I love the Summer Rain

I’m late in posting for Father’s Day.   This is always one of my go-to happy memories.

feet rain wet puddle
Photo by Alicia Zinn on Pexels.com Jeans soaked, feet wet in a puddle of rain

This is the original essay which was my tribute for Father’s Day a few years ago.  I condensed it for an assignment last week.  Please enjoy this version too.

“I love the summer rain!” I shouted in my head because there was no one around to hear my declaration and ‘cause no one really cared.  “Why?” I asked myself; I knew the answer from the minute I felt the first heavy drops.  It was because of him.  And because of him, I stood there for a moment in the pouring rain.  Just a moment, long enough for my jeans to get soaked and my tee shirt drenched and long enough to conjure up the video I wanted to play in my mind. 

splash of water
Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com Fun in the rain

He must have been about the age I am now that day.  Mid-fifties, receding gray hair, twinkling eyes, round face with half a crooked smile and a round belly to match. He wore shorts, his thin shirt unbuttoned halfway, and he’d already lost his shoes on the porch as he ran out to catch the rain.   In all the excitement, he skipped and twirled tempting my girls to join him.  Lovey had already shed her sandals and was waiting for the “go ahead.”   I realized it was contagious as I liberated Annie from her orthopedics.  Soon they were all laughing and skipping and twirling, wet through and through in the tropical rain.  My mother and I just smiled from the sidelines, more concerned with what

the neighbors in the subdivision were thinking behind their blinds.

They called him “El Sapo” – “The Frog.”  They say as a kid he would love to cool down by laying on the floor, with his legs in a diamond shape like a frog.  He loved the water, he loved the rain, and he loved us.  In the good times and the bad, of that, we could be sure.

I wished him here today.  I wanted to be that little girl and dance in the rain and to have him hold me tight like he did the day Eddie died and he had no words to console me.  How does one console a daughter whose young husband just died in the recovery room?  We held each other the same way as we said our final good-byes to my mom on a warm summer morning.   I wanted to hold him for the night that he died that I didn’t, but rather blew him a kiss from the door because I had the flu and didn’t want to share it with him.  

As I think of him now, I know he wasn’t perfect, but I am grateful for all he was and all he left behind including that little bit of him in me. 

 

Sixty-Three

He would have 63 years old today; instead, he died at 23. It is ironic that a quiet, shy and gentle young man that did not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol would have his life end this way — an innocent victim of a senseless act of violence by an angry man with a gun, under the influence of street drugs and looking for revenge from the world.

He was the baby in his family, the youngest of four. The apple of his dad’s eyes, he had his mother’s kind and humble spirit. He was well loved and admired by family and friends. He planned to join the Navy when he finished his technical training.  He wanted to be an aviation technician on an aircraft carrier, but a minor medical issue, crushed that dream. He couldn’t get in and was very disappointed.

He was at his parent’s house before work that day. He heard his mother scream and went out to try to talk the intruder down. He was not afraid, he knew him from growing up in the neighborhood. He thought he could reason with him, but he was shot point blank at close range.

The doctors said that for a fraction of an inch, the bullet could have gone straight through to the other side of the body with minimal damage. Instead, it hit his belt buckle and fragmented in his abdomen.

When they heard the news, donors from all over the metropolitan area flooded the hospital’s blood bank. Many were turned away because there was no more room to store the donations, but doctors could not stop the internal hemorrhaging.

He left behind a young wife, a two-year-old daughter, and a baby on the way, another daughter, born five months later.

Just before this tragedy happened, life seemed to be going as expected for this young family. He finished trade school; and landed a great job with a major airline. She worked at a prestigious teaching hospital. They bought a house in a popular development away from the city and the old neighborhood but close enough to the family to help out as needed. From one day to the next everything changed.

Each day brings its own joy and surprises, but also toil, and troubles.  Treasure and make the most of each moment for we do not know what tomorrow brings.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

I sat here in front of a blank page for a while wanting to write something but couldn’t get started. The season brings many memories, most with warm and loving feelings.  From our earliest days in Brooklyn to most recent holidays in Florida so much has changed around us. The family has grown and spread out around the country.  Last year we spoke about having one big family holiday like the old days at some midpoint probably on the East Coast.  It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s still a work in progress. We gather in smaller groups, now. Some of us have become part of other families while others create new traditions with friends. 

As I reflect back through the years, I think of the faces at the table that have come and gone; friends who’ve moved away,  partners that didn’t work out, loved ones who have passed.   I am amused thinking how the contents of our table have changed through the years as well.  Often persons who join us being a part of their traditions.  Through the years we’ve added things like homemade stuffing, collard greens, sweet potato casserole with pecan toppings from the South; kremsnita, a phyllo cheese pie from Croatia, or yucca marinated with onions, olive oil, and vinegar, common in the Carribean.  

Thanksgiving was not a tradition in Puerto Rico for my parents growing up in the 1930s and 40s, but I remember in Brooklyn in the 1960s we celebrated it every year with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Our parents blended their traditional foods and flavors with what was usual holiday food in the NorthEast. Growing up we would have a roasted turkey prepared with a rub of garlic, salt, and oregano; it was the same type of seasoning Puerto Ricans traditionally used for roast pork during the holidays and special occasions.  We had baked sweet potatoes or yams and guineitos en escabeche; pickled green bananas that were marinated days before. These were served alongside a dish called arroz con gandules; it’s like a paella, prepared in one pot with pigeon peas, peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, and tomatoes or tomato sauce.   My mother loved to cook and often made pumpkin pie,  flan, and Pillsbury sugar cookies.  

All the years of memories tend to blend together, and in my recollection, I remember our faith practice of gratitude and singing; in old photographs, I see dancing. I distinctly remember lots of laughing and warm smiles.  My mother had started experiencing symptoms of her illness, and my dad took to drinking every day after work and yet,  I remember feeling safe and loved. With all their personal struggles, they made us, their children, a priority.  For that alone, I am eternally grateful.  I think that supportive foundation helped me tackle a lot of challenges throughout the years.

It was that feeling of love and security that I wanted to re-create for our kids.  My siblings and I did.  My daughters and their cousins remember the holidays with the same nostalgia.  They want to pass on the same love, laughter to their own children.  Thankfully, as the family grows, they have added new traditions along the way. 

Today as I contemplate the holiday season, I wonder why Thanksgiving is not a more important holiday in this country. Of all the holidays, I think Thanksgiving can serve to unite us as a nation.  Many cultures and religions practice gratitude. From earlier times people have celebrated a good harvest giving thanks to a higher power.  Even folks who are not “religious” recognize that living in gratitude and being appreciative is to be in a good state of mind. One would think that given the emphasis that our leaders place on God’slaws and God’s rules, that they could agree to celebrate gratitude with more enthusiasm.  Giving thanks seems to be a common denominator, even if you are a humanist you can be grateful for your particular abilities and achievements. 

Perhaps someone’s White House can one day hold a service and invite religious and secular leaders of diverse groups to a Thanksgiving dinner.  There is something about literally breaking bread together that unites people and overcomes barriers.  I know it’s not even remotely on the agenda for this administration but its something to consider for the future. I understand that similar activities have been attempted at different times without success, falling apart at party lines, but I am sitting here living in the moment during a season of hope and so I continue to believe in our democracy.

I am mindful that not everyone feels the same during this season, perhaps some can’t find anything to be grateful for, not past or present.  Itis actually very common to feel sad and alone especially during this holiday season.  I would encourage my readers to open your eyes, look around and reach out to a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker and perhaps invite someone to join you.  My family has never had excessive material wealth, but there has always been room at the table for one more.  To those who may get an invitation, don’t turn it down.  Its never too late to make a pleasant memory. 

I am thankful that you stopped by today.  Peace be with you. 

Left Behind after a Death

A social media post reminded me the other night that it was a year to the day since my cousin, Joe died.  I’m sad I didn’t remember, I spoke to his mom earlier that day. We talked for an hour about all sorts of trivial things, but she didn’t mention him till we were wrapping up.  Even then, she told me it was his wife that missed him.  She said: “Lizzy called this morning and told me she had been dreaming of Joe.”  I’m usually more on the ball and can pick up things with my “third ear.” She called because she was sad, but I missed it. 

I grew up close to my cousin and his sister.  Our families would get together every weekend when we were kids in Brooklyn.  He was the best man at my brother’s wedding.  He went to prep school in New England on a scholarship, and after that, as the years past, we saw each other very little.  I know he was a family man; crazy about his kids and a good husband.  His son posted a sweet memorial that day and wished his dad would have been around to meet his first granddaughter.

When hurricane Maria caused chaos in Puerto Rico, Joe went to get his recently widowed mom and brought her back to stay with his family until he was sure things were better in her town.   It was November when he dropped his mom off at the airport. That day, Joe told his mom that he wasn’t planning to retire anytime soon.  He liked his job and was in good health.  “I’m in it for the long haul,” he told her. They said goodbye, and he went to work.   A few hours later, a co-worker found him slumped over his desk. It was his heart. He was 60 years old.  My aunt didn’t go to the funeral; she didn’t want to see her little boy buried.

trees in park

This incident got me thinking about how after death, life goes on around us here on earth. I remember feeling disconnected from everything and everyone whenever I’ve lost someone very close to me.  I sat at my desk one day holding back tears because I was in pain and the world keep spinning on its tilted axis.  The sun and the moon each came up as scheduled, people worked, laughed and played all around me as they had the day before and the day before that. I wanted to scream “STOP!  It still hurts, Can’t you see?  I’ve lost a part of me.” Intellectually, I know we all take turns with grieving one thing or another; and we all grieve differently, but at that moment, it hit me how personal grieving really is, but as they say, “the beat goes on.” 

Growing up, as an Evangelical in Brooklyn, I knew nothing of the “Day of the Dead” traditions.  In that fundamentalist religious culture, anything otherworldly is anathema, considered evil and would lead straight to perdition.  It is that way for Halloween and the “pagan” Gaelic origins in Samhain.  I find it interesting that both the Aztecs and ancient people of Scottish-Irish islands had similar celebrations before Christianity got to there. I was curious and learned that other ancient cultures in addition to China and Japan also set aside one day to celebrate or honor the dead ancestors.

 I found out later in life that my grandparents traditionally celebrated the Day of the Dead, but with a somber tone.  Even though they were not Catholic, they liked to be respectful of the family members who passed on before them. It was a day of quiet reflection for them. When I converted to Catholicism several years ago, I found the celebrations of All Souls Day and All Saints very comforting.  I’m glad that the Church did not erase the sentiment behind these “pagan” traditions.

In my family, we have lost many loved ones prematurely by today’s standards, but really who is to say how many days are in the itinerary for this journey.   Because we don’t know, we are encouraged to live each day to the fullest, to take every opportunity or to “make it a great day.”  What happens when things don’t work out the way we plan? 

A long time ago, I decided to embrace the idea that life or success is not a straight shot.  At least it hasn’t worked that way for me or others I have met along the way.  As I mentioned to someone the other day, getting to our goal is perhaps more like using the subway system or public transit to get our errands done at the different stops along the way.  Let’s say we have a “to do” list, and sometimes we forget or miss an item and have to go back, or we find something interesting but unexpected, and we are detained for longer than we planned.

Of course, sometimes the train malfunctions and we need to rethink our strategy.  The problem is out of our control, but we need to get things done.  What do we do?  We get out and walk, take the next train, find other means of transportation or look at how we can rearrange priorities to maximize our time.  

I’ve been fortunate to have great role models.  Grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles who taught me that is possible to overcome obstacles.  I have heard stories of any one of them who was helpful to someone in need, even though they may have been confronting their own struggles.  People remember them with love and admiration. 

None of them were famous or of great wealth, but they left a mark that they were here.  During these days of celebrating life and death, I didn’t light candles or put out food for their visit, but I remember them and honor their lives every day.  And if there is a bridge or door or whatever for the spirits of our loved ones to visit, I hope they are pleased with how their seeds have grown and flourished. 

I loved the movie “Coco” #Disney magic.

 

Oh coffee, dear coffee

Friday RDP: Coffee

shallow focus photo of orange ceramic mug on white saucer

I like to say I’m a social drinker when it comes to coffee.  My favorite is espresso, and I have such weakness for its aroma. The taste must not be bitter or harsh as it goes down the throat and lands warm in one’s belly.  It’s not unlike a fine brandy that goes down smooth and velvety but then can burn a hole in your stomach when

 

it hits bottom. 

Lately, tea sits better in my stomach.  Black English tea with oatmeal cakes for breakfast is part of my morning ritual and green tea infused with fruits for during the day. Sometimes, an herbal tea gets me through the night.  When I’m visiting with a coffee drinker, however, I can’t resist the smell, the heavenly fragrance of a good cup of coffee; the intoxicating aroma of espresso does make me a bit tipsy, and I struggle with the temptation knowing I will regret it later. 

aroma beans blur breakfast

Although you can get a great coffee smell and of course good coffee from the single cup pods, I prefer an authentic espresso maker.  To be clear, I’m not talking about the big digitalized models that take up half one’s counter space; I’m speaking of a small pot on the stove top.  It brews coffee by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee.  I’ve concluded, that the secret to both good tea and coffee is in the boiling water – a hot running boil.  Sometimes if I’m feeling really daring, I will have my espresso with milk, steamed and made foamy with a handheld frother.   I know I’m going to lie awake thinking about it tonight, then I can say  “ I couldn’t sleep last night because of the coffee.”

 

Seriously though, besides the physical pleasure from the coffee, I also have an emotional attachment.  I don’t have to taste the coffee to feel I’m at my mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen table feeling safe and loved.  When we were young, we would have a cup of hot milk with a couple of drops of coffee.  We felt so grown up when we were able to participate in having a “café con leche” with the elders.  

Many years later when I lived alone in an apartment building in an old mill city in New England, there lived an older gentleman at the end of the hall near the exit door.  Every morning as I set out to go to work, I would be assaulted with the smell of freshly brewed espresso.  I knew he was making it like my grandmother and I was often tempted to knock on the door and invite myself in.  He didn’t seem like a friendly fellow; I wonder what would have happened if we were to share a cup of coffee and a piece of warm homemade bread with real butter.   What stories would he have to tell?  What stories would we have in common?

What’s your relationship with coffee?  Is it just a way to make it through the day?  Does the smell of coffee connect you with a memory of a loved one? An old friend perhaps?

My first week at #RagTag Daily Prompt.  #coffee  

This was fun!  Is the format OK?  Not sure about pingbacks. 

 

A PRECIOUS Tribute to Mom

This has been a week of anniversaries for me.  I’ve come to a place where I am at peace with each one.  I’ve reposted this in remembrance of my Mom.  I know she is free and sometimes I feel her so close to me.   I am forever grateful for her.  She wasn’t perfect and yet she was wonderful.  I hope you can enjoy

via AtoZ Challenge P is for PRECIOUS

Fireflies and Fantasy on the Fourth of July

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien from Goodreads

The sun had turned down the furnace and dusk approached with a hint of a breeze and clear skies.  The girls’ excitement mounted when darkness inched its way into the neighborhood. Daddy had bought poppers and fireworks at the supermarket in an attempt to recreate for them the memories of his childhood celebrations. It was the Fourth of July!

Fireworks2After the poppers, the girls reluctantly agreed to sit with Mommy in their camp chairs to watch Daddy from a safe distance. The fact that they weren’t hands on didn’t hamper the enthusiasm and the chatter. When Daddy wasn’t setting them off quickly enough like the ones at the park, they cried, “Don’t you have one more Daddy?” In the neighborhood, we could hear other families cracking and popping small arsenals. Not far away, small rockets exploded into the air showering the night sky with colorful stars high above the trees.  It all looked magical against the silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains.   

I was quickly caught up in the excitement of our mini celebration. When our fireworks display was over, we noticed fireflies or lightning bugs in the dark spaces between the houses.  As you may know, I was raised a city kid, and nature never ceases to amaze me.  We didn’t have fireflies in our asphalt jungles.  All of a sudden, I couldn’t help myself; I was in the moment and on the edge of reality again.  I said to my granddaughters, “Did you know that some people think that fireflies might be fairies in disguise?”  

The girls are at that age when a vivid imagination is easy to access. They teeter between knowing what is real and wanting to believe in impossible fantasies.  I thought we could have some fun picturing little fairies buzzing around while fireworks were still going off in the distance – sort of like Disney… maybe.  With all my enthusiasm, I forgot that one of my granddaughters, Catie Dee, wants nothing to do with bugs; while Anelie Rose, is a future crafty, horse-riding, flute playing art teacher and ninja scientist who is always trying to figure the why of things.   

Fireworks 3Instead of just marveling at the thought that there were fairies all around us, Anelie Rose wanted to catch one to see if it was true what people say.  She promptly went back into the garage to grab a net and with determination announced that she was ready to start the hunt. Catie Dee stood there with a frozen smile and fear in her moss green eyes, but she dutifully followed her big sister.  Anelie Rose didn’t have much luck with the net, but Mom almost caught one with her bare hands. Daddy remembered that when he was a kid, they caught lightning bugs in clear plastic cups to see them when they light up.  Unfortunately, there weren’t any around us now.  The fairies noticed that humans were trying to nab them.

We spotted what seemed to be a fairy picnic across the street. The fireflies lit up the trees as if it were Christmas; surely they could catch one there.  Off they went to the edge of the woods with the net and two clear plastic cups. Daddy did catch one but when the girls took a closer look, it was still just a bug, and it didn’t even look like it had a light.  We all decided it was best to let it go assuming it was probably too afraid to light up and much less to change into a fairy.  As it flew away, we saw its little light glowing in the dark.

We were heading into the house for the night, making comments that we were glad the lightning bug or fairy was OK. All of a sudden Anelie Rose announced: “I have an idea; we’ll set a trap!”  She was adamant about wanting to see for herself whether lightning bugs turn into lightning fairies. She had the idea to tie up one of the ornamental fairies from the flower garden, put it in the net and place it on the bushes.  She expected that the other fairies would try to rescue their friend and one was bound to get caught in the net. She and Daddy went back out to set the trap while little Catie Dee came in the house with us.  She had enough of chasing bugs to last her a lifetime.

The next morning while her dad was still asleep, Anelie Rose came into the guest room and asked me to go with her to check the trap.  At first, she was disappointed because she hadn’t caught anything, but as she started to take it down, she said: “Wait a minute, it looks like the yarn is loose.  They must have tried to untie her to set her free but couldn’t, and so they left. They will probably be back. I’ll try again tonight.” 

Fairy traps 2

She continued to set traps for three or four nights without catching anything.  She asked her dad to look online for more ideas. Each night she and her dad tried another plan without success.  Each morning she found another clue that made her think there had been another rescue attempt. She proceeded to explain the reason for her insistence. “If you catch a fairy; she will grant you a wish, and I know exactly what I’m going to wish for.”  Convinced that she was getting closer to catching a fairy, she persisted.   It was breaking my heart, and I was feeling guilty about mentioning the firefly fairies in the first place.    

I was feeling guiltier still when told me that her special wish was the driving force behind her patience and persistence.  She wanted to wish that I would come back again soon for a more extended visit – maybe a year or more.  Aww, my sweet and innocent precious little girl; I felt awful.  Later, her Mom and I reminisced about that Christmas Eve when she and her sister had spied on me and caught me bringing wrapped presents up from the basement with tags that read “Merry Christmas, Love Santa.”  They were both so angry that I had lied to them about Santa Claus.  Her sister told me she felt like a fool in school when at eight and a half years old, she still believed in Santa.  (My bad.) “What else have you lied to us about?”  They demanded.  They got bikes and more Barbies that year.  I think they are over it.  It was fun to remember, but Mom wanted no part of the scam on her daughter.

On our way to the airport, Anelie Rose jumped into the car with a pad and pencil. “On the drive over, maybe we can come up with a list of other things that might work for our trap,”  I suggested they get a play cookie or a cupcake and put it in the net. I’d heard fairies liked sweets and their play food looks almost real.  She looked at me incredulously; I had suggested that before but she didn’t think that would work.  She put her things down and said: “That’s okay; Daddy and I will come up with something else later.”  I could imagine Catie Dee rolling her eyes from the back seat.  She didn’t understand her sister’s mission.  All she could see were the bugs; she couldn’t imagine anything past that. I’ll bet she hoped her sister would forget about it once I was gone.

The next day, when I was home, I got a call from my daughter, “Anelie Rose wants toFairies in hands 2018 FaceTime; she has something to show you.”  After our usual greetings and I miss you more; and before her sister could get to the phone, she burst out: “Guess what?” She put two figures in front of the camera and in one breath said: “We caught two fairies! Daddy looked it up, and it said that fairies turn into statues when they get caught. Look, the wings are clear. And I already got a wish granted! I wished to be able to FaceTime with you, and we are doing it! We are going to let them go tonight, but I wanted to show you first.”  What could I say?  “Wow! That’s fantastic! They look beautiful.”

 

It appears that her dad was feeling bad for her too. He decided to get a fairy figurine from the fairy village collection at the local craft store.  She was so excited. Her idea was a success!  That evening even Catie Dee got involved in the fairy sendoff; after all, they were no longer bugs. 

Fairy in hand Ad 2018

What fun! I see a trip in my future. I guess maybe I should start packing my bags.  

Home to where I’d never been

I came across this quote from North 20°54, West 156°14, a personal essay by Maggie Messitt on Bending Genre. “Maps are about boundaries and perception. They are about recognizing and being recognized.”
It is a beautiful place
One summer as soon as school was out, our parents took us to their little island in the Caribbean. It was the late 1960’s; it was the year my paternal grandfather died. It was unexpected. I don’t remember him, and I don’t think he ever met the twins. That’s probably why they made an effort to get us over there to meet the family now. I was apprehensive at first. My Dad was staying home, but we were going for the whole summer! I was starting my teenage years, which is a big deal in itself but on top of that, all I knew about Puerto Rico were the stories my parents had told me. Whenever they got together with my aunts, uncles and older cousins, they would tell the stories of the “good old days.” According to my parents, “It is a beautiful place! Just wait and see.”
Who are we?
The teen years are confusing. It’s a time when we are trying to figure out who we are. We had moved to this neighborhood a couple of years ago. At first, we were told that we could not speak Spanish outside of our new apartment. Should I be ashamed to speak Spanish? Is there something wrong with speaking Spanish? In order to get this apartment in a “better neighborhood” (read white, blue-collar), my dad had lied and told the landlord that we were Italian. My parents were afraid if she found out we were Puerto Ricans, she could kick us out. Should I be ashamed to be Puerto Rican? We are a light-skinned bunch, and my mother had blue-green eyes. We were able to pull it off – we “passed.” The Fair Housing Act was signed in 1968. In Current Events class, we briefly touched upon the Civil Rights movement, but I didn’t make a connection to what was happening to us. When my parents thought it was safe to do so, they told her the truth. We lived there for many years after.
Puerto Rico had been a United States territory since 1898, and the people were granted United States citizenship one month before we entered World War I in 1917. Wilson signed the compulsory military service act two months later. Puerto Ricans have been serving in the military ever since. In school, we just briefly touched on its history. All I remembered from history class was that it was an island that Spain gave to the United States after they lost the Spanish-American war. Should I tell my friends I was going to Puerto Rico? I don’t know if they knew. I was born and raised in the North East. I looked and sounded just like them. How would they know?
What a beach!
As our plane approached the island, I began to feel excited. Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea after all. The colors were the first thing that amazed me. My siblings and I strained to catch a glimpse through the tiny windows. From the sky, we could see the crystal clear turquoise waters and sandy beaches like superfine white sugar. I remembered during my aunt’s visit, she was so disappointed to see the beaches in New York. “You call this a beach? You have to come and see what a real beach looks like.” She laughed. Now I understood what she was talking about. Compared to this, Manhattan Beach, Brighten Beach, Coney Island looked gray and dirty. There were no boardwalks and no amusement park rides, but it was breathtaking. Beyond the water, we could see the vibrant greens and browns of the mountains with ribbons of rivers running through them. I decided then; I was going to enjoy this adventure.
My mother’s youngest sister, “Asore” still lived at home with her parents. She had taken time off from work to show us around. Our first trip was to the beach of course. I couldn’t get over how clear and warm the water was. The waves didn’t crash on shore; they gently rolled in and quietly rolled out. We didn’t need a beach umbrella; we had put our things between two palm trees and hung a hammock. To this day that is my mental go-to place; effortlessly rocking in the hammock and listening to the sounds of that beach. Afterward, she took us to the thatch-covered eateries that lined the road by the beach as we headed home. We each tried something different rellenos-de-papas, (deep fried meat filled potato balls), alcapurias de jueyes (root vegetables filled with crab meat), and meat-filled turnovers, just to name a few. We were in heaven! Everything was delicious.
Spaceships in the mountains, crawlers in the water
The next stop was El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States. My aunt said that many believed spaceships regularly landed on very top of the mountain. We explored the mountain and the waterfalls. Before we left, we swam in one of the pools that form along the river. I had never been swimming in a river! The water was cold, and I was afraid of what else might be swimming there. On the way back we bought tropical fruit on the side of the road. During that summer we traveled with my aunt and crisscrossed the island at least a couple of times visiting many beautiful places. There are plenty of travel blogs and magazines that talk about the wonders of Puerto Rico. This blog is about perception, awareness, and self-discovery. It’s about a young girl recognizing that there are no boundaries.
Who are these people?
As we visited and got to know family and friends across the island, I began to see Puerto Rico different from what I had imagined. We spent time with cousins our age; boys and girls who laughed and played like our friends in New York City. They used dried palm tree shafts like sleds to go down the grassy hills in the countryside just outside of town. They confidently walked right by the cows and pigs as we stared and walked cautiously slow, afraid that any sound or fast movement might call attention to us. Our cousins fished in the creek and showed us how to collect tadpoles in a glass jar. I don’t usually like tadpoles, but at the time I thought it was all fun and so exciting.
In New York, I didn’t know any Puerto Ricans outside of my family. The ones I saw depicted in movies or on television did not reflect my reality. No one in my family had been to jail or belonged to gangs or sold drugs on the street corners. We went to school and church. My family in New York was tight-knit and made up of all hard working folks, trying to survive all the challenges that came their way. They were printers, handymen, electricians, seamstress, and clerks. I didn’t know of any Puerto Ricans who were doctors or lawyers. In school, we didn’t learn about the artists, poets, musicians, actors, comedians, songwriters and authors. Here we learned that my grandfather’s brother had been the Mayor of their hometown. Our great-grandfather had been a well-known troubadour. Other family members were respected members of the community. It was a life I had seen on TV, but here the characters were real, and they were Puerto Rican.
For the love of art, music, and literature
I was glad my aunts took the time to take us to museums and talk to us about our history. We got to listen to some of waltzes and ballads that were written by Spanish and Puerto Rican composers. There was a Symphonic Orchestra! We saw the folk dancers in streets of San Juan and heard traditional music, played on instruments that originated on the island.

Blog Kite flying at El Morro Esplanade -Pinterest
I fell in love with Old San Juan and the fort that protected it El Morro (Castillo San Felipe del Morro). It’s still picturesque and quaint, something that you would think of finding in Europe. It was old Spanish Colonial architecture painted in pastels and cobblestone streets where I imagined the Spanish senoritas walking with parasols. I was amazed at all the cultural richness that I found. Yes, I was already a nerd back then, and at the end of the trip, I wanted to twirl on the lawn of El Morro and down the streets of Old San Juan like one of the protagonists of a Roger’s and Hammerstein musical. Picture Julie Andrews as Maria VonTrapp singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music.”


A new me
When school started, I had been excited to share all this with my friends back home. My aunts had given me books and souvenirs that told our story, and I brought these things to school. My friends were not interested, not even the pictures of cute Puerto Rican pop stars made them look. They were still in seventh and eighth grade, and the world didn’t matter much beyond the cute boys in the next class.
I was hurt at first, but no one could take away what I had learned that summer. I wrote about it in my English class and had a piece published in the school yearbook. I argued with my history teacher and told him whatever he was teaching had nothing to do with me. (He was great though. He became one of my favorite teachers, and I Aced his class). In Orchestra class, I played my cello as if I was playing at the Pablo Casals Festival in San Juan.
I was glad we made that trip. I’m pleased with this assignment. Though not a typical road map, it took me on a fabulous journey. “Maps are about boundaries and perception. They are about recognizing and being recognized.” Maggie Messitt
How about you? Have you ever been “home” at a place you’ve never been before?
Day Seventeen: A Map as Your Muse #everydayinspiration

The Girls were home today

alarm alarm clock antique bell
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The alarm went off as usual at 6:30 AM even though it was the weekend.  She heard Cason go into the shower and wondered where he was going so early today.  She rolled over got comfortable again.  It was too early to the day to start.  She heard him getting dressed and in a short while he mumbled something about the Club on his way out the door.  Whatever the reason that got him up and out this morning, she was grateful.

Time to get moving

The sun peeked through the blinds, and Arielle Delsapo jumped out of bed with excitement.  It was already 7:30 in the morning!  The kids were home for the weekend, and she loved it!  She planned to cook their favorite meals and pour on the loving.  Arielle still liked to make everything special for them whenever she had a chance.  She believed that if they found love and tranquility in their home, the world would seem like a better place.   

Not ready to tell them

Arielle pulled the curtains and opened the windows.  It was important to let the bright morning sun and fresh spring air fill every corner of the house with the beginning of a brand new day.  She quickly stuffed the bed covers in the hall closet and arranged the cushions on the couch.   She wanted to enjoy the day and not waste time explaining why she was sleeping on the sofa bed.  Satisfied that everything looked, as usual, she went to the room to shower and change.

Time to Cook it up

She looked at the time. She was glad Cason has gone to the club early this morning; he would probably be gone all day. That worked out fine.  It was 8:30 AM, surely the girls were awake already.  Like her, they were early risers but were enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, reading in bed and cuddling with the cats.  She knew once she started cooking, the smell of all their favorites would make it impossible to stay in bed.  She lovingly prepared pancakes, scrambled eggs, crisp bacon.  Her Dad would be here soon with an Italian breadstick warm from the bakery, and they would have real butter. 

She knew the kids would want coffee.  She took out her mom’s stovetop espresso maker for some old fashion “café con leche.”  The coffee would go on last to make sure they had a freshly brewed pot. She knew they would be out in the kitchen as soon as the fusion of aromas reached the bedrooms and announced that breakfast was ready.  She put out food for the cats and sat to drink some by the window as she waited for them all to get up. She enjoyed the smells and the sounds of a peaceful house. The curtains waved gracefully in the morning breeze hypnotizing and transporting her to another place full of anticipation and hope. She sipped her tea and let it take her away…..

The Kitchen smells of love

Arielle was snapped back to her kitchen as quickly as she had slipped out.  Lovey came into the kitchen sniffing the air with her eyes closed. “The cat wanted to get out. Hmmmm, yum  – where’s the coffee? “ Annie followed shortly after, she put her head down on the kitchen table and grumbled, “coffee?” Relieved for the interruption of her thoughts, Arielle jumped up to get a couple of mugs. 

The Grandpa and the fresh bread

As expected, her Dad arrived on cue with the warm bread, at 9:30 am. The girls were always happy to see him.  “Abuelo!”  Hugs and kisses all around.  Lovey grabbed another mug and plate, and Annie got the milk. They all sat around the table. They ate, laughed, and put on another pot of coffee.  Before they knew it, it was almost noon, and the girls were still in their pajamas.  Her Dad said he had errands to run and managed his goodbyes, without shedding a tear but he marveled one more time at how grown-up they were. 

An eventful day

 The girls wanted to get some things before they got back to school.  All three headed to the Mall.  The warm Spring weather was encouraging as they searched for jeans, sandals and sleeveless shirts.  It was 1:30 PM.  They were just about done but decided to check out which movies were playing.  Surely they could get a matinee in before dinner.  The girls had planned to meet up with friends afterward, and they tried to negotiate a time.  Arielle called Cason to see if he had a preference for dinner, but he said he couldn’t make it and they should make plans without him.  

Matinee and dinner

They picked a “chick flick” a romantic comedy about mothers and daughters adapting to major life changes.   It was almost 7:00 pm when it was over. They chose a new restaurant nearby.   It was trendy with just the right lighting, music and the food was good.  While they were waiting for dessert, Ariel took a deep breath and said “I’m done. I’m getting a divorce.” The girls looked at each other and finally Annie said, “Well its about time!”.  “No kidding” echoed Lovey.   They hugged their mom. They were not children anymore.  They had seen the writing on the wall. 

They enjoyed their desert and headed home. Lovey and Annie crossed paths with their step-dad Cason, who was going out for the night.  The girls decided to stay home with their mom and played Forty-Fives for awhile before going to bed.  Arielle went to the hall closet and took out the bedding for the sofa-bed.   She was glad to have spent another great day with her girls.  She went to their rooms and kissed each one good night.  They were reading, and each one had a cat snuggling under the sheets. 

Day Fourteen: Recreate a Single Day   #everydayinspiration   

True story in One Hundred Words

black and white hand raining
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

 

“I love the summer rain!” I shouted in my head. It was because of him. I stood there for a moment in the pouring rain; long enough for the video to replay in my mind. 

He was fiftyish, receding gray hair, twinkling eyes, and crooked smile. He had lost his shoes on the porch. He skipped and twirled as his granddaughters joined him. 

I wished him here today to hold him tight like I couldn’t do on his last night. I am grateful for all he was and all he left behind including that little bit of him in me. 

Day Thirteen: Play with Word Count   #everydayinspiration