I Remember Your Laugh

Originally published  June 7,  2019, but I lost it and re-posted.

Mi Mama was a blend of Lola Beltrán, Lucille Ball and Paquita La del Barrio. Mi mama was a blend of Lola Beltran, classy dignified and strong. And had the perfect timing, humor abilities of Lucille Ball humorous and hilarious and the hypnotic storytelling charm of Walt Disney. it was through her storytelling that she helped and kept her children spellbound and opened our minds to all of the possibilities that life had to offer. I know all of my siblings are very verbal because of Mi Mama’s modeling her creative verbal abilities. With the heart of mother Theresa, Mi Mamá would love on you and feed you to death. And finally, kin to Paquita La del Barrio, (feisty don’t take no BS) Paquita sings of the large-scale indignities of being a woman in a macho society. Quite the blend. No, she was not a singer (although she had a beautiful voice) and always sang to us. She was not an actress, a famous figure. But a woman way ahead of her time and who’s passion was her children and she was famous to me. She had to drop out of school, in order to help her family financially. Her highest level of schooling was seventh grade. But, Mi Mama had more common sense abilities in her pinky than five people than 10 people! Since common sense is derived from life experiences rather than study. Later on in life this common sense transformed into wisdom and she was sought after for conversation and advice. She had a kind face and heart and was very approachable especially to women who identified with her about their similar life experiences. Although, at times she may have projected a hard exterior we knew she wasn’t. How do you become a mom at 16 years old and be expected to know what the heck you are doing and to boot my father was no support whatsoever. In fact he was abusive, mentally and physically. She endured much pain with him and other relationships until she saw the light in spite of this ugliness in her life she was genuinely a happy woman. I later learned she suffered from depression, but I wish to remember the good times of her life and not dwell on her illness, the negative or her passing. She was very good at math also in memorizing numbers. I think she had every telephone number in Huron (population 1200) memorized pre iPhone days. Even though she lived in a culture that had very defined expectations and rules for her and all women she wanted her daughters to flourish and not live under those restrictions and limitations imposed by the Mexican culture she wanted us to break out! It was of utmost importance, that we not repeat her life! She wanted us to have a voice to be equals in a relationship, to receive an education, to make our own money and not be dependent on a man. Because of Mi Mama I know I can fly. She was the first person I went to cry on and the first person I shared my good news. All mother daughter relationships are strained at times and we had a few of those conflicts, but more often than not our alone times were very pleasurable and filled with laughter, besides our shopping trips I would take her for rides in the country and alleys and buy her a soft serve at Dairy Queen. It was the simplest of memorable times with Mi Mama and I. As her first born I always felt like we grew up together I could talk to Mi Mama as if she was a girlfriend, but I always viewed and respected her as my Mama. We had a special relationship, as her first born. Her love, encouragement and strength have carried me through so much since the day I entered this world. She taught us to respect people and about our Lord. Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley (the fruit and vegetable basket) of the country I also learned to respect the land and it will always provide for you. I would hear if it’s worth doing, do it right, she told us if you fall to shake it off and get up and carry on! In retrospect you could say Mama was judgmental, but not to justify her actions, but perhaps it’s an issue of semantics and we need more parental guidelines and parameters in our families. And, not call it being judgemental. Perhaps and just maybe our society wouldn’t be in such a mess and upside down. I recently saw a very young girl in my extended family with a very grown-up dress that did not seem appropriate to me, you may ask why wasn’t it appropriate? It was inappropriate because it did not fit the occasion she should of wore a cheerful spring dress, of course I would not say anything since she’s not my child, but I do wonder about why her own mother allowed her to pick such a sexy dress for her age that did not seem appropriate for the event, obviously they felt it was. My mama always spoke and directed us in not wanting us to grow up too fast, Mi Mama never held back. If she saw something that she felt was inappropriate she would call us on it. For example, she always wanted us to dress age-appropriate and classy. She would not pick my clothes, but instead guided me in picking a dress for a specific event. she was also strict with us about use of make up and dating. She wanted us to be respectful young ladies. We were her life and she took so much pride in us. She never ceased to amaze me and all her children. I recall much later in her life she took early education classes. She would forget the plot to certain nursery rhymes, so she would combine three or four and make her own. As the children chuckled and said , “that’s not the way it goes!” She got a kick out of it! She also took cake decorating classes she made homemade cakes for all her grandchildren and great grandchildren that were decorated beautifully. I feel blessed to have the Lord guide my pencil and for giving me a mama like Helen. Mi mama is my favorite writing material and I will never stop honoring her. I also know I have tons of writing material. Yes, she made mistakes, but she did so much right, as a single mama and raising us. My sisters and I recognize many children raised in two parent families, who did not come out as together and hard-working as we did, but of course this is unmeasurable. But, it’s an observation we feel and agree in our hearts. I know we were saved by Our Lord’s Grace. Abrazos y Besos






Mi Papa, Falso Mexico y “El Norte.”

I recall as a child my family (maternal side) working so hard for/toward the “American Dream” and being so grateful for their better life.

Never demanding or feeling they were owed anything! I would always hear them discussing that the only path to improving our future; was through education, education, education. And that was drilled into all of us.

When my Abuelitos first arrived in Chicago in the early 1900’s they followed the crops and lived in boxcars with animals. My Abuelita Elena spoke about working in Indiana and Kansas. My Abuelito worked for awhile at Carnegie Steel. It was right after the Depression. They all suffered a lot in Chicago. Keep in mind, my Mama was born in Chicago in 1935.
They came to California in search of greener pastures, on Route 66.
Read, “The Grapes of Wrath Mexicano Style on a previous post to read my family’s history.
They arrived in California when my Mama was 13 years old. This was in the 40’s. I am second generation American.

My recent visit to Mexico has left me confused, bewildered and as if you had pulled my heart out and were chewing it slowly.

WHY? Because I have always adored Mexico. I was so proud of the rich Mexican history and culture.

I was so surprised to see how Mexico has changed and lost its identity.
I have never had a need to write about my Papa, but feel I must interweave him into this story.

The beautiful traditional regional dress is no more, and difficult to find.
The food is very Americanized.
English is prevalent everywhere.
The shocking contrast of a 17th century cathedral next to Dominos.
Music is in English.
Mass departure from the homeland has effectively created ghost towns.
The Wally-Worlds, Costco’s and K-Marts.
I’m sure the fact that we are neighbors has also had a huge impact.
Everyone seems to want to be American.
That’s fine if that’s what Mexico wants.
Most people who come to the United States are very content to be here and just happy to be working.
But, you always have those few rebels that have negative attitudes and resistance to America. And, those people who feel we should change to satisfy their needs. And, then others who feel they are owed by Americans and demand, as they reap all the benefits of living here.

But, forget the music, the food, the clothes the language. The most important part has been lost it’s Spirit, it’s Soul, it’s Corazon! I am disappointed to not be living the true Mexico. This is a “new” Mexico, un Mexico Falso!

And then I return home to Texas (El Norte) and hear more Spanish language and music than I did in Mexico!

I also understand the dilemma and plight of Mejicanos better than most.
My father crossed the border illegally, as his father had done.

About 1950, my Papa and Mama fell in love. My Mama “fixed my Papa’s papers.” We visited his homeland many times when I was a child. The woman who ironed our clothes in Guadalajara, later became his wife till his death.
My Abuelita, Pancha was not happy my Papa was here in the United States. She would tell him, “tu no tienes necesidad de estar allá.” “Regrésate y te ayudamos a poner tu panaderia.” “You don’t have a need to be in the United States.” “Return to Guadalajara, and we will help you set-up your bakery.”
My Abuelita did not think my Mama measured up since she was born here. Although, my Mama could match any native born Mexican woman’s cooking and house keeping abilities. If not better. She was a hard-working woman.

And then he would leave. He would return to Guadalajara.
And, then he would come back and work, and visit us, he would just stay enough time to impregnate my Mama.
Four children later, she had other pregnancies but miscarried. She finally got smart. Thank you Lord.

I was his first child born to first born father and first born mother. I knew I was always loved and “consentida.”

But, his irregular visits did not sustain us. I loved and adored him, at the age of 17, I left my Mama’s home and went away to college. I recognized his faults, weaknesses and understood the affects of his abandonment. I was angry! I felt he was selfish and I viewed him merely as a “sperm doner.”

In time………he never returned! In retrospect it was the best thing he could have done for us! We were able to start the healing process, it was very difficult for my Mama, but she persevered! She raised us all alone with her parent’s help. Unfortunately, we had no other way, but to be on government assistance for awhile. My Mama hated it and never wanted to depend on the government. I made a promise then, I would get an education and better my life so that I would never depend on a man or the government.

When I was 18 or 19, I went to visit him in Santa Barbara. He was living with a woman in Santa Barbara, her name was Gracie or Marcie, she also gave birth to his son. The little boy was about 3 or 4 at that time.

I have felt similar to a “war baby” at times. Although, my Papa was not in the military, and he never fought in any war! He came from another country and fought to get his “papers fixed,” mission accomplished!
Yo no fui huérfana de la guerra, pero de un padre que no mas no!

I confronted him as an adult woman; on why he had abandoned me/us when we most needed him? I made him aware of the problems I was experiencing because of his abandonment. I knew my father was an intelligent man. But, he was speechless. What could he say. A recognition and acknowledgement would have sufficed for me. But, he just couldn’t. You cannot play with human emotions (your children’s) that way and not be aware that there will be consequences and repercussions to all of your actions.

His only war was his internal war of his conscience. I found some consolation in making him aware of the pain he had caused. I needed to purge. He needed to own it, I was merely a pawn in his game of playing, scheming, conniving, and (possibly) had had ulterior motives from the beginning. I was a child. Heck! My Mama was a child, she was 15 years old when they met. She was 16 years old when she gave birth to me. And, my maternal grandparents were not as supportive and loving as parents I’ve seen nowadays. They basically felt my Mama had made her bed and she should lie on it! That’s just the way things were then.

I recall my last visit with him, over twenty years ago; when he boasted, “I have been a bad father and my hija y hijo [del otro lado] me vienen a visitar!” I would look at him and see through all that superficial pride. He knew I was very perceptive. I sensed he felt a tad sense of guilt, he just could never verbalize it, due to macho pride!

We also had different political views; when the subject of NAFTA came up. I have always felt we need less government interference. We need to empower people not enable them. As the Proverb says “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

My father was never able to conform, acculturate nor assimilate to the American ways. Because, he was from an “old family” in Guadalajara and they owned a business. He was accustomed to a certain degree of lifestyle in Guadalajara; where you pay off the police (mordidas) if for example, you run a red light.
Here he did not know the language and of course he had the lowest of jobs. He moved irrigation pipes (water lines) in the fields, very backbreaking work. And, other times he and my Mama worked the fields.
I recall as a child if he had a bad day at work he would come home yelling at my Mama for nothing whatsoever. Scaring us to death. Just because he was filled with rage.

Much later I somewhat understood his frustration and some of that rage it wasn’t merely that he could not function in “El Norte.” There was a lot of racism, he did not speak English, he was cussed at and there were derogatory comments made toward him. It was hard times.

The other thing Mr. Wonderful did was change my birthright given last name. When he crossed over. He just felt it would be best to change his last name from Castorena to Rodriguez. I’m sure it was for legal reasons. All legal documentation was under the name Rodriguez. So his children born here are all Rodriguez.

Although, my heart tells me I am his First born daughter also making me First born grand-daughter. I also think what is a name? A mere label. Most importantly to me, I am a child of God. I release you in love Papa que descanses en paz.
I also say Adios Mexico, you are no more!

It took me awhile to understand that although I had been abandoned by my biological father. I had the gift of my Heavenly Father, my King. Life became much easier once I understood this.
I was also blessed with a strong amazing Mama, she was not perfect, but no one is? She was our father, our rock. Thank you Mama.

In retrospect, I could have titled this “Falso Papa” also!

Abrazos y Besos

“The Good Vibe Tribe”

We’re exploring Texas, one excursion at a time. Any chance we have, we are visiting the four corners of Texas. I call it excursionating! I realize that is not a word, but what the heck………I’ve/ we’ve been known to invent our own words before. It’s fun, I invented the word Famigo, by joining family and amigo. Now I’ve learned there’s even a Famigo Festival held by Trino Castro of Atelier de Campagne LLC. How fun.

We started off on Tuesday July 5th. Our thinking was that holiday travelers would be heading home after the long weekend. We took a leisurely back road trip to Bastrop. Once we settled in at the campsite we headed into town. We call it, “to get the flavor of the town.” We stopped at an art shop that was filled with many eclectic and colorful things we liked.

Next stop, Neighbors, a local food and drink hangout, next door to the art gallery. They were experimenting with fruit infused spirits at this bar. This is intriguing to me since my Amiga, Bonnie Porthouse and I experimented with infusing spirits with herbs in the 90’s.

At Neighbor’s they blended vodka with watermelon, strawberries, tamarind, peaches. This so reminds me of the agua frescas I first saw in Mexico as a child. The Jambo Juice capitalized on the whole juice business, later on.

We went to Smithville the next day. Our first stop was at a quilt shop, named Making Memories, fun stop. No need to discuss our very sad lunch. Headed to Bone Spirits, very hip place. I like the owner’s philosophy of producing unadulterated spirits. We sampled and bought a few bottles of gin and vodka.

On Thursday we went to La Grange. En route we stopped at World Antiques, had an awesome lunch at a local bistro; fresh in season healthy food. This lunch definitely made up for the lunch in Smithville.

Today heading to Fredericksburg for a few days pulled into KOA and unhooked in five minutes and we drove into town to find a burger and cold beer, settled at Hondo’s. I like Hondo’s life and identify. He was a free-spirited writer and owner-self proclaimed mayor of Luckenback, Texas.

We headed to Becker Vineyards, to taste a little wine and buy lavender, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. We entered the tasting room, it was packed, we changed our mind on wine tasting, instead I purchased some lavender products.

All of the wineries here are packed. We drove on down the Wine Road 290 and stopped at a smaller winery named Hilmy. Some of their wines were fine, I did not like their Viognier, too sweet, too fruity and too floral for my liking, almost a medicinal taste. Mi Corazon and I tasted one wine named Politics and Religion (we both liked the name) we both enjoyed. This vintage offers a marriage of almost equal parts of Tempranillo and Carignan. Together, they combine for a medium-bodied red with soft tannins.

The weather has been 100, but feels like 110. The most comfortable place is inside truck or in our 5th wheeler. But tonight as we sit outside our rig we have some nice southwest trade winds listening to Lucinda Williams.

We are part of the nomadic tribe of RV’rs,
Yetis,  ice chest and cooking outdoors. We keep it simple. We call ourselves the “Good Vibe Tribe.” This lifestyle has always appealed to the both of us. But, as most of you know I have been an antique, junque, repurpose collector since I was about 19 years old.

For me it developed as a necessity. I was a struggling college student that did not have much of anything, except a few clothes. Call it what you will, if it had color and character I bought it. Old crockery, tapestries, serapes, old wool blankets, glass and dishes by Franciscan, Blue Willow, Mexican everything, costume jewelry, antique medicine and perfume bottles, enamel ware, garden stuff., art of all sorts, etc. etc. my point being that until you can part with all or the majority of these material things you cannot be free. I did and it was a freeing cathartic experience. It was time for someone else to enjoy and love them, like I had.

It’s kinda ironic to me that I am surrounded here in Hill Country by 100’s of antique/ junque stores filled with everything I just gave away.

Only now, we have more time to actually participate in this lifestyle. Part of the whole belief of downsizing as we get older also speaks to Mi Corazon and I. Needing less and enjoying more of the simpler things of life. I do not need six sets of eight setting dishes. I only need one.

Sunday after breakfast at our favorite German pancake house in Fredericksburg, we headed to church. Awesome service, awesome sermon at a Max Lucado’s Oak Hills, satellite church.

After service we traveled on Farm Road 965 through Enchanted Rock to Llano. The drive is absolutely breath-taking and we saw many mountain climbers/hikers. Near Enchanted Rock we encountered the most amazing sculpture (picture above). Llano was quiet and uneventful, just what we like. Mi Corazon and I enjoy country back roads. It’s not about arriving, but the ride, the people we meet along the way, the memories we make.
Where memories roll like the hills.
Enjoying plenty of countryside calm.
No rush; no stop lights or sirens
The beauty of dried out cacti, all of a sudden I’m craving something refreshing from Dairy Queen.
Views forever of contrast;
Dry and green
Humble small homes to gigantic spreads with beautiful homes.
Thank you Father.

Abrazos y Besos