Today we went “mudding”(more like “dirting”) in the countryside of Jalisco. As we sat down to eat, the uncles started popping the tequila bottles and chatting away. I got lost in thought and their conversations. They started telling charras about the good old days, and as I heard their stories a thought came to mind: “there’s so much I don’t know about my dad’s own life….” and even though I’ve lived with him practically my whole life, do I really know who my dad is?
This is something I particularly love about Mexico – being a little fly on the wall and listening in on all their conversations. I try to soak it all up so that one day, I can retell these stories to (hopefully) my future kids, other people’s kids, my cats (whichever the Lord destines for me to have). Mexican culture is super segregated. The men are always gathered together and the women are usually huddled away talking about shopping, cooking, cleaning (all that good housewife stuff) so I usually find myself sitting with my uncles because their stories are more exciting (and hilarious).
They usually involve drunken mishaps, stories of recently crossing the border, or restaurant life and the very beginnings of their American Dreams. Today I listened in as they listed the ages of when they arrived in the United States of America: 12, 15, 16….. so young. So so young. I was taken aback. At that age, I was a fetus. I knew nothing about life (and I still really don’t let’s be honest) much less was I willing to go to another country, leave my parents and family behind and potentially risk my life, all for some kids who didn’t even exist yet. Because that’s why my dad did what he did— for a daughter and two sons that he didn’t know he was gonna have.
If I think too hard about it, I can’t really wrap my mind around it all. Then I jolt back to the present. Sitting here, watching them sit back, drink their cuba and laugh. “They so deserve this. They deserve this and so much more.” And my heart gushes with love and admiration for these men. I feel a certain responsibility towards them. To be somebody and do something with my life. To make them all proud. To not waste the legacy they worked so hard to build. And then I look at my dad and wonder what his day to day life looked for him at my age.
And that’s when I am thankful for these stories. I am able to capture little slivers of who he was and what shaped him into the father that I know him to be. I laugh along as I hear them talk about a story of a man who went to Walmart and kept talking about how delicious this tuna was that he was buying. When his friend asked him what the name was (because obviously he wanted in on this deal) the man replied, “Oh I don’t know what the can says, but it’s got this little cat on it!” to which the uncles all burst out into uncontrollable laughter because the poor man was unknowingly eating cat food.
I love finding bits and pieces of who I am in the people I love. The impatience I inherited from my Abuelita Olivia, the eyebrows my dad’s side gave me, the ability to sing from my Abuelita Nena (all her siblings have pipes, me… I can belt out some solid Disney songs) the way my laughter sound so similar to my mom’s.
It’s fun to discover things about yourself that you never knew by looking at your family. I’m so blessed that my big Mexican family is so intertwined that I’m able to spend time with my mom and dad’s side at the same time. I try so hard to cherish family time. Because I know my adult clock is ticking and soon I’ll have to get a big girl job and give up spending summers in my adored little town.
I’m excited to soak up sun, stories, and more family time in the coming days. And you should too.
Peace n blessins’