Monday, March 13, 2017

Childhood Memories to Live On

When I was a child in elementary school, my dad stayed home to raise my brother and me, while my mom was out pursuing her American Dream. I remember having one car for the four of us, and driving mom to work downtown Phoenix at the Arizona Bank (later known as Security Pacific Bank, now known as Bank of America). Natan and I would pile in the car to pick her up around what I am assuming was 5 o'clock in the evening. My dad would pull the brick red Toyota Corolla up to the curb in front of the tallest building my young eyes had ever stood beneath. (Natan and I used to freak out that the building would fall over and crush us. It was big.) I loved that car. I remember the beige leather (pleather, maybe?) seats in the back that had decorative holes that looked like someone pushed a fork through a hundred times to make the pattern. Those seats got so hot in the Arizona summers. I remember that, too. The car was a manual transmission with a stick shift gear that was shiny and round like an 8-ball that you use when you shoot a game of pool. I wanted that to be my car when I turned 16. It got wrecked in a car accident when I was 12, I think. My dad was driving by himself, on the way home and stopped at a stoplight, when a woman lost control of her vehicle and her car somehow crashed into ours. It's funny the things you remember from your childhood.

I have started writing down my childhood memories, the ones that are so ingrained in my memory bank, because I am realizing almost daily how much they shape me, and who I am today.  More of them are coming up when I catch myself doing things that I remember my parents doing. When I am in the kitchen, preparing (with time and love) a delicious meal to share with our neighbors or friends... I am my mom. Watching her from the kitchen table all those years as a young girl has paid off in the kitchen. I love to cook. It brings me peace, and joy. To see my guests close their eyes when they taste a bite of what is the result of one of the many lessons my mom has given me, it warms me from the inside out. I feel her next to me, even though she is a whole state away.

Now, as an elementary school mom, I am channeling my father, who volunteered as an Art Guide when I was in grade school. He (and a few other moms) would rotate teaching lessons in our Art class about famous artists, and then we would try to create in their style. Since November, I have been teaching Lunchtime Art at the kids' school on Mondays and Fridays outside on sunny days. I bring materials, and directions, and watch the kids create. There's not a lot of time during their lunch break - 20 to 30 minutes at most - but it's enough to teach them a little, and as long as they are creating and I am encouraging them to try new things, my job is complete. I feel so connected to my daddy when I am there - in the nature (which he loved), teaching/mentoring children (his life's work), appreciating art (one of his many passions). The hardest part still, a year and a half after his passing, is that I can't call him to tell him about it. I can only imagine him watching over me, as he hovers near by in his new hummingbird armor. (Don't think I haven't noticed you, Daddy - the kids have stopped their work to admire you in the adjacent tree from time to time.)

And this past weekend, as Quincy and Paloma had their Opening Weekend of Baseball and Softball, I was immediately transported back to the afternoons at the ballpark, watching Dad play on the Arizona Bank team, and later in his men's league. Those afternoons led to our love of the game - Natan and I couldn't get enough of it - it was in our blood. To know that my brother is my nephew's Little League Head Coach in Arizona AND assisting the baseball team at his old high school, brings me so much joy, because he is carrying on the lessons that my dad taught us; the lessons that our Papa Ray taught our Dad. I am assisting Paloma's softball team, and my love for the game has been reignited. The memories are resurfacing gradually, as my heart is filling up. And to see Solon helping Quincy's team, and to see the look of pride on both their faces, I can't help but feel my dad there. Life seems to only get busier with two very active kids, but it's moments like these where we are able to reconnect with such a HUGE part of our past that has been buried for so long. I hope we are all making him proud.
Quincy - A's 2017
Paloma - Mermaids 2017
Daddy and me - Wild Things 1991


Last month, the kids had a week off of school, and we took a family trip to Cancún, Mexico. Solon and I hadn't been there since our honeymoon 12 years ago, and I felt our kids were the perfect age to "go international". I have so much family there, including 2 of my mom's sisters, and I have been needing to see them. We were able to use all those Southwest points that Solon has been piling on for work to fly my mom out there to meet us. I wanted my kids exposed to the culture that I love so much, and I wanted my mom to be able to share her love of her culture and birth country with her grand-kids. We were able to spend time with our family, and share stories and memories, and my heart was literally so full I thought it was going to burst! Quincy and Paloma LOVED Mexico. They were exposed to beautiful oceans, kind and wonderful people, and so much family.

 Our beautiful view of the breathtaking water

 Mom and my grandma, Mama Lilia (painted by my grandpa, Papa Gustavo Cándido Nieto)

Mayan ruins at Xcaret Archeological Park

Quincy and Paloma between el diablo y la muñeca

Much needed time with our Mexico family!!
Paloma and Quincy meeting their great-aunt China (my mom's sister) and great-uncle Emilio

My cousin Penny (in white), her daughter Ashanti (far left), 
my cousin Sally (next to Solon), and her daughter Roxanna (far right)

Prima sandwich!

With my Tío Luis, Tía Yolanda, and their son-in-law, my cousin Raymundo
 Brother and sister, my cousins Luisito and Yolandita

Ashanti and her husband Carlos (I still see her as a 2-year-old running around in diapers)

In the middle (next to my mom), my cousin Olgita, and her daughter (my little cousin) Maria

My Tía Yoli is FAMOUS for her margaritas and her big heart!

Solon enjoying something he has waited 12 years for!

With my cousin Cecilia and her husband, surrounded by her amazing artwork!

I am so happy I got to hug an kiss all these beautiful people!

 Late-night visit from my cousin Alejandra - the perfect way to end our trip

My heart is refueled - I am so grateful to have been able to take this trip as a family. It was an adventure, and I learned a lot about traveling internationally with kids, and how it's almost impossible to have family visit you at an all-inclusive hotel (so many rules). So next time, we know what to do, and what NOT to do. My hope is to start taking the kids for a couple weeks in the summers to stay with family, and learn the language through immersion and practice. It was fun to practice my Spanish, and communicate with the locals. I can't wait to do it again.

More adventures await, so many childhood memories to help my kids make...

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