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Mi Tia Peggy or Nicknames and the Mulberry Tree

I miss my cousin.

Echar de menos mí primo.

I miss my aunt who is his mother.

Echar de menos mí Tía Peggy la madre de mí primo.

A tattoo drawing is now ready to be inked into my skin. Yes, another, and the design links the two, my cousin and his mother, both lives embedded in mí alma (soul).

Mom, my mom’s family and their cultures, emotionally and physically have graced many entries to this blog. Truth be known, I know more of mom’s side than of Dad’s which may be a good thing. Mom’s family were in the states, easily accessible, familiar and close by, although not necessarily close (the warmy and feely kinda close) to each other.

My aunt Peggy, mí Tía Peggy was my second mother during my early years at Berkeley Place, Park Slope, Brooklyn, when it was known as ‘the hood’ and hipsters did not exist. She lived on the third floor with my cousins.

When I came into the world, I was named after mí Tía. Her husband, my uncle, mí Tío drove mom to the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital , because, well, Dad was at work. Childbirth back then had the Dads pacing in the maternity waiting room while their wives hemmed and hawed through childbirth in the delivery room.

That, was, the protocol-back to the naming or my aunt.

Mí Tía Peggy went by her nickname of Peggy. Her real name is/was Amada E***a. Since my Dad was not present at my birth, my uncle, mí Tío named me after his wife-the E***a part of the name and not the Amada.

Why no name for the incoming or rather outgoing baby?

Need to ask mom about that one.

But, a name was given and the name became my own.

Names are peculiar on mom’s side of the family for nicknames can take the place of real names and what once was thought of as a name, a real name, becomes the nickname.  At times, it’s hard to remember that the nicknames are not the real names.

Evie becomes Judy, Bernice becomes Nina, Amada becomes Peggy, Noel becomes Teddy…stop.

I’m confusing myself right now and going way off topic. And, not everyone had a nickname and that includes me.

Tracing family roots was once an obsession for me, most especially during my studies toward the BA. Through searching, listening and relying on family oral stories, I was able to get the real names behind the nicknames as well as the towns in Honduras where aunts and uncles were born.

As far as tracing people and connections, I realized mom’s family tree is a broken one. The roots of her tree exist but the branches, stretching long and thick in some areas and dangerously thin in others often led to dead end ends.

Now onto the tree-the Mulberry tree.

The Mulberry tree is a peculiarity in the ‘hood. Back in the day, neighbours often complained of these trees and hired tree cutters to remove them for their yards. Mulberry trees produce berries, lots of berries from dark purple to ruby red. These berries stain everything it comes into contact with. From white sneakers, to clothing to concrete sidewalks-if the berry touched, it left its impossible to remove stain behind.

This tree and the berries hold a special place in mi alma because it reminds me of mi tia and my cousins.

When we were young and cooped up indoors, on the third floor, due to rain or too hot to venture outdoors we made jam. Jam from the berries of the Mulberry tree, set on a stove, mixed in with Domino sugar and spread warm and soothing on Wonderbread-white bread before whole wheat, before gluten free, before…the inability to be a kid hanging with your cousins gave way to playing video games in front of a computer.

Mí primos and myself would gather on the third floor fire escape and grab at the branches of the tree from the neighbouring yard plucking the berries bare from the limbs. We even devised a system of wrangling branches out of reach with a rope.

My aunt was amazing with us in that she kept us active and intrigued. Bicycle riding in Ppark when it was Prospect Park, the park one did not venture in at night, visiting the Botanical Gardens before it became “the” Botanical Gardens with its fancy horticultural courses and fine dining.

Anyway, the bottom line is I miss my cousin and the memories I have of his mother, my aunt, most especially in the house we were raised in, the house I am in now, which will always remind me that I come from not a broken family but a family that is strong, creative and alive.

New tattoo of the Mulberry Tree with Berries

New tattoo of the Mulberry Tree with Berries

 

The drawing of the Mulberry Tree

The drawing of the Mulberry Tree

 

Mi Tia Peggy on the left

Mi Tia Peggy on the left

 

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