This piece was written for my Non-Fiction Workshop class. I don’t recall if it was or if it wasn’t workshopped, but I believe it was. I do know that since writing it I’ve looked back at it, and I’ve made some changes, but obviously sometimes things still need work. I think this was the most honest I’ve ever been with my writing concerning topics like my family and my legal status in this country, and of course what that means for someone who wants to do what I wanna do.
I hope you enjoy and get to know me a little more!
P.S I renamed this, the original title was “Me, Myself,… My Parents?”
The Thing Is…
My parents met in Puebla, Mexico. My mom was about 16, and by my calculation—my father being 8 years older than her—my father was about 24. They got married three years later, in 1992. There are pictures and videos of their bodorrio—their wedding—scattered around everyone’s houses. We’ve sort of put together an album with two hearts on the cover that sits in my parent’s room from some of these pictures. There’s also videos shot on those video cameras that used brick sized tapes from almost 20 years ago. My cousin shot one of the videos; it’s the easiest way I know to experience vertigo. He was about 15 at the time, and a teenage boy isn’t still for much of the time. I’m amazed he was able to record most of the exaggeratingly long mass. But I think I went ahead too far in the story… maybe.
Three years prior to this wedding, my parents met at a party. That’s all I know. My father is very shy about telling me stories about their relationship—“muy güey que es tu padre” says my mother, I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily that but he’s very reserved. My mother isn’t. She tells me that while they were dating my father was in school in the city, he would come to visit her from Thursday to Monday, and she laughs. Once my abuela was scolding her about how she washed the dishes…or maybe it was the clothes, but my abuela was on about how my mother had a novio and why did she want the noviesito if she couldn’t do anything. Well, my mother… having her quick to act temper grabbed the phone called my father and broke up with him. No more than three hours later my father was at her door pleading his case.
Sometimes, my father tries to tell me his side of the story, but he’s not quite well versed in the art of story telling and expects a sort of question and answer interaction between us. He gets caught up in what people may say if they heard these stories. My mother and I don’t necessarily care for these other people. And I think as a result he’s distant. He hasn’t always been a cold father, once I could climb on his shoulders and put butterfly hair clips in his hair. There’s a picture somewhere and we’re both smiling. Now we can’t say a sentence to each other because somewhere we offend one another. There are mannerisms and habits that I have that he doesn’t like, and vice versa. My mother says we do it on purpose; argue on purpose—les gusta alegar. I don’t like to argue with him.
Everyone in the pueblo attended their bodorrio—by tradition you don’t send invitations to people unless, they were my tias and tios who were all here in Nueva York and needed a phone call that “Migue y Raque se casan.” The day of a wedding church bells ring and everyone knows that somewhere there is a party, and where there is a party there is food. My parents celebrated their wedding amongst friends, family and neighbors. In pictures my mother points out who is family and who isn’t.
Months later I was born. Ta-da, my greatest act up to this day. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top it. I was a living, breathing fat baby. My mother caught such a fright because of me that my sister wouldn’t be born for another six years. I wasn’t an easy baby to bring into this world. For the first months of my life we lived in my father’s house with his mother. I don’t know what it’s like in that house; I didn’t actually get to experience it. After my first birthday my parents were faced with a harsh reality. Money wasn’t easy to come by. They had to leave me behind because my mother didn’t want to submit me to the perils of la frontera. My parents had never before attempted to cross the border, and they didn’t want to risk it. Only for a few years, we’ll make a little lana and come back was their thought process. Just a little bit of money, enough to pay some debts and be able to make a living in the pueblo.
I grew up in my mother’s parent’s house. Grew accustomed to life with my abuelo and abuela. I lived with my mother’s three youngest siblings—las cuatas and el guerro. My tias, Amada y Aurora, were about 16 when I was born and my tio, Juan, about 13. I grew to adore each. Up to this day, my tias are my favorite. Although they shared the same womb each is different, not just because they’re fraternal. Each has had many hardships in their lives. Hardships of various degrees of severity that I would rather not get into for fear of what I might say. There is a room in the house that my tio Lico named the hospital room, for it is long and has many beds. I ruled this room with my tias and tio.
Over the course of the two years, this room became occupied with toys my parents sent. I think they did it so I wouldn’t forget them. My mother says my fathered cried because they left me. She says that she held it against my father that they had to leave. It was a rough two years for my parents. But for me… I don’t think I can say much about abandonment even though I think about it now and cry or sometimes wish they’d left me with my abuelos. I think the stories of these two years have affected me more than the actual two years I experienced. I’m not sure; I know that I did at some point forget about my parents. People would ask me where my parents were or who they were and I’d say they were at home and that my parents were Papá Guille y Mamá Elodia. No! The cuatas would say and that would momentarily stun my two year old brain, and then I tried to remember that Oh yeah, it was Papá Migue y Mamá Raque and they were “a mueva jork.” I’d laugh then, pleased with my correction. I think it might have been hard for my parents because they heard these stories.
I don’t think they did it to hurt my parents, but my tias would record me singing Selena songs. At age two (a couple of months after her death), I claimed my name was Andrea Selena Simón. I know now that hearing my shrieking voice broke my parents hearts because they couldn’t see me. A year later my parents showed up at the doorstep, complete strangers to me.
At first I didn’t let them touch. I would wail, kick, and scream as if their very touched seared my skin. I don’t know why I did it, I think I knew they had left me and I couldn’t forgive them. Days past, and whenever someone hugged and if I was on the couch I would first look to see who it was. If it was the cuatas or my tio I’d be fine, completely okay, but if it turned out to be one of my parents, I’d scream. I finally came around, how long could a three year old hold a grudge really. There was still one thing however that I couldn’t let my mother take from me. I still drank from bottles. I was enjoying being the baby of the family, the apple of everyone’s eye. My mother was adamant that I would not longer have bottles, but I would sneak around and beg my tias for one. When my mother came around I’d throw the bottle under the couch. I lost about fives bottles under that couch.
With the money my parents had earned working here, they paid off some debts and set out to live in the city. I’d never left the pueblo before and this was unknown territory that I didn’t think I wanted to get to know. My father had recently gotten his new Volkswagen Golf—how he loves VW cars—and we all packed our chivas… well my things were packed for me and we headed to the city. I kicked, screamed, cried and clung to my abuela’s skirt. I had grown accustomed to these strangers but now they wanted to sequester me. To take me away to live in a place I didn’t know with another abuela who would never love me. There were many tears shed that day. Finally I was in the car clinging to my blanket. I still have my blanket, it’s pink and white, in the center a heart, and in the heart a kitty and puppy. I sobbed until we got to las curvas de matamorrs , the twists and turns made me dizzy. I was drunk with the asphalt and sadness and I fell asleep.
Half a year would go by. We lived in the city and went to visit my abuelos every weekend. Every visit the same—two days of cheer and one day of sadness. Every time I’d cling to my abuela and beg to stay. Every time I would fall asleep in my drunkenness holding on to my blanket and wake up in the city. I’d ask for tacos then. We always got back to the city Sunday night. At night is when the party starts in the city. When the taco stands, the street entertainers and the mariachis can be found. As soon as I opened my eyes and rubbed the sleep from them, I’d exclaim for tacos arabes from the back seat. My parents would laugh and as soon as we dropped everything off at home, we’d set off again looking for the nearest taco stand. I learned the chants of the streets. In the morning the ladies with their tamales, offering them to any one who could hear them “¡tamales jarochos!” I would imitate going around the house pulling a toy stroller full of junk and wail “¡tamales tarochos!” No one ever corrected my mispronunciation until years later when my mother told everyone the story did I realize I had never offered the right kind of tamales.
Our house, now that we’ve bought it from my aunt so many years later, was close to the fútbol stadium, El Estadio Cuauhtémoc. A walking distance away, and ever so often we’d go and watch our city’s team play. Today my father sighs and my mother exclaims “¡la casa!” The house that other people live in because we are here. It’s when I hear this that I once again think that maybe I should have been left there.
After six months my parents were once again faced with the need of money. They’d made and saved quite a bit in their two years, but it had been spent and spread thin now. They had to make a choice, and back then the choice was simple. We’d come here, pa’ Nueva York. This time there was no way I was staying behind, my parents had been planted the fear that if they left I wouldn’t belong to them anymore, I’d be my abuelitos’s daughter. So they filed for a visa. They claimed they wanted me to see the sights—I was supposed to see Disney and other fun things, but really my parents were just unwilling to expose me to the Frontera and unwilling to leave me behind. I wouldn’t get to see Disney until my fifteenth birthday.
It’s bitter sweet. Knowing and remembering a child hood in one place, and being brought to a place where everything is different. The first years we lived with my aunt in the Bronx, she had two kids. I tried to latch on, but as teenagers who had grown up here they were nothing like my mother’s siblings. They didn’t take care of me, but were annoyed with me and considered me a burden for their social lives. My cousin would threaten to throw me out the window, we lived on the fifth floor, I think he was joking for the most part. I was often the center of dispute between my father and his sister, I was almost four and as any child around that age I took things that weren’t mine. My mother was rarely home in order to avoid more disputes between my tia and father. I went to school in the Bronx for a little. And on my way to school I got to know the cold winters, which in Mexico had only been brisk.
We moved into our first apartment when I was almost five. We didn’t have much between my parents and me, just two laundry bags full of clothes and some of my toys. For a while we ate on the floor, como chinos we said. I was happy for a while. We could still travel for two more years; my sister wouldn’t be born until I was 6 and half.
For three years, we flew back and forth with the visa. Spending all the holidays with my abuelos. At Christmas we got to see all the posadas and take part in all the piñatas. I even learned how to properly dance the piñata, and demanded that if a piñata was to be broken it had to be done right. I was greedy, and one year my cousins and I had about five in the course of two days just because I wanted to dance around it.
I spoke very little English those very first years of flying back and forth. I knew the movies though, and everyone in my abuelitos’s house found great joy in my rendition of Hakuna Matata. I’d learn more English later on, but then that was my claim to the language.
I remember one day we just stopped going to Mexico. I think my dad had messed up, had made too many trips too close together and the migra caught on. We stopped flying. My abuelitos were on one side of the border and we were on the other. I cried, I cry to this day thinking I’ll never see them again. They’ll die and I’ll never get to kiss my abuelo’s hands again or hear my abuela sing. I use to film videos of myself talking to my abuelos, telling them that I was okay and that I loved them. I threw them all out. They never saw one; I could never bring myself to ask someone to take them.
Today, my mother will call my abuelos and talk to them on the phone for hours and I’m not ever able to say anything to them. There’s a lump in my throat that’s been building for fifteen years. A lump that holds every inch of sadness and regret that I ever let go of my abuela’s skirt, I should have held on tighter. My mother puts the phone on speaker and my abuela talks to me, telling me stories that I tell my mom to ask for. I can’t say anything because I don’t have a voice anymore. I know that when I see her I’m going to have to ask for her forgiveness that I ever let them take me from her, and say that I know they took because they are my parents and it was for the best, but I wish they hadn’t. Life would have been different had I stayed where I was born, I think.
It might be toxic to think like this sometimes—had I stayed scenarios. But I think it helps to get things in perspective. I need to understand why things happened the way they did, and I need to cling to everything. There’s nothing I can do now, except wait for the day I can hear my abuela’s trembling voice as she sings and my abuelo tell his jokes.