselves that we cannot imagine their lives being their own.  It’s all about our goals and our problems and our trajectories in life and rarely do we stop to think: are they happy? Did they reach their full potential? Is there more they’d like to accomplish? It’s easy to forget that they, too, are human, minds whirling with thoughts and ideas and hearts buzzing with decades of sentimiento. Mischief, laughter, sex, music & dance, bad decisions, heartbreak, debauchery, molecules. All of those things are part of them, just like they are part of us.

I am a lot to deal with, I know this. My mother literally picked me up at I time when I was so down it would have been impossible to be more down. She has taught me goodness, generosity, and selfless love. She has held our home together during times that it should have imploded at the seams. Her being her created me, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Luna.

Of all the things there are to be

You chose to be a face

Serious and deep in thought

Watching me in my sleep

You come and go, ebb and flow

But during the worst of times

I am rendered to a moonless sky

Rey.

I hate Lana del Rey.

Not because she exudes mystery or because her nose is strange-looking, but because you said she was your favorite, perfect, and beautiful.

I remember the precise moment. You were making a right onto Newport Avenue and she came on the radio and you came out with that shit. I said that was strange because she wasn’t all that interesting. What I was really thinking is I look nothing like her. I am nothing like her. Since then, I have been jealous.

I used to like a few of her songs. So usually when I hear her voice your name pops into my head and I change the song real quick. Ever since then I blame her for our gradual realization that your idea of love and my idea of love are vastly different. I blame her for your terror of commitment and for my relentless insecurity. I blame her for past ghosts which we both pretend aren’t there but cannot outrun. I blame her for the time I cried lying beside you.

I also blame her for the times you made me shriek with laughter and when you played with my hair. I blame her ass for making me feel comfortable and open and vulnerable once again with someone. I blame her for showing me that liking someone doesn’t have to hurt. I blame her for not hating or regretting you, because you took my weak heart and gave it life when I needed it the most. You showed me that I can, and will, move on from the deepest of pains. Despite your faults and despite the outcome, you are a king amongst men, and few that I know compare.

So sometimes, when a Lana song starts, I turn it up and let it play.

That Girl.

Another dose of poetry, ya’ll! This was sent to me last night by my babybun Cindy. I’ve watched it about ten times and it gets better per viewing.

I love this because it is what I have been trying to explain to him for years. Is she me? Am I her? Sadly, this is a poem many women can recite. We are all her at one point in our lives. Sometimes that girl, sometimes refusing to be that girl any longer. Fitting, for today.

“…and though I love you / I’d rather spend every night crying alone on my bedroom floor than to ever be / that girl.”

Again: Strong language.

Faith.

Faith…you give it to the people you love, but the people who really deserve it are the ones who come through even when you don’t love them enough.

It’s a quote from one of my favorite shows ever, Veronica Mars, which I felt compelled to scribble in the back of an old notebook. I read it over and over, because although I must have written this several years ago, it still rings true today.

Love – we use it nonchalantly and generously and carelessly so we instill all of our faith in people we think we love. We do it so that they’ll love us back, don’t we? We use any excuse to give away our love. We give them our all. Blindly, we trust that they will take care of us and our ceaseless needs. We assure ourselves that they will never hurt us. We enshrine them. Everything they do is singular, peerless. We bow down before them, we submit. All on the wish, the simple hope that they will do the same for us.

And most of the time, what happens? Turns out the ones we try to impress are always the ones who fail us the most. They ruthlessly take all it is we give – and sometimes more – while expending not an ounce of themselves.

What about those who truly love us, who would indeed walk to the ends of the world for us? Those who put all of their faith in us? How is it that we repay them? They’re burdensome to us. They aren’t in our prayers. When we go to La Salette, we don’t light a candle for them. We give them an empty kind of love, a love that’s transparent and meager, weak. We don’t care if they love us. Their love is dispensable. It’s not enough, ever. We make sure to let them know, with displays of ingratitude and indifference. They are to us what we are to those we worship.

And most of the time, what happens? Turns out, they are the ones that save us, pick us up and breathe life back into us when our fake gods fail to hear our prayers and leave us to die, rendered faithless.

12.03

I was a really dumb kid so when my cousins Nanchi (that’s Colombian for Nancy) and Tito (that’s Colombian and Puerto Rican and Dominican and probably French for many names) dared me to drink a concoction of Kool-Aid, salt, hot sauce, ketchup, sugar, and whatever garbage they could find, I did.  One time Nanchi painted my nails with black Sharpie and convinced me it was a good look.  Oh, and another time she super glued these horrendous plastic nails onto me and again convinced me it was the look.  During a game of freeze tag I was attacked by a pack of ants and she just stood there and laughed as I stood there, still frozen and crying.  But let’s cut the girl some slack, she hasn’t always been just a little devil.  She defended me from girls that were making fun of me, got the boy on the basketball team who I thought was cute to sign my yearbook, and would come early in the mornings in her click-clack high heels to do my hair (hair styling is like science – I just don’t get it!).  We would walk every day past the catcalls of old, perverted men to McDonald’s and buy the #2 with the money our Mamita gave us and feast it out like kings. 

I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing me talk about my childhood memories.  Please forgive me, but I live in the past.  The majority of my best memories are from twelve and younger, and for some reason I, more than many others, have had a very hard time moving past it all.  I miss the simplicity of those times.  I never thought that I would one day not have Thanksgiving dinner with my entire family (which I sweaaaar consists of about 200 people).  I never thought I wouldn’t ever again step into my Mamita’s home.  I miss the people of my past and memories and I especially miss my Nanchi!  She, more than anyone, knows how much I miss 75 Fales Street.  It was our second home, where we grew up together wearing our leopard jumpsuits and frilly dresses, along with our flat chests and puffy hair. 

Adulthood and marriage and geography (I hate you, New Jersey!) has separated us, but it isn’t a separation which has lessened our weirdo relationship.  We still call each other to gossip and talk shit.  I still haven’t been able to figure out if our conversations are a thing of brilliance or complete absurdity (most likely the latter).  No one gets my sense of humor quite as she does.  She makes fun of my non-existent nose and I make fun of her chickenpox scars.  She still laughs at the time when I tried to outsmart my dad with a lie and he yolked me up, and I still can’t get over the fact that she can’t say the word “bubonic” (ask her, she’ll get pissed).  We’ve almost died together a total of three times, and she even chose me (meeee!) to be her maid of honor.  When I was considering the Peace Corps, she was the first person I asked for advice.  She encourages me to write and for reasons which I still cannot comprehend, believes in me.  She has this thing where she refuses to charge that damn cell phone and sometimes she is such a smartass biotch that I wanna kick her, but I can’t because I love her with all of my grumpy heart.     

Happy Birthday to one of the most annoying and cheeky and absolutely brilliant loves of my life, Nancheexicle!  I swear, next year is the year I will surpass you in age.  I know it!

<3.
<3.