The New M.E. Generation











In spite of having attended a Catholic school my 12 years of school, I developed a spiritual side at an early age that I don’t know where it came from. Perhaps it was me trying to find some way to deal with everything.

I remember being put to bed, but having difficulty falling asleep. My parents would leave a night light on just in case I got scared. I never had that situation where I wondered if there was a creature under my bed or else.

What really scared me was thunder, which made me run to my parents’ bed to find comfort by squeezing and hiding between them.

Another detail was that my mom never gave me a pacifier. I guess my brother had difficulty letting go of it, but I had the habit of sucking my thumb, which you can’t take away. Once in my bed, she used to say to me ‘don’t do that’; I would move my hand to the side of the mattress, to quickly doing it again once she was gone.

On those nights that were calm, I would stand by the window in my room. The glare from the lamp would reflect on the glass, and I imagined it was an angel sitting there. I would talk to it like it was a friend. I would even say ‘good night’ to it. Don’t know what I spoke about, but whatever it was, it was the one thing that gave me the peace I needed to rest well.

When I became an older child, my mom told me the story that I was born on ‘el día de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre’, a very important day for Cubans. She would show me TV footage of processions made to honor her in that island, and encouraged me to always pray to her, as she believed I would always be protected by her.

All this was very amusing and made me feel special. My brother didn’t had a special birthday like mine, so at least that put me at another level. For once I was ‘better’ at him on something.

Still, understanding and blending religion and spirituality has not been easy. You see, in spite of being taught the first, I’m still struggling to grasp the whole essence of it.

On the other hand, my mom’s comment has had a lifetime effect on me. I have turned to ‘Cachita’ in the best and worst moments, and feel a special connection with her that has never gone away.

I don’t know how to explain it, other than when I think of this Lady, I feel a warm fuzzy feeling that calms, keeps me grounded, and reminds me that things will be fine.

Call it divine intervention, perhaps touched by an angel. Whatever it is, it’s a blessing that just keeps on giving.

 

 

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The next memories of my childhood are when I began school. My parents started coaching me early for the transition. I was fascinated by this new chapter, but my brother wasn’t that thrilled about school per se.

The most difficult part for me was actually waking up. I always wanted ‘5 more minutes’ of sleep, which I still long for in the present, even as my alarm clock is ringing. I admit it, being a morning person has never been my forte.

My mom used to walk my brother and I in the earlier years. But, surprisingly, around the third grade on, we walked to and from school with other kids from the neighborhood by ourselves.

Those were fun moments away from my parents. One time we were chatting so much, we lost track of time. Someone said, “what time is it?”. “It’s 8am”, another replied. “We have to hurry”, another said. “What for? We’re already late”, said another. We all looked at each other not knowing what to do, and then kept walking. (If my memory serves me well, I think we made it to school at a descent time.)

Getting to do my homework was a bigger challenge. My brother would get to it right away after lunch, and without needing help. He was the one who got straight A’s and excused from all final exams. He also had an artistic side which he expressed through cartoons and humor. He was a natural at all these.

Me, I just wanted to play a little before studying. You see, having discipline is a skill that needs to be developed. It wasn’t that I had a learning disability or anything; I was one that needed more time and patience, as well as organizing the assignments and else.

This didn’t go well with my mom. She having to sit and do homework with me took away time from her to do other things. And that bothered her, a lot. How much? Enough for her not to treat me well.

Seeing her anger and frustration towards me affected my self-esteem extremely (I had none) and created a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more I tried to be what she wanted me to be, the more I failed. So why try?

Instead of looking for a way that worked for me, or treated in a favorable way, I concentrated on avoiding mistakes or anything that would turn my mom against me.

Yep, my brother was her favorite and all I could was watch from the sidelines. I couldn’t understand why a guy was smarter than a girl. Without knowing it then, this was the beginning of my love-hate relationships with men.

With him I was hoping that some of his intelligence would miraculously come to me like osmosis and make me be like him. That way, all my problems will be solved.

It would take years later for me to understand my mom. For starters, she had a difficult relationship with her own mother, then add to the mix that her marriage was falling apart. Even more, she admitted to me when I reached adulthood that motherhood wasn’t something she enjoyed. Overall she wasn’t happy, and if I saw it, everyone else did.

As for my dad, he was more patient with my studies, but still wasn’t that happy when my grades were average. I don’t know if he understood my situation or thought I wasn’t giving it my all.

Whatever it was, homework became something I did because I had to, that’s it, much like making your bed or picking your toys. You didn’t thought about it, you just did it.

Although life at home was an unhappy one, my dad found relief in hunting and fishing since an early age. Incredibly, I found interest in doing the second (considering both are things guys do), and accompanied him in many trips around the island.

More than liking it, it gave me the chance to be away from it all and be myself for a few days. It also allowed me to see my dad in a much better light. We had in common enjoying being disconnected from the demands of our lives, which helped us bond greatly.

I also saw the beauty of nature through his eyes, and how planning ‘an expedition’ (as he used to call it) would teach me skills that always come in handy.

I didn’t know what my mission in life was back then, but if doing what guys do is the way to survive, then that’s the way to go.

But, wait, I’m a girl. How am I going to be ‘one of the guys’?

 

 

 

 



Spending time with my maternal grandparents was a good thing for me. In spite of my non-eating stage and occasional trips to the hospital, they still loved and accepted me for who I was. Maybe they went the extra mile for me because it was grandsons central.

They were also family-oriented and their marriage was an early lesson of what a good relationship could be. They also set the example that you may come from humble beginnings and still manage to achieve a comfortable life.

Most importantly, they were protecting my brother and me. They knew my parents’ marriage was on the rocks. I was too young then to label it as that, but I clearly remember seeing that my parents were never affectionate, nor expressed loving words towards each other (or the two of us), hold hands, or anything else, which was odd to me.

Then there were my paternal grandparents, the opposite of the others. My grandfather had married 3 times (widowed twice), being my grandmother the last wife. This relationship was probably more out of convenience of joining 2 prominent families together.

They didn’t sleep together in the same room and my grandfather wasn’t fond of women, including his spouse. He was definitely from the old school in which men didn’t display affection and ruled the home with authority.

My brother and I had to visit them (mainly for him) on Friday and Sunday afternoons. We would be dressed to the nines for every time (and if we weren’t, my dad would hear it), and as soon as we walked through the door, walked directly to my grandfather’s room where he would sit on his antique rocking chair and worked out of a desk. We would bow our head slightly, say “bendición” (bless us), and he would tap them.

He gave us both a weekly allowance; $3 for my brother, $2 for me. He would also fill a small metal container with spare change that, at least, we could divide equally. But the inequality on the first was proof that on that house, men came first.

As for my dad, he was the last child and second son out of 5 daughters. Although he was a male, my aunts in later years commented that he happened at a time that his parents were too old to be having kids; that he was pretty much on his own because the other siblings were out of the home already, meaning he basically raised himself. Anything here sounds familiar?

It’s sad to think how this affected him in his marriage. From where I was standing, his relationship with my mom, and that with his own father, looked confusing and scary. All he could was go with the flow, and probably hope that tomorrow would be a better day. Pretty much how I’ve dealt with everything myself.

Even with my aunts and uncle, I could see a distant relationship with my grandfather. As much as they wanted to be close to him, there was this coldness that separated them.

And what my grandmother could only do was just sit on the sidelines and watch it all happen. It must have been horrible marrying someone who probably treated you like crap and still had to give him children.

At least she channeled her affection on her children and grandchildren. She would play the piano, which introduced me to music. She also kept these Danish cookies in the fridge for me, which I would eat while sitting in a small rocking chair in the balcony and listening to her sing to me: “Arroz con leche se quiere casar, con una viudita de la capital. Que sepa tejer, que sepa bordar, que ponga la aguja en su campanal.”

I still remember being surrounded by the garden and the simplicity of those moments that you later take for granted.

There were also other memorable times, like my grandfather’s stories when he came to college in the U.S., and my father teaching me how to play hopscotch, among others.

Everything left a print within me, like recognizing that I still like to sit in a rocking chair and enjoy eating butter cookies from time to time.

Perhaps it’s recognizing that, in spite not understanding so many things, others did the best that they could; that I miss them sometimes and wished they would still be around; that even though we say that we will do things differently, we mirror them a lot more than we bargained for, not realizing it until our world is rocked to the core.

It’s learning to sit back and appreciate the good that’s in front of us; it’s enjoying that moment before we have to get up and go face the unknown.

It’s understanding that in spite that our lives have been difficult, there were those close to us that had it more complicated, who gave a lot of themselves in the hope of making ours better than what they had.

For better of worse, in the good and the bad, it is what it is: family.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox



Day 1: I make my entrance into the world and it’s not that welcoming.

Why? Because ever since I was born, I’ve had this love-hate relationship with men that, until recently, been able to finally figure out.

For starters, my brother was the first grandchild and male born from my mom’s side of the family (there’s my aunt and uncle as well), which remained like that for about a year and a half. He was a big baby, with really blond hair, and looks that equaled any child from royalty.

Me? Not so much. I was an average size, with brown locks, and cute, I guess. There were also 2 other grandsons born the same year as me. In the end, the headcount was 6 boys, 2 girls.

My earliest memories of my brother and me was that I always walked behind him. Staying the weekends at my maternal grandparents’ home, he would say, “stop following me!!”

He also had a good appetite. Not me. I guess I figured out that by not eating I was finally getting the attention away from my brother. It worked so well, rumor has it my family would go to church to ask that I put some food on my stomach.

When it was time to sleep, we were both placed on the same bed on a room right across that of my grandparents. My brother though, he didn’t like that, and would cry because he wanted to be with them. I would look at him like, ‘what’s wrong with you?’

One time he got off the bed and wrote a note to my grandparents. He then knocked at their door (me beside him, off course); it read that he wanted to be with them. I guess it worked with my grandmother, as we ended at their bed. Honestly, I would been fine being left sleeping on my own.

Came Sunday morning, he would walk to the third room to watch cartoons and I would be doing the same thing. I looked up to him on anything I would do, even when my baby teeth were falling out and I needed encouragement to give them that last push.

What he did manage not to do was have falls. I had a talent while playing that would make me hit my chin bad enough that required going to the hospital for stitches.

One time it happened at night. My grandmother all nervous sat me with my pajamas on the hood of the car while trying to put my shoes on. My shirt was stained with blood and felt embarrassed for all the commotion I was causing, so much I wanted to hug my grandmother and calm her down.

Once at the hospital, I looked at the male doctor right into his eyes, letting him know that I was in full control of myself. I didn’t cry or make any noise while lying down on the bed. My stare was so strong, he covered my eyes with a light cloth before stitching me up. I still saw everything he did.

Interestingly, I don’t recall having anyone next to me giving me comfort or even holding my hand.

Like my brother said when he accompanied me when I arrived to college for the first time, and was about to board a cab to go to his own school, “You’re on your own kid.”

Memo to myself: there will be a lot more falls and stitches to come. So get ready ’cause they’re going to hurt, a lot. Here we go…



et cetera