Friday, January 29, 2010

To my five followers on blogger...

I MOVED YO! Hope you can stop by -- the blog warming party is in full swing!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #4

Dear Luki,

There’s really no better way to put it other than to say: Death Sucks. A lot. And it’s not just because your grandpa isn’t here anymore, it’s that, in a way, bits and pieces of those who loved him died as well. And even though I know that we will rise to the occasion, that this tragedy will make us stronger, better people, I often wish you could’ve gotten to know us the way we used to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Your grandma’s birthday was a couple of days ago, and it was one of those days when we were all drenched in an overwhelming desire to have your grandpa here, with us. We missed him constantly, but none as much as his wife and partner of 33 years. Her life was so intertwined with his, they were such a tight unit, that she is perplexed about the fact that her birthdays continue to come without him.

I know your grandmother is going to be O.K., but I also know that she will never be the same. She is a different version of the person I grew up with. And, because I love the way she was, sometimes I feel sad that you won’t get to experience that.

But I also know that the years she lived by your grandpa’s side were amazing. I think that the best word to describe their marriage is: exemplary. Everyone wanted to be like them. Personally, I used your grandpa as the standard by which to measure my love interests. When your daddy met him, he was so impacted that he told me he wanted to be just like him when he grew up. Right then, I knew I’d found a keeper.

When I would tell my girlfriends the stories about how your grandma would call her husband in theatrical hysterics because her gas light turned on and he would drop what he was doing to meet her at the nearest petrol station so that she didn't have to pump her own gas, they would joke about hiring her to teach them the tricks to finding and keeping the perfect man.

But your grandma didn’t have to use any tricks. The things your grandpa did – dropping her off at the entrance of every store; getting out of bed to buy her ice cream at midnight; helping her make dinner and then washing the dishes each night – were always done willingly. He adored and admired her, and that was just his way of demonstrating it every day.

So, yes, your grandma will never be the same. But if she can find comfort in something, it’s that she has no regrets from her relationship with your grandpa. And, although she may feel sad, lost, and confused at times, after 33 years of being considered the most important person in his world, she will never feel worthless.

Cherish the person you end up spending your life with Luki. It's the greatest legacy you can leave your family.



Monday, January 25, 2010

On becoming domesticated

Last week was pretty busy. A couple of very talented people and I are working on redesigning this here blog and turning it into a proper website, so I've been spending a lot of time getting things ready at my new URL. You know, making hors d'oeuvres and finding throw pillows that complement the color scheme so that you all feel welcome when I invite you over. Because in my virtual life, I am a domestic goddess.

In my real life, however, things are drastically different. This week I started my new year's resolution to cook dinner every day, and I have to say that I feel exhausted and underwhelmed with the results of my culinary experiments. After spending four hundred years peeling and chopping one onion, splattering grease all over the kitchen walls, and using every single cooking utensil in the cabinets, I keep ending up with some version of dry meat which may or may not contain traces of Salmonella.

Being domesticated is hard!

So yea, there were a couple of days when I just wanted to order a pizza, buy a jar of Gerber for Luki, and call it a night. But I didn't do it because I genuinely want to figure out this cooking thing. And it's not just that homemade food is healthier and less expensive. It's because some of the greatest memories of my childhood involve food. Really, really good food prepared by my mother. And it is extraordinarily important to me that Luki have similar experiences.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: I want to become more like my mom.

My mom, who, coincidentally, is turning a year older today. And now she's probably really mad because she forbade everyone from even mentioning her birthday. Understandably, she is in no mood to commemorate the occasion without her husband, so I won't say anything else about it.

Instead, I'll talk about me, and the birthday I hope to have many years from now. If, when I turn 43 for the ninth time in a row, I have made enough of an impact on Luki that he wants to emulate me, even if it's in the tiniest thing, I'll have at least one reason to celebrate that day.

Madre, en tu día no dejamos de mandarte nuestro amor 
Madre, en tu día con las vidas construimos tu canción
-Silvio Rodriguez

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #3

Dear Luki,

Last week, when I told you about how your grandpa tackled the foreign streets of Miami decidedly and without missing a beat, I briefly mentioned that one of the first things he did was teach himself how to drive. Let me expound on that.

He was thirty five and had never sat behind a steering wheel. That may seem strange to you because you were lucky enough to have been born in a country where automobiles are the norm, but in Cuba, having a car was a luxury saved for a select few. And since your grandmother was constantly protesting and writing letters against the communist regime, we were not part of that small clique.

When your grandpa arrived in the United States and realized that his previous method of transportation, the bicycle, was not compatible with the South Florida expressways, he immediately went out and bought and old junker for $200. With no licence or any driving experience whatsoever, he managed to get the vehicle home and convinced us to hop in for a ride. I'm not sure if the car was actually brown or the color of paint that had completely chipped away; its sagging ceiling needed to be held up with staples; and we spent more time up on the sidewalk than the street during that first ride; but it got us places.

After that, your grandpa purchased other, slightly better versions of old, battered cars. We couldn't leave the house without a gallon of water to pour into the part of the motor (yes, that's as far as my technical knowledge of automobiles goes) that needs to be constantly hydrated, lest it get overheated.

When we moved to Charlotte, he was finally able to afford something brand new -- a Toyota Corolla for your grandmother. He still drove around in a little used Hyundai that kept stalling.

One day, your grandma, uncle and I were heading down one of Charlotte's biggest roads when we saw that traffic was backed up. As we got closer to the spot where the congestion started, we realized that it was your grandpa's car, stalled in the middle of the busy street. He kept trying different ways to get the car to move and somehow figured out that he could get it going by putting it in reverse. So, without dawdling, he got behind the wheel and drove the rest of the way home backwards, looking through the rear view mirror.

Your grandmother was horrified at the risk of such an outrageous maneuver and I, an insecure and foolish teenager, was like, totally embarrassed.

Today, I have a completely different perspective about that event.

Don't you ever get stuck Luki. Always find a way to keep moving, even if it's in reverse.



Monday, January 18, 2010

In search of balance

Confession. Last night, when I happened to find out the Golden Globes were on and realized I hadn't seen a single nominated film I felt...nostalgic? frustrated? uncultured? mommyfied? I don't know. I can't commit to a single adjective. But I definitely wasn't in a happy place.

Ton Ton and I just went to the movies for the first time in about seven months over the weekend (We saw Broken Embraces, the new Almodovar film. I thought it was O.K., but definitely not my favorite of the Spanish director's masterpieces. Ton Ton was too distracted by Penelope Cruz to opine).

In my previous life, we went to the cinema as often as twice a week.

When I was pregnant, Ton Ton and I would lie in bed together and fantasize about the baby in my tummy. He would say, "Can you imagine it? The baby, here, nestled between us?"

I thought I could.

Yesterday morning we brought Luki to our bed and, as we tried to get a few extra minutes of sleep, he hung out between us, sucking his feet and occasionally petting/scratching our faces.

Amid yawns, Ton Ton said, "Do you remember when we used to imagine him? When we talked about putting him in bed with us?"

I remembered.

The real deal is exceedingly better than anything my mind could have conjured.

And yet, sometimes I miss bits and pieces of my old life. The movies, the concerts, the cocktails with friends. I can rattle off the different sleep training techniques for babies, but have no idea what's going on with healthcare reform.

It takes the balance and coordination of a trapeze swinger to be a good mother AND an interesting person. I'm still working on both. I suspect things will get better with time, when Luki is weaned and I am no longer a mobile food unit.

For now, I'll just have to make do with this Oscar worthy performance:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Resolution #2

Well hello there! Fancy seeing you here! I am in such an inexplicably good mood! Can I get you a cocktail? A snack? Lovely day, isn't it? Ahhh...don't you just LOVE winter sometimes?


On a completely unrelated note, after a three month stay in the United States, Ton Ton's mom is heading back to Venezuela on Saturday. She and her empanadas will be missed.

With her departure, I will be launching another one of my new year's resolutions: I'm going to learn to cook!

Stop laughing. I'm serious.

Yes, I know I say this all the time, but this year it's different. My dad's not around to make tostones and congri anymore, and I can't let Luki grow up deprived of such basic necessities. So, now that Mamacita is leaving and won't be doing the cooking, and while Luki is still too young to eat table food and risk being poisoned, I am going to start experimenting in the kitchen.

I've written here before about how I yearn to be the kind of mother whose kids brag about her cooking. The mom whose kids go off to college and can't wait to come home and eat their momma's food. That's the kind of mom (and dad) I grew up with.

Unfortunately, right now I can barely boil water. That's not an exaggeration. Just the other day, I put the kettle on the stove to make my mom some tea and turned on the wrong burner. I was cooking plain air until my brother walked by, saw the bright red burner, and put the kettle in its proper place.

But that's all about to change. I've made a pact with Ton Ton to cook every day (well every weekday) if he handles the dishes. I've been looking up recipes, watching the Food Network, and even got some "hands-on" practice with my uncle who is a chef while in Miami. This weekend, I will take the final three steps to begin my endeavor:

1. Create the week's menu
2. Grocery shop
3. Develop and test-run an evacuation route in case of fire

Stay tuned! I'll be sure to blog about my culinary adventures.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #2

Dear Luki,

This past week, you rode on an airplane for the first time and we flew to Miami. You were great on the flight, and I made sure to breastfeed you during take-off and landing so that your ears wouldn't pop. The whole experience reminded me of a flight I took, also to Miami, over 17 years ago. We were leaving Cuba and moving to the United States, and when my ears popped in the plane your grandpa asked the flight attendant to bring me some water.

I don't remember too much about that day, but when your grandpa would talk about it later, he'd always mention how nervous he was. He didn't breathe easily until we were in the air, headed to the United States with no chance of being sent back. It was his lifelong dream to leave the oppressive regime in Cuba and offer your uncle Ani and I a better life.

And it was in Miami where he began to fulfill that dream.

I thought about him a lot as we drove around the familiar streets of Hialeah a few days ago. About how unfamiliar those streets must have seemed when he, at 35 years old, took on the challenges of starting it all from scratch.

But I want you to know that your grandpa didn't hesitate for a second. He exuded confidence and infected us with positivity.

Little by little, he began to build a new life for us. All on his own, he found a job, bought a car, taught himself how to drive, and moved us into our first apartment. I remember the day he came home with a T.V. We were all so excited that it was in color and had a remote control. I remember that he would drive me to school every morning and stop by the bakery to buy me two meat pastelitos for lunch. I remember that he'd come home from work and take your uncle and I to the park to play soccer or ride our bikes.

Eventually we left Miami and moved to a safer city with more opportunities.

But I will never forget how our new life in the United States began. How, when everything was new and different, your grandpa made it familiar.

Stand boldly before the unknown Luki, it's the only way to achieve your dreams.