Category Archives: Grandma Antonia

Joy Cometh in the Writing

 

Notes On Wood 4  This is a long post. I hope you’ll stick with me, even if  my writing is kind of all over the place. It comes back full circle.

I struggle with finding Joy in my life. Lately, it has become an even bigger challenge. Ocassionally, I will encounter Joy in a fleeting moment, and then she’s gone, leaving me to feel like I will never find her again. 

Today I read one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Melton from Momastery.  Much of what she writes is positive, and uplifting, and difficult and challenging. It’s what she calls, Brutiful. (Brutal and beautiful.) Today she wrote how we often forget what brings us Joy.  She said that we need to be still to listen and remember what brings us Joy.  One way to do that is to think back to when we were 12 and remember what made us joyful. 

I totally get this idea. I  have been blogging consisitently for 22 days. I am remembering  what brings me Joy.  I keep forgetting.  Well, maybe I don’t forget, as much as I don’t make important the practice of encountering Joy.

What follows is a blog post I wrote over a year ago. At the time I wrote it Joy was not even a visitor to my life. I remember feeling so uplifted that day, after writing this post . Then, I got sidetracked with my life, and I didn’t finish writing it.  I forgot about the Joy I found.  Today, after reading Glennon’s post, it reminded me that I had the same thought a year ago.  I remembered what brought me Joy when I was 12. It still brings me Joy at 50. . . .

__________________________________

I started writing when I was just a girl. I used to write and (badly) illustrate children’s stories.  I won a poetry writing contest in 5th grade. I was inspired to write more, and throughout my grade school days I continued writing. I wrote poetry, short stories and essays, plays. I wrote whenever I felt inspired and I didn’t think too much about grammar, punctuation, syntax or even spelling. By the time I graduated 8th grade I established that I was a writer, and I won another writing award.  Then I entered high school—a bigger pond with a lot more fish.

There were a lot of kids who liked to write.  All of a sudden I realized there was a lot more to learn about the craft of writing and my confidence waned. Being the competitive self that I am I started to compare my writing to others’ around me. When my poetry didn’t make it into the high school’s poetry journal and I started getting B’s in English, I began to doubt myself.

Once, in a high school literature course, I wrote an inspired essay about Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. The words just flowed out of me. When I was done writing, I knew it was a well-written essay. I eagerly awaited the teacher’s comments.  The teacher agreed it was a  well-written essay.  In fact, it was so well-written that he questioned me about its authenticity. Did I even write it?  Perhaps I was “inspired” from another source?  Ouch.

 I put away my notebooks and decided to turn my attention to other interests.  No more writing for me, but then, it would call to me. During those moments in my life of sadness, confusion or Joy, I would be inspired to write it all down. In an assortment of notebooks I jotted poetry, prose, whatever came to me. One day, and I don’t know when or why, I stashed it all away so that I couldn’t even remember where to find it. 

 About three years ago, I became a blogger, and in that way I became a writer. I write. It’s not always good, it’s not always inspired, but I do it because I enJOY it.  Sometimes I remember the sting of my high school teacher’s comment. I wonder, is my writing any good? Is anyone out there reading?  I write mainly for myself, but it’s so affirming when I get a comment or a word of encouragement.  Recently, I received this comment from a reader named Jill.

“ Hi, I happened upon your page because i was google-ing for an image of things tapped to the inside of kitchen cabinets for my https://www.facebook.com/sTuCkInThEtees?ref=stream
facebook page (memories of the 70s 80s 90s)
As I was raised by my grandparents after both my parents passed away when i was 7 yrs old, and my grandmother had Dear Abby clippings, tv guide covers, recipes etc. tapped inside our cabinets…..
I could NOT leave your LWB page without saying that I was moved to tears! I don’t know you, your grandmother, your family or friends….However i feel blessed and honored that by this story! Your story and memories have given me some “healing” from my youth….”

I wrote the post she’s referring to in an inspired moment. I started writing it in the car, as we left my grandmother’s house.  Somehow, in the random world of  Google Searches this reader found me, and found my grandmother’s story.  Jill’s words let me know that, somehow, my words have given her some healing for her own loss.  Her comment comforted me and motivated me.

It’s comforting to know that my own Grandmother’s life is touching others even after her death, and its due in part to my writing about her.  So I will continue to blog. I will continue to write.

And with that, I will continue to find Joy.

What brings you Joy? What brought you Joy when you were 12?

Dancing with the Dead: My Own Día de los Muertos Celebration

Last week was Dia de las Muertos. This is centuries old holiday which originated in in Mexico and is currently enjoying a surge in popularity. The holiday honors loved ones who have died. Celebrants typically build a three-tiered altar called ofrendas and decorate with symbols as marigolds, papel picado and photographs and favorite foods of the deceased. On November 1 and 2 it’s thought that the veil which separates the living and the departed is thinner, allowing the living to experience the presence of the deceased. Even though it sounds eerie or maybe a bit morbid, I really like this holiday.

I love the decorations, the foods and the tradition. I don’t think of it as eerie but see the holiday as an opportunity to remember my grandparents, my cousin and others who are no longer here with me physically but remain a part of my life.  One year I put together an altar and another time I joined in a local Muertos celebration. This year I was so busy I didn’t build an altar or join one of the many events around Los Angeles.

This week I had to go to a meeting just down the street from the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. The meeting ended and I decided to stop by the cemetery and say hello to my grandparents.  The cemetery was filled with flowers, especially marigolds whose strong scent is believed to help guide the departed to earth.

A beautiful day for a visit to the cemetery.

A beautiful day for a visit to the cemetery.

I stopped at the flowershop and bought a bouquet to bring to my grandparents. I thought I knew where their graves were located but I couldn’t find them so I went to the office to get a map.  Since I am, as my husband likes to say, “directionally challenged,” I wandered around lost, even after I had the map.  There were so many graves and no landmarks. Frustrated, I paused under a pine tree. In my frustration I asked my grandmother to help me find her and set out again among the graves.  All of a sudden I felt something inside my pants pricking me.  I must have looked ridiculous as I squirmed around and hopped up and down until a pine needle fell out of my pant leg. My grandmother must have had a good laugh at my expense.  Then, a cemetery groundskeeper approached me and asked if I needed help. I don’t know if my grandmother heard my plea, or the groundskeeper was just drawn to me by the sight of my ridiculous gravesite dance! Whatever. I finally found my grandparents’ graves.  I put out the flowers, said hello and was reminded of all the good times I had with them.

Even though missed missed the actual date, I celebrated my own Dia de los Muertos, laughing and dancing with my grandparents.

Saying hello to the grandparents.

Saying hello to the grandparents.

How do you honor your ancestors?

Tres Generaciones

In memory of my grandmother and in honor of my mother on this Mothers’ Day, I am re-posting this. I miss my grandmother everyday, especially today. I am mindful everyday, especially today, of how thankful I am for my mother for all her love, guidance and support throughout my life. Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers and  to all who act in mothering, nurturing ways.

My mother, my grandmother and I.

My mother, my grandmother and I.

This is a picture of my grandmother, my mother and I. My grandmother is 97 years-old and as you can tell from the spark in her eye, she is a firecracker. Lately, she is causing us some worry because she insists on living on her own.  She is independent, stubborn, resourceful and very loving. She has created many happy memories for me and her other 9 grandchildren. I think a lot of what my mother learned about being a mother, she learned from my grandmother.

This is my mother before she married my dad. My mom is the one who looks like she is 12 years-old and too young to be in Vegas with her girlfriends. She has always looked younger than her years.  When I was growing up I don’t think my mom ever weighed more than 110 pounds soaking wet.

In her late 20′s my mom met and married my dad. They started their family right away, with 3 kids  born 17 months apart. I don’t know how she did it. She says there was a time when my older brother, my younger sister and I were in diapers at the same time!  Eight years after my sister was born my dad said he wanted another boy. My mother agreed and 9 months later my younger brother was born. I don’t know how she did that! (Well, I do know how they did that, I just don’t like to think about it.)

When I was growing up my mother was in constant motion. Like many women of her day, she was a stay-at-home mom.  She made it look effortless. On our birthdays she organized parties for us and would invite the entire neighborhood.

We didn’t have bounce houses, clowns or magicians. We had my mom who would organize the games.

She was a soccer mom before there were soccer moms.

My mother didn’t just support my brother’s in their sports, she also supported me and my acting ambitions.  Here she is at one of my play productions, standing by while I sign autographs.

My mom wore many hats, including a barber hat.

Here she is in her laundress hat.

She rarely complained about her many household tasks, except when it came to do laundry. I didn’t understand why she disliked doing laundry for a family of 6. Now that I have my own family and my own endless pile of laundry, I understand.  But, at least I have a clothes dryer. Our family didn’t buy a clothes dryer until I was almost 13 years-old!

Something else happened when I was around 13 years-old, I suddenly knew everything there was to know about life.  Even though I still didn’t know how to do my own laundry, cook my own meals, or even pack my own school lunch, I knew more than anyone in my family, including my mother. Especially my mother. I would never stay home and raise children. I would work in show business, I would become a writer, or maybe even a lawyer. Thanks in part to my mom’s love and support,  I have had a turn doing all those things.  But wouldn’t you know it? I have also become a mom. Like my mom, I have two boys and two girls. Life has played a joke on me.  But my mom isn’t laughing. She is still here, supporting me, loving me and taking care of our family.  It’s something she learned from my grandmother, and something I hope I have learned from both of them. So, to my grandmother, and my mother…thank you and Happy Mother’s Day!

In the House of an Angel

A few weeks ago I took another step towards saying good-bye to my grandmother. My grandmother died last June, at the wonderfully old age of 97. She died while living alone, in the house she had lived in for over 50 years. The only house I had ever known her to live in, and the place where , when I was a young girl, I would spend any weekend I could. Every Friday afternoon I’d call my cousin on the phone and ask her to meet my sister and I at Grandma’s. It was a ritual weekend for us. A weekend that began with packing our matching overnight suitcases that Grandma bought us, loading them with clothes and Barbies, and heading to Grandma’s. Saturdays we spent the day in a Barbie marathon, followed by lunch served outdoors in the patio, and maybe a trip to the grocery store, where Grandma could be easily persuaded to buying us something special. Saturday nights were spent staying up late, playing cards or Chinese checkers, watching The Carol Burnett Show”, and finally falling asleep in her spare bedroom. The house was small, but the heart of the house was huge.

Even into her last year of life, my grandmother enjoyed playing a game Chinese Checkers with her great-grandchildren.

This same house where my large extended family spent every holiday. Never mind that the tiny kitchen did not have a dishwasher, or that the dining room could only seat 8 comfortably, or even that there was just one bathroom, my grandmother’s house expanded to fit anyone who stopped by for a Christmas tamale, a bite of Easter ham, or her ambrosia salad at Thanksgiving. It was also the house with the bountiful apricot tree which shaded our small wooden playhouse with the dutch door, and the flower filled backyard which my grandmother cared for.

Helping my grandmother tend to her garden. Circa 1967.

Flowers from my grandmother's garden.

I have countless memories that were made in the house that was nearly unchanged throughout my life. Since she died, the house remained vacant, but my mother made weekly trips to begin thinning out my grandmother’s belongings. In January, we had a huge garage sale. I thought to myself, how my grandmother would have hated it. Little by little, the house emptied, until it was finally ready for the market. When it was listed by a family friend and realtor, the house sold in less than two weeks. It was a cash offer. As is. My mother, who had grown weary of the process of settling my grandmother’s estate, was relieved. And sad.

Escrow closed quickly. Suddenly, I had only one weekend to move out a couple of things that I wanted to keep. On a warm Saturday afternoon Juan and I took our van and drove to my grandmother’s house for the last time. I found the spare key in its usual hiding place. I walked inside and noticed the carpets had been cleaned, but the house emptied of furniture, and its walls stripped of photos and decor, showed years of wear. As I walked through the house looking around I felt sad yet strangely comforted. Even though the house held all sorts of memories for me, it was no longer the home I knew. With my grandmother’s passing, the heart of the house ceased to exist. Juan followed me around taking pictures of the rooms with his iPhone. I told him I didn’t need photos, but he insisted that I would want them later. He continued taking pictures, the music from Pandora radio on his phone playing. As we moved into the kitchen I began looking at it for the last time. So many meals prepared here, so many visits spent at the kitchen table, chatting and reminiscing. The last time I saw her alive, one week before she died, I said good-bye to her as she sat at her usual spot at the kitchen table, with the TV on and a stack of newspapers close by.

One last look around the kitchen that remained unchanged after all these years.

I opened the kitchen cabinets looking for anything left behind. Nothing. Not even any of her handwritten notes, or newpaper clippings she kept taped to the inside of the cabinet doors. As I looked inside the last cabinet I noticed a lone news clipping taped to the door. The words from a song by The Beatles, and on the last line, a reminder to me.

The only remaining newspaper clipping I found taped to a kitchen cabinet.

And then I became aware of the music that was playing from Juan’s iphone, “The Arms of an Angel\” by Sarah McLachlan.

It was as if she was there. It wasn’t scary, a little eerie maybe, but mostly it was, well, perfect. I had come to say good-bye to the house and walk through it one last time, but suddenly I knew that even though I would probably never return to the house that held so many memories, those memories, and my grandmother would never leave me. The memories of all that we shared would carry me through the moments I would miss her. I said good-bye to her house, but not to the memories and love that we shared in her home.

20120522-224305.jpg

Past and Present

Yeah! You found me. It wasn’t that hard. So, now that you are here, let me show you around. Above, is my new banner. One of my favorite things in life are old pictures. I especially love looking at old photos of people in my family. The photo on the far left  in my banner is of my grandmother and my grandfather on their honeymoon. It was taken in about 1930 when they travelled to Venice Beach, California from Airzona. My grandmother was just 16 years old and my grandfather was 21.  I love this photo because my grandparents look so young and are such a handsome couple. Even though my grandmother was 97 when she died last June, and had aged so much, I could still look at her and see glimpses of the girl in the photo. It’s hard to see, but my grandmother is wearing an interesting piece of costume jewlery, which she gave to me a few years ago. I still have it and I wear it now and then.

The middle photo is of my mother, taken when she was about 15 years-old. She is wearing a Mexican folkorico dance costume, which was made by my grandmother. My mother was, and is, a very good dancer. She especially loved to dance traditional Mexican folk dances, and she instilled the love of folkorico dance and music in me too. I grew up learning and performing some of  the dances she had performed.

The other black and white photo is of my father when he was about three or four years-old. I love this photo because it’s one of the few photos I have seen of my father when he was a boy.  In this photo I think he looks like a little prince. My father was raised by his adoptive mother and grandmother. They were two strong women who supported themselves and got by on very little income. He tells me that these women always took very good care of him and made sure he was well dressed. I think this photo shows all of that.

The last photo is one of my favorites too, although not because it’s old. It’s actually the first portrait that Juan and I took with the kids as a family. It was taken about 5 years ago so it’s a bit dated, but I still love it,  if not for the mere fact that we all are looking at the camera at the right time and smiling. Do you know how challenging that is? I love that this photo captures a moment in my family’s life. And I love that this banner, captures some of the bits and pieces of my family history, merging into my own family today.

So, now that I have shown you around, I hope you feel comfortable and would like to stay awhile. Leave me a comment. Subscribe to my blog. Follow me on Twitter. Like me on Facebook. Or just come by whenever you like. I will be here, blogging about my well blended life.

 

Social Buttons by Linksku