Did You Have A Childhood Pet?

Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

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Prompt #9: Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one? What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of.

Chan-chan. My first dog, black shaggy haired love bug. He was more my grandfather’s than mine but what was his was mine. Chan-chan spent his days at work with my abuelo who owned a jewelry store. His wet, black nose would always peek out from beneath the counters. I spent many an evening standing on a kitchen chair next to my abuelo opening a can of dog food, carefully mashing it up into his bowl. I love that smell. Not so much because I think it dog food smells tasty, not at all, but because the scent reminds me of working alongside my grandfather to care for Chan-chan.

Years after Chan-chan died and I had gone through many other pets, I was reminiscing with my godmother about my beloved Chan-chan. She was perplexed. I explained to her about my gentle four legged pup from my early childhood. She laughed. Apparently, my dog’s name was Sunshine but my parents, in their rich accents, pronounced it chan-chan and so I was fooled, for a good portion of my life, into believing I had a dog named Chan-chan.

One afternoon after Sunshine passed away, I walked in the door from school to find my grandfather holding the collar of a lively golden beauty. I’m not sure what her mix was but she was long and tall with a beautiful face and the creamest cream colored coat. And this one was mine. I remember the excitement of picking her name. Her given name was buttons which just wouldn’t do. I lied on my stomach on my bed and on the couch and on the floor day dreaming names for her. I remember calling my abuelo up on the phone to ask if Gem was a good name. It didn’t fly. Somehow she became Cindy and it fit her perfectly with all her bounce and pep.

She was my buddy and the closest I got to a sibling as a kid. I talked to her for hours and pet her to my heart’s content. She hated to be left alone and tore the house apart when we left her for long periods of time. She’d pee all over the floor with excitement once we got home. She was with us for a good handful of years, if not  more. I adored her. She really was my best friend for a long time. Before I discovered diaries, I had my Cindy. She kept all my secrets and dreams and wonder.

Cindy suffered from seizures. It confused me and hurt my heart every time she had one. Just before I got to high school, it came to the point where a decision had to be made about whether or not to put her down. I left for school one day and when I returned my parents told me they’d put her down. They never talked about it with me. They never asked me about it. They just wanted to protect me and went ahead and did it anyway. I was shattered. It was the first time they hurt me. I didn’t talk to them for days.

In the interim, there was Spike, my godmother’s bulldog who was a big ball of bubbly. The most chill dog I ever did meet. And such an appetite for my mother’s Cuban food, no wonder he was such a butterball.

I love animals. I was blessed to grow up not just with dogs but also with a godmother who lived on a farm. She raised sheep and her neighbors raised cows. I spent a lot of time feeding sheep and goats, cleaning up cows for the 4-H fair. It was simple and beautiful. I was a city kid and it was a gift to connect with nature on her farm.

I never wanted to be a vet like so many kids dream. I’ve always just been a fan of having an animal companion. As a kid I always wanted a few dogs to call my own. I’m hoping that dream comes true one day.

Next week’s prompt: 3/16 What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still harbor a desire to be that? When did you realize your dream was or wasn’t possible?


What Were Sick Days Like As A Kid?

Every Saturday Once a week in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

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Prompt #8: Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?

I didn’t get sick very often as a kid. I attribute it to two things. First, every morning my parents made me take vitamin C and cod liver oil pills. Every day I was expected to take them without question. When I wanted to understand why it was necessary to take something that made my burps taste like fish, I usually got one of two answers – because they’re good for you or because we said so. I wanted to not take them so badly but by nature I’m a people please-er so down the hatch they went. The other thing that kept me healthy most of the time is my parents ability to will away any sickness from getting near me. I’m not sure if this last bit is true or not but if you know my abuelo, then you know the man can move mountains just by thinking about it. So go with it.

For a healthy kid, though, I took lots of medicine. When I was really little, any cough or sneeze and my mother would rush off to fetch the children’s Tylenol tablets. She’d dissolve the dosage in a spoon with water. I liked the chalky sweet flavor and was a little heartbroken to outgrow the children’s Tylenol. As I got older, my mother fancied herself some kind of pharmacist. She always had the pharmacist give her an extract refill and our medicine cabinet was always full, particularly of the bright pink antibiotic. Cough, sneeze, fever, chills, over exhaustion, stomach bug, any ailment in my parent’s house could always be cured with something out of a medicine bottle.

On the rare occasion I did find myself under the weather and home from school, you’d find me in front of the television sprawled out on the couch. I was a glutton for daytime television.

The only ritual I hold dear is a prayer my mom would whisper over me at night. She’d come in if I wasn’t having an easy time sleeping, a fever usually, and she’d recite the prayer in a whisper and do the sign of the cross over me several times. I loved it. Her hushed voice, the grandeur of the sign of the cross, the darkness, not really knowing what she was saying. It seemed mystical and magical.  I have a copy of the poem tucked into our medicine cabinet for when my girls get sick.

That’s as romantic as my sick days get. My parents were all about take your medicine, quit your belly aching and get better. Tough love was their prescription to kick a cold to the curb. None of my wishy washy Whole Foods medicine cabinet healing crap-o-la. Either way, we alive and healthy so there’s something behind each of our kinds of wacky medicine.

Next week’s prompt: 3/9 Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one? What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of.


What Was Bedtime Like Growing Up?

Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

mother's journey as a womanOriginal image by aussiegal via Flikr.

Prompt #7: Walk us through your bedtime routine as a kid. As a teen. Anything you still do now?

I don’t recall a bedtime routine but I do have a string of memories…

-Every night I’d kiss everyone good night. After pecks on the cheek, I’d climb into bed and turn on the TV. I don’t remember anyone checking up on me to make sure I was asleep or to turn the TV off. None of the strict bedtime rules of my own house now. When I got older, I read books until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I remember being so enraptured by a book that I’d fight sleep. My eyelids too heavy but  the story in my hands too good to put down. Sleep always came easy.

-Aside from the TV when I was very young, I always slept in silence. Until college when I got in the habit of falling asleep with music playing softly to lull me to sleep. It started when I got my own dorm room as a resident assistant. I realize it was a way to comfort myself. I’d never lived truly alone before and in some way the music made it feel less so. I still like to sleep with some kind of sound. Having grown up in the city, the silence of the suburbs irks me.

When I was a little girl, I remember getting scared in my room for no good reason other than it was huge and I was tiny and it was full of toys. Not just any toys but dolls, a My Buddy Doll, stuffed animals – lots of little fakes eyes watching me. I remember thinking they all came to life when I slept. Some days that thought was exciting to me. Others, it terrified me. To get to sleep, I’d cover my head under the blankets. Now, I can’t stand to have my head covered!

-I was a pretty neurotic kid, now that I think about it. I remember lying on my right side and getting freaked out that something was going to get me from behind me. So I’d turn over onto my left side only to worry about the same thing. My solution? Sleeping on my stomach. Why I didn’t consider something coming up behind  me, I’m not sure.

I stopped sleeping with a pillow in high school. YM or Seventeen ran an article that mentioned how sleeping without one was good for your back. I’m not sure of the science behind it but I tried it and never looked back.

-I loved scary movies and my grandfather didn’t really get the movie rating system. This means I saw a lot of scary and inappropriate movies when I was really young. Freddy Kreuger, anyone? On nights when we’d go to the movies to catch something scary, without fail I’d get into my mom’s bed. My mom isn’t a particularly affectionate or warm person but she always ushered me under the covers without complaint.

-I kept dream journals on and off. I’ve read some since and wow were they completely random. Brad Pitt, anyone? I had one recurring one for years. I was walking down the street and suddenly a group of people start chasing me. I run, turn the corner and go towards a house. Next thing I know, I’m in a room in the house looking out onto the street. The window is one giant piece of glass. I turn around and someone who was running after me before is behind me. That’s it. For years I had this dream and then one day I realized I hadn’t had it in years. Crazy how I still remember it.

-I almost forgot. Every night when I went to bed I’d kiss my grandfather goodnight. He always wished me off to sleep by saying, “Que suenes con los angelitos.” A direct translation would be “May you dream with angels”. It’s the Latino version of sweet dreams but also a little more – a blessing, a wish. I say it to my girls every night.

I’m a night owl. I love staying up late and don’t require much sleep. I’ve always been like this. I go to sleep because my body needs but truly because I love mornings. I love the freshness of a new day.

Prompts for the month of March:
3/2
Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?
3/9
Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one?What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of. 
3/16
What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still harbor a desire to be that? When did you realize your dream was or wasn’t possible?
3/23
How did you choose what to do after high school? Did anyone provide valuable advice which influenced your decision?
3/30
What was the first piece of music you couldn’t stop listening to? What was the first piece of music you bought?



How Did You Create a Concept of Love?

Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

mother's journey as a womanOriginal image by aussiegal via Flikr.

Prompt #5: Do you remember your first romantic thoughts? How old were you? Who was your first crush? It’s the month of love so fill us in on how you created a concept, an idea of love and relationships.

1987. Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze. I was all of six. I saw Baby and saw my future self – spirited daddy’s little girl forbidden from dating the bad boy. Naive, eager to help people and a passion for the dance floor. The movie delineates the line between the time I had zero concept of romantic love and the rest of my life when I’ve been consumed by it. By the way, Dirty Dancing, although it was totally awesome, was also entirely misleading. It planted the notion in me that all men could dance like Johnny. I have since learned this is very much, veryveryvery much not the case. Moving on.

Something about growing up in that era really made a hopeless romantic out of me. Between John Hughes flicks and power ballads did I really stand a chance? Then again maybe every girl who loves love just sees everything through a fatally romantic lens.

My first crush, I’m not sure I knew it was a first crush. I was in kindergarten and he was a grade older. I can’t even remember his name. I just know I thought about him a lot. Such new feelings, I’d never thought about a boy so much before. If my life were a movie, you would have seen me gazing googly eyed out the classroom window with birds and hearts floating around my head.

Despite my boy crazy tendencies, when I got older I didn’t date much. I saw the madness that engulfed so many of my friends when they were in relationships. Breaking up, making up, breaking up. Distrust, insecurity, arguments, jealousy. My love for love did not outweigh my common sense. I knew true love, the through death do us part kind, did not, could not involve the irrational behavior of adolescent love. So I held back. I guarded my heart faithfully.

I had maybe 2 or 3 boyfriends before college, all rather short lived. I dated a lot, though. While most of my girlfriends settled down for years with one guy with visions of walking down the aisle, I was more than happy to date around. I remember watching my girlfriends’ long term relationships and wanting the same for myself. But every time I met a guy, I just couldn’t figure out how the heck I was supposed to spend forever, or at least the next year, with one person. I could never put my finger on it. In retrospect, I believe my instincts shouted to me, “This season is for you!”

Being raised by my mother and my grandfather also greatly contributed to my notion of love. I never got to witness daily acts of romantic love, even the not so romantic, mundane automatic pilot gestures. So I watched the love of others with fascination. I marveled at the ups and downs, at the nonsense. Couple my observations with my obsessive love of books and movies and I was equal parts a helpless and cynical romantic.

Then  in college I read Alain de Botton’s On Love which floored me. It’s a philosophical analysis of love tucked into a love story. It’s genius. It gave voice to and elevated my adolescent ruminations on love. Devour it. Your heart, soul and mind will thank you. Here a sampling of what rocked my world.

Alan de Botton On Love quote

Alan de Botton On Love quote

Alan de Botton On Love quote

There is so much to say about love and relationships, my journey in them and understanding them. I could tell stories for days of the people who shaped my heart. I will continue making stories for the rest of my life on love. The truest thing I can say about love up until this moment is what I wish for my daughters in love, that is most telling I believe. So, to my daughters:

Love yourself first, always.
Then, in whatever order you discover,
Love the journey.
Love your life’s work.
Love a person who makes you your best self, with whom you feel alive and on fire.
Love what you know, not what you wish you for. The person you see, the person you meet, the way they love you will not change.
Love a person who challenges you, who does not let you get comfortable.
Love a person who will love your children with every breath.
Love a person who roots you and gives you wings.

Update: After the link up went live, Chelley at A is for Adelaide shared her post & brought  me to tears. She wrote about her father and it hit  me hard how much my own father figure, my grandfather, shaped my standards for a significant other. He worked full time as a  jeweler. He provided for me and mother. He never complained. He took tremendous pride in supporting our little family. He loved me unconditionally. He was never too tired to play with me or take me where I wanted to go. He’d move heaven and earth for me. He was fiercely protective but joyful in witnessing me grow up. He bragged about me to his friends. He celebrated my triumphs and celebrated my efforts when there was no victory. He believed in everything I wanted to do and be. He defined for me what a man should be. He’s my home. And no story about my concept of love is complete without telling you about the person who makes me feel the most loved.

Next week’s prompt: 2/16 What kind of car did your family drive? What played on the radio? Where did you sit? Take us on a road trip.


How Did You Celebrate Your Birthday?

Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

mother's journey as a womanOriginal image by aussiegal via Flikr.

Prompt #4: How did you celebrate your birthday? Do you have a favorite celebration? Worst? From the cake to the presents to the guests, invite us in to the party.

I’m an only child. Raised by my grandfather. He had two sons of his own, no girls. Up until I had my own daughters, I was the center of his world. He spoiled me silly and birthdays were part of that package. Celebrating my birthday was his way of making me feel like the most important person in the whole universe. I don’t think he realized he made me feel that way every day. He worked full time and I think a part of him wanted to make sure I felt loved. He made me feel unconditionally loved with his tiny, everyday gestures and with his big operatic gestures. I’m grateful he cared (and still does care) enough to love me (and now my daughters) in both small and grand way. These are the birthdays , the grand ways that stand out the most; they blur time between the years.

The semi-memory, pieced together from photographs and the telling and retelling over the years. There’s me on a chair behind a table, cardboard cone shaped birthday hat on my ponytailed head. Half a dozen children crowding in our tiny kitchen. Balloons. Cake. Two little boys, more outspoken and bolder than I, open my presents for me. Tears. Laughter. Play.

The mother of all over the top kid parties. The restaurant on Bergenline Avenue with an entire wall of windows to taunt the passersby, “Look what you’re missing!” Winding stairs carry you up to the heart of the party, dim lights, loud noise, louder music. Me in a chair; it arches over my head, baby pink and lace. I hold the mic and stare out into the blinding lights, barely making out faces. The performances begin – the clown, Disney characters, the blue painted dog left on my lap, the belly dancer. The women in their big 80s hair, all red lips and pouf. My godmother in a just below the knee sweater dress, dolman sleeves, hair the epitome of fluffy. It’s night, late. I can’t remember how it began or how it ended. Just the magic during.

And suddenly I’m too old for parties. Eight, nine, ten? Who knows. Too cool for parties. Three friends, my godmother. We head to Medieval Times. We swoon over a knight. We eat with our hands. We laugh. My name, my birthday called out for all the arena to hear; I’m a little giddy. We catch the rose. We snap memories. Simple, sweet, fun.

And suddenly I’m not too old for a party. Car or quincenera? What I want vs honoring tradition. A temporary, material possession or a gift for the heart of the man who’s raised me, who’s dreamed of my big coming out party since I was an infant. Indecisive, I opt on the side of love. Late and as a result we modernize – sweet sixteen. A year of planning. Booking a hall, a photographer, a videographer. Choosing a cake, decor, a dress, a court, a partner. Choreographing. Rehearsal. Mini-wedding, people. Mini-wedding. A crown, a waltz, a handing over, a slow dance. We party into the night. Faces from the last sixteen years. Feeling incredibly cool. Don’t want the party to end. Hugs, kisses, laughter. A piece of my heart.

I’ve since celebrated plenty of birthdays in many wonderful ways but these are the ones which set the tone for my love of birthdays. No balloons in my doorway or a special cake plate or dance party, none of the seeminly simple yet elaborate traditions I see on Pinterest. One day. One party. Savor it. Gifts, though, are a different thing.

Tradition. My grandfather, a jeweler, an unintentional memory maker and keeper. Every birthday, every important moment marked by jewelry. The charm bracelet. A tiny circle pendant with a number on it, given each year for my birthday. From one to twenty two. Special tokens to mark milestones in between years. My most prized possession. Charms clapping against one another, the music of my life, the sound of every year I’ve been. My daughters carry on the tradition. My grandfather, consumed by these little girls and so crazy in love with them, orders their birthday charm weeks in advance. One, two, three. One, two, three, four, five. Four and six are surely already waiting tucked in his drawer.

Next week’s prompt: 2/9 Do you remember your first romantic thoughts? How old were you? Who was your first crush? It’s the month of love so fill us in on how you created a concept, an idea of love and relationships.