Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Random late night thoughts

Mood: worried, but trying not to be...

One of my first memories is in my Nana's kitchen. I remember being around 2 or 3, and having to climb up the chair to sit at the table, and asking her for chorizo con huevo and coffee.  Imagine, a toddler eating chorizo, and drinking coffee?  Ok, so mainly coffee with a lot of milk and sugar but to me, it was cafe. (My mother continues this tradition of un-cafe with my middle son, who loves it too and thinks its coffee.) I used to sit in her lap and she'd dip toast or tortilla into her coffee and let me have a bite. My memories of this time with her are in Spanish, and I still have her correcting me to this day when I mispronounce something. 

When I was about, oh 7 or 8, both my Nana and Tata moved in with us.  My brother, who's two years younger than me, gave up his room and moved in with me.  I wasn't pleased about it, but over time didn't care, because I liked having them live with us.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen.  I watched her make tortillas, working the dough into perfectly shaped balls before she rolled them out into perfect circles and cooked them up.  It's impossible to resist eating a warm tortilla from the griddle, and she always gave me one.  But just one, because it is a labor-intensive kind of thing to make, and you just can't eat all of them before dinner.  She used to try to teach me to make them, even when I was a teenager and refused to learn and they came out shaped like the African continent...she knew someday I'd want to know how to do it.  I could make some today if I had to, but they wouldn't be perfect, and I'd have to practice a lot to even approach hers.

Every holiday season, we would all get together and make tamales.  A huge, 20+dozen making of tamales to share with family and friends.  When we were kids, we couldn't wait to help out, but you had to be deemed worthy enough in her estimation to do so--it's serious business.  So even if all I was designated to do was wash the hojas and bring them to the ladies, I did it.  I listened to all my Tia's and her comadres' cuentos(stories) about wayward relatives and the local gossip.  I learned more at those gatherings about people in general than I've learned in my adulthood! Those lessons, about cheating husbands, surprise pregnancies, love, and laughter still carry on in my mind today.  I can still hear my Tia Elena's (Nana's sister) smoky, throaty voice warning me to choose the right man (I did) and not some vale nada who would certainly steal my heart and leave me stranded, alone.  She truly told the funniest, bawdiest stories I've ever heard. But I'll tell her story another time.

So now, it's the holiday season again.  And I grew used to seeing my Nana bent over the oven taking the turkey out for Thanksgiving.  She hasn't done it in many years, because she has passed on the torch to me in a way. Somehow, I always wind up cooking.  I complain about it, but I really don't mind.  I love seeing everyone's face and raking in the compliments when the food's good and I made it.  This year will be particularly bittersweet--

My Nana will be 90, God willing, this March. She still lives with my parents.  But she fell the other day, and broke her arm.  And I'm afraid this will be the beginning of the end, and I'm not ready. She was supposed to have surgery on the arm today, but it was canceled because the doctor thinks she may have had a heart attack and wants to clear her from a cardiac standpoint before they operate.  I'm so worried that she won't be able to be fixed, that Humpty Dumpty won't be put back together again.  And even if they fix it, that she'll have a rough recovery.  She's 89, for crying out loud, how can they torture her with physical therapy?  So many ifs, and questions, and I don't know the answers.  And in a couple of weeks, it will be time to make the tamales again for the holidays.  I've been calling around to all my Tias to see who wants to be included, who can come help and when.  I don't know if I will be strong enough to do it if she isn't well, or God forbid something were to happen to her.  Right now, I guess I should just concentrate on getting through these next couple of days for her.  That's all I can do, and pray.  Alot.

My kids call her "Two-nana" because they call my Mom Nana; when Nolan was a baby, he called her 'nana-two' and over the years it morphed to 'two-Nana'.  She loves them, and doesn't scold me when they don't speak Spanish to her (I'm working on that).  And she will only speak English to MrW.; because she really likes him, and reminds me I'd better feed him.  I swear, when he was first coming over to my house and we were dating, right after 'hello' and pleasantries to him in English, she'd say to me in Spanish "Tiene hambre?  Dale algo para comer.." ("is he hungry?  give him something to eat...") And she still does it!!  I can be in the door five minutes from work, and that is one of the first questions she asks me :) 

My kids call her Two-nana, but to me, she's my Nana Pancha.  And I hope that she can recover, because I don't think I will if she doesn't.


screaminremo303 said...

I remember dating a young Hispanic vixen in college. It was the best of all worlds. Her Dad was a football coach with life-long connections inside ASU, her Mom thought I was the best thing since sliced bread, and her Nana used to stuff me to the gills the minute I walked through the door. She turned out to be your garden-variety neurotic psychopath, but there was a time when I contemplated marrying her so my kids would always have a tan and my plate would always have fresh tortillas.

mombzbe said...

It is the best of all worlds for Mr. W.  I'm not a garden variety psychopath, my entire family thinks he's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and his kids are all bronzed Coppertone babies by the end of June.  And I supply the tortillas. ;)

annalisa135 said...

You are a very blessed woman.  The stories about your Nana are beautiful.  She sounds like a lovely lady.  I'll be keeping her in my prayers as she recovers from this broken arm.  Unfortunately since she is getting up in years, her bones have become more brittle, and unless she is very very careful, she'll continue to break them.  

I feel a bit sad for her, because she obviously was the center of your family for so long -- feeding and nurturing everyone, and now her independence is being taken away from her due to old age, and she can't do a thing about it.  Some things in life you can force yourself to overcome, but age is one that can't be.  

Please enjoy and cherish every moment you have together.  Keeping your family in my prayers.  Love, Anna

jburke62670 said...

I remember when I would  call my grandma Maria every year for the "receta" for the tamales, she would laugh and give me the list of ingredients and the directions on how make them.  Then she would ask what are you going to do when I am gone?  I just won't make them I would reply.  Several years later the " receta" would change, first the chiles would be different, then she would forget to add the ajo. You see I had the receta commited to memory from the first time she gave it to me.  She ended up comming to live with my mom and it was hard to see her memory leave her, and soon she was not my grandma Maria anymore.
She left this world in her sleep and true to my word I did not make tamales for several years after, even writing this it still gets me "verclempt"  I still use her directions and when I make my grandmas Tamales  I can almost hear her telling me I am doing a good job.