Mom was always quite blunt, unapologetic and didn’t mince words. She’d said a couple of years ago, “What are you waiting for? I sure hope you get published before I die.” (I’d given her a copy of the manuscript. She loved it so much she mailed me an advance of $100.00!)
In this photo, my sister, my niece and I have just sprung Mom out of hospice (with a two-hour supply of oxygen) for a road trip down memory lane: Monte Vista Street, La Habra, California. We found our old home buried in the re-gentrified barrio surrounded by half a million dollar homes and multi-unit apartments. “That’s where Mama Cuca lived,” I said to my niece, pointing to my grandma’s still-standing bungalow next to the train tracks and across the street from my childhood home. You could see the steeple from the old Catholic church poking out behind it. “And the Conchola’s place, and Doña Pola’s. Oh look, they’ve covered the ditch where Carla (my sister) fell in trying to catch pollywogs; where old Señora Gradillas landed one night after mass.” In all black, including her mantilla, la señora had been walking home from church in the dark (there were no street lamps back then) when she was struck and killed by a car, catapulting her into the ditch. Mom simply nodded. “Remember, they used to have those holy processions down our street before Christmas?” I asked. “Las Posadas,” Mom added, low and hoarse. Next, we drove through the grounds of our old school and parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mom didn’t need to go inside the church. She said, “I’ve seen it enough,” besides her swollen legs weren’t working very well (or was it that she knew she’d be resting inside before too long?). And then after we couldn’t find the place where Mom remembered they sold fish tacos on Idaho Street (as if a taco stand would still be standing after 50 years), I put a smile on her face when I told her I’d just signed a publishing contract. Later, at home, in between bites of something bland and puréed, I overheard her telling the hospice nurse about her daughter, the author – something about being proud — (something better than fish tacos).