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Sadness to Gladness to Gladness to Sadness or…Dear Lord please stop the madness!!!

Glad…

Cooking red kidney beans and coconut rice requested by your sister who is, inappetent and lies dying from breast cancer in a hospital bed.

Sad…

You deliver the goods on the 2nd day of her request and she dies on the third day without tasting a morsel.

SAD…

You do not cook red beans with coconut rice for a long time…

Glad…

…until you decide to make the coconut rice for yourself and buy the red beans subconsciously at Key Food.

Sad…

…when you realize the beans you bought are the red kidney beans you avoided for who knows how long because you have yet to recover from the red kidney beans and coconut rice incident from so long ago when your sister died from breast cancer.

GLAD…

…because your daughter who avoided red kidney beans like a deadly virus, accidently eats the red kidney beans mixed in with the coconut rice you made, because her mind was discombobulated in a strange way which is normal for her on any given day, but not on this day when her mind went far right instead of staying centered.

Glad but Sad…

My tía Nina (Bernice) died from breast cancer so long ago and mom, my mom did not take her passing lightly. I was by her side when the midnight call came letting us know Nina passed on. Mom cried, cried and cried, as I cried, cried and cried ions later when I lost Pi. I did not cry for my aunt at the time, as I was the crutch to hold my mom upright. I did not visit my aunt Nina (Bernice) during the hospital stay. My memories of her were meant to stay in the past, before the cancer: beautiful, dressed to the best, makeup and hair perfectly coiffed. At times, I say, bullshit to that excuse that acts as comfort when fear probably allowed that excuse of not visiting acceptable.

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Mom and Nina were not the best of friends when they reunited in America after going their separate ways in Honduras. Mom, was sent away with an aunt who lived in Jamaica to be raised in a culture that didn’t accept the ‘coolie shitting callaloo’ looking Indian girl,  while Nina stayed in Honduras, going to school and perfecting her spanish language skills. Once the sisters reunited, got over the female drama, they traveled all over the Caribbean and became quite close.

My tía Nina (Bernice) always paid attention to me while the others (the Honduran aunts and uncles) had no time for the Jamaican blood that ran through my veins and made me the ‘other’ in their eyes.

Ma and Tia Nina in Ja096

I was not aware of the red kidney beans and coconut rice that transpired between them. Actually, I found out today. Mom cried when she told me how upset she was about Nina not eating the comfort food she requested before passing. I reminded her, how happy I was to eat it yesterday. SIMG_1538he smiled…and made another pot of it for my weeks’ lunch…

 

Out of gladness comes sadness and out of sadness comes gladness…

Tia Nina018 (2)

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Muchness

More words…

Soon to come.

For a bit of a spell,

 I lost my muchness.

But… 

IT’S BACK!!!!

 

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

 

Como aqua para chocolate…mom, yes my mom, and her cooking

Como Aqua Para Chocolate was on cable recently and I watched the entire movie for like the 50th time.

This movie is rich with symbolisms that extend beyond Mexican history but its central focus lies with the preparation of food and most importantly how emotions can influence cooking. Mom, my mom’s, cooking is a testament to this influence and although I never had a dish that sent me into sexual arousal (see the movie to know what I referred to) of the most high kind, her food, yes her food, is the comfort of what comfort food is suppose to be about.

Margarita, who is my mom, does not use measuring cups or follows a rigid routine when it comes to preparing her foods. She does not possess the latest food processor or the expensive knives that fit neatly in a wooden block cured with olive oil. No bread maker or Keurig decorates her counter tops. Forget Starbuck’s, Bustelo with cinnamon brewed in a sack is her preferred method of brewing coffee which is done the old way, traced back to her homeland of Honduras where purchasing and brewing coffee in a sack is as common as ordering a Grande latte thingy ma Jing at Starbuck’s.

At times, the cooking is prepared while laughing on the phone in deep conversation or humming a favourite outdated tune from the 50’s.

In earlier years, she sang.

In earlier years, when she sang, her food would leave you speechless.

Nowadays, the food with the humming or the endless talking on the phone leaves you satisfied and questioning if what you ate wasn’t the best ever version of what you dreamt it to be, along with the angels whom blowed their trumpets to announce how good the food made you felt as it made its way to your stomach via tu Corazon.

I refuse to patronize Spanish and Jamaican restaurants.

No food prepared in these restaurants can compare to my mom’s arroz con pollo, cerviche fish, dumplings, coconut beans and rice, pigeon peas, tostones, oxtails…okay…I stop here.

Margarita is a cook from whose heart the cooking stems.

A five- star restaurant cannot compete with that kind of cooking, because home is where the heart is and when the heart involves itself with food the competition to satisfy the stomach is intense. In the home of Margarita, in the kitchen where the food is prepared, there are no underpaid cooks for hire, where the cheapness of the salary is transferred to the animosity felt when preparing the food for the public.

The heart rules and lavishes love freely.

So in honour of my mi madre, Margarita, whom I’ve often taken for granted, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being who you are and keeping your youngest well fed with food prepared that will forever linger en mi alma.

Margarita's pot rack

Margarita’s pot rack


Coffee

Coffee


Knives

Knives

My Cousin is hurting…

Sacramento-driving home to NYC

Sacramento-driving home to NYC

My cousin is hurting and I feel so helpless

He needs a kidney because the two he has are bad, bad and bad
There are no kidneys available for him
He is on dialysis 4-6 hours twice a week

My cousin is hurting and I feel so helpless

He flew to California to drive back to NYC with me, car and a rabbit in tow
He moved to California a few years later while I, still, am, here
He has six dogs and I have two

My cousin is hurting and I feel so helpless 

Mi primo aka GI Joe

Mi primo aka GI Joe

He inspired me to write “GI Joe and the Betty Crockers” (short story)
He is my childhood friend and former nemesis
He is mi primo, who brought home cabernet and chicken wings on Friday evenings after work
He is mi primo who’d go out to get a second bottle after we drank the first while reminiscing about the elders-the McCallas-who have a way of attracting so much trouble and producing so much emotional drama

My cousin is hurting and I feel so helpless

I am afraid of his illness, of confronting it, dealing with it, flying out there to take over, to take care of him-mama’s illness took a huge chunk of me out of me and the scar tissue that covers what was once the me is thick and crusty

 

Celebrating a b-day with mom, my mom and his Tia, his aunt

Celebrating a b-day with mom, my mom and his Tia, his aunt

Mi primo está sufriendo y yo estaré allí para él.

(My cousin is hurting and I will be there for him)

At this moment…

January 30, 2013

At this moment, I find myself in the midst of transitions of the most unexpected and most gentle kind.

At this moment, I overheard mom talking to her half-sister over the phone. Another McCalla, Victor McCalla, my mother’s brother died. Death is usually the only reason a McCalla would contact another McCalla. The drama of he said, she said and there will be no burial, cremation, and the ashes will sit on the living room shelf until someone goes to Honduras mantra starts after the death announcement.

If I remained a Walsh, my reaction to this news, the mantra not the death, would be comic relief but since I became a McCalla my reaction to the mantra remains, trying not to react. I always cry at the news of death.

Mom’s side of the family is dysfunctional and I believe Webster honoured them with the definition. Mom’s family is also large. Out of ten children, only four are presently alive and only two communicate maybe once a year. Two are on the east coast, two on the west and east does not speak to west.

All the McCalla’s (except me…sigh) were born in Honduras, when Belize was British Honduras. Some were born in Tela, others in Roatan while La Ceiba claimed another. Some were born with Indian hair soft as silk, while others had coarse wavy hair that refused taming with VO5, while yet others had the kinky cotton kind of hair which only  a lye relaxer could control. The relaxer ruined the hair passed down from their ancestors. The hair from Africa by way of Akan, Bantu, Igbo, Fon or possibly Yoruba, way before Scotland via Jamaica than onto Honduras and mixed with a bit of India saturated the blood.

Mi Tío could not stand his African hair. He could not stand his last name either and changed it to Mangroo. It sounded more Indian, which he longed to look like but did not. Mom's brother045

His kidneys could not stand his body for they failed. His weekly battle with the dialysis machine was just that, man against machine and of course, the machine was in control. As the machine cleansed his blood of waste, it also cleansed his alma (soul) leaving it bitter and in disarray.

Was I close to my uncle?

No.

I did not like him. He favoured my light-skinned sisters with Spanish lessons and his version of Indian history. He was mean to me and spoke harshly to me and about me. He once accused my mom of jealousy towards her sister’s kids, for they were born with the wavy hair that refused taming with VO5. I was born with the kinky cotton kind of hair which mom coated with lye relaxer to control.

I hope my uncle, mi tío, is in a better place now. A place where there are no dialysis machines, where he does not have to endure living in his house with an ex-wife and her boyfriend because he refuses to sell and pay off the ex, where skin colour has no meaning and speaking Spanish is irrelevant. I hope the angels are soothing his soul or that karma will take pity on him when he returns.

Once, I could not stand my African hair and yearned to look Indian like my mother with her Indian features and Indian hair, soft as silk. But, God gave me what I was born with for a reason and I am grateful for his gentle everyday reminder of who I am and where I come from.

“You talk too much…”

You talk too much, you worry me to death.
You talk too much, you even worry my pet.
You just talk, talk too much.
—Joe Jones

You know who they are and avoid them whenever possible but most times, AVOIDANCE IS FUTILE. Imagine having one as a colleague who must be worked with in order to close that lucrative deal. Or worse yet, you live with one and the connection cannot be easily severed and frankly, you can’t complain about this because you knew about the talking too much beforehand.

A person who talks too much is self-absorbed and fixated upon expressing thoughts and viewpoints, listening only to their voices. At times their words are harmless fluffs of letters and vowels. Other times, their words, especially the words which begin with capital letters are fueled by hate, feed off unhealthy gossip and revel in criticisms of the MOST NASTY KIND. Attempting to get a word or two in is impossible because a person who talks too much has an overwhelming amount of words to expel. Overdosing on one’s own words is possible although I have yet to witness it.

After a hardy session in the company of a person who talks too much, when my ears are finally free and able to breathe, compassion sets in. I realize loneliness instigates the need to be heard. To be lonely and not heard is emotional damage. I make a thought promise to give more of my listening ears next time, knowing in truth, I will avoid that person at all costs. And I should know better.

As a KID, I was a person who talked too much.

Refusing to subscribe to the ‘children should be seen not heard’ train of thought, my mouth rambled on producing coherent and incoherent words which flowed from morning to night. Only sleep afforded my mouth rest. My demand to be heard was carried out regardless of feedback or television volume turned high.

Granted, I was annoying but my motivation for talking too much was the result of abrupt life changes: parents’ separation, siblings marrying and/or moving out, and cousins moving to Jersey. These changes left empty slots on my social calendar. Social verbal exchange was greatly reduced-in other words, no one to hang around with or annoy. No one to spy on to later retell the events to another with acute attention to details while munching on a bag of Wise potato chips.

As an ADULT, I do not talk much (I don’t) and maybe that is the reason I attract persons who talk too much.

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