I gave August my old, toy piano three years ago, but it's only recently that she began composing and naming her creations. Many a tune was created on it and using it...all my life, really. I wrote a little A C...something on it just five years ago. It was discovered that I could play by ear when I was six or so. I'd play with the keys until I had the tune I wanted. After watching Casablanca, I remember tinkering away at my piano until I had those notes playing As Time Goes By. I would love to have a real piano in my living room but the upkeep is a bit overwhelming and instead I'm hoping for a ukulele soon.

I had piano lessons for a year or two. While I learned to read music in school and with piano lessons, the habit or desire to play by ear resulted in finally leaving piano in frustration. My teacher didn't like the fight I was having between reading notes and hearing notes. I also messed up Mozart at my first recital. I remember feeling overheated after starting over a third time then walked off. 

I love hearing August play with it and naming her compositions. That little Jaymar is old, very much loved and full of the avant-garde tunes of childhood. Here is Ballet Music Instrument of the City.



Rollers are beautiful

What children find beautiful and attractive is interesting and exciting. They like what they like. August saw a woman wearing rollers at the library and exclaimed, "That beautiful lady has a beautiful hair on, Mommy!" It was simple, a fresh look at rollers, a woman with rollers in her hair meant nothing to August, rollers are new, rollers are beautiful and the elderly woman was beautiful. She then asked me what the woman did to her hair. I explained that some women will wear rollers to curl their hair. She wanted some, I had some.

Since that day she has worn rollers in her hair when she wants to feel special. She likes them because they are pink and in a cute, plastic bag. When she wears them she receives so much attention and plenty of smiles. Everything she gave the woman at the library that morning. She walks about regally with her head up and adopts dainty gestures, until she comes to a tree or a clearing inviting her to run, run, run. So, rollers are indeed something special to wear in your hair.

"I'm a Bat!"

On our way to a trick or treating destination we were told about, we drove through the streets of the Hyde Park neighborhood, passing old houses that now looked good as new. The decorated porches and crooked sidewalks were now quickly filling with children. We changed our plans and decided to park the truck. This is where August would have her first real trick or treating Halloween, having had to sit the last one out at urgent care a year ago.

As we started down the street filled with families it was hard not to remember how these houses were mostly dilapidated rentals and home to students, often five to a shack. When Halloween fell on a weekend, just about every other front yard, carport or back porch was filled with costumed twenty somethings and a keg or three. Now I walked hand in hand with my three year old, tripping on the same uneven sidewalks from twenty years before, watching her happily head down walkways all by herself, up stairs to trick or treat. The Hyde Park folks were so festive and sweet, the trick or treaters were all so cute.  It was by far the most idyllic Halloween I have ever had and one I hope that she remembers. She kept on saying,"I am so excited!" as she'd walk back to us from collecting her candy. We had to explain that you take one candy when offered a bowl full and, of course, be sure to say "Trick or treat" and thank you.

Her costume stood out among the many tiny toddler Star Wars and princess get ups. I was proud that she decided to be a bat and not a princess. All the compliments on her costume just made me happier as the night went on. Yes, I did a good job, I saw room for improvement, but a good job. August wanted me to be a witch. I had thought of perhaps Ozzy Osbourne circa 1982, with my little bat but... A witch is what I was and my costume impressed her.

We left Hyde Park just as it got dark and parked at my old neighborhood. The man at the corner still lived there and covered his yard with Halloween decorations. I finally got to share that corner with someone who found it at fun as I did all those years. At the end of the night, the plastic pumpkin was too heavy for August and filled to the top with candy. I never quite got that much candy in all my Halloweens. When we got home and emptied it out, I saw a wonderfully satisfied smile appear across her face. We all had so much fun. Before the evening was over, whilestill out trick or treating, August caught her shadow. "I'm a bat!" There it was, what a costume is all about. She stood there flapping her wings.

The thread...

My Abuelita would tell me that at the age of two her great-aunts showed her how to knit and crochet. My Granmo told me that when she was three years old, her grandmother Eulalia would sit beside her and give her something to embroider. August has been curious when she has seen me sew, knit or crochet. However, it wasn't until we were cutting through an aisle of the craft store that she stopped me and said,"Mommy, I want to do that!" She was pointing to the wooden embroidery hoops and floss.

"How do you know about this, August?" She didn't answer and continued to jump and excitedly point to the hoops saying only "This, this, this!" While I own embroidery supplies I have not worked on anything in five years and she hadn't even seen my supplies because I haven't unpacked them. We had seen photos of completed pieces on Instagram and I thought maybe this was her introduction.

She picked out floss and I chose the smallest wooden hoop. Once we got home she wanted to begin right away. I cut some canvas from my stash and showed her how to place it in the frame. Then she threaded the embroidery needle with her little hands and we began. I could feel myself melting into the couch. It was relaxing watching her carefully and slowly take the needle in and out of the fabric. I also felt a connection to the long line of women who had brought us to this moment.

I had to take photos because I didn't know when she'd want to do this again. Her first embroidery project. It lasted thirty minutes or so. When she felt the project was complete, we put it away but I kept returning to it. I even carried it in my purse during a week of errands just because. She asked for her embroidery bag again and I showed her how to make little stitches and she enthusiastically worked on that. With  each stitch she gave herself encouragement. I took photos to print and send to my Granmo.

My Granmo showed me some baby clothes she had made for my father one summer. They were simple pieces made from white cotton muslin. I asked her how she made the elegant designs on the front of each piece and she showed me how to pull thread. The next day she had a piece of white cotton fabric and showed me an easy pattern. I know how to pull thread. It doesn't feel good knowing how to do something then never using that skill or passing it on.

Its  been a month and she hasn't asked to embroider. She has been asking me for a sewing machine. I have been working on her Halloween costume. She'd pick up the scraps and sit under the table while I sewed on my machine and she sewed using her pretend machine made of blocks. I remember doing this beside my mother while she sewed.


The Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly, dragonfly, who's chasing whom today?
Dragonfly, dragonfly, inviting me to play.
You're a kite, a funny sight as you zig zag above my head.
You're a funny helicopter, that never seems to land.

Dragonfly, dragonfly, I love to run with you.
Dragonfly, dragonfly, I feel like I'm flying too.
I wish you would, if you could, come fly and twinkle with the moon.
Under the stars with you, would be a wish come true.

~ By Mommy, for August

Little Windows

The ophthalmologist told me I had to continue to wear glasses... at least for a few more weeks. It's only a few weeks that make up one month and then another. There are several pairs of unattractive, cheap glasses around the house because they were something I only wore at home. Once my day was done and my contacts removed and stored away, I'd slip on my glasses. I never wore them out, not even on walks. I find them uncomfortable, impractical , cumbersome, isolating... They make me feel like I am inside something looking out. Little windows that sit in front of me from which I cannot fully take in everything around me. They make me feel shut in.

I can't think right wearing glasses. I can't see or think at all without them. My mornings started when I put on "my eyes", my contacts. I was ready to start my day. Glasses seemed to prolong the process of waking up, not really starting the day because I am unable to feel something, somehow. Most people reach for coffee, I would go put on my eyes. It was more than a transition. Contacts took me out of a blurry world that is annoying and confusing, like being in a dream, or perhaps, I dream completely out of focus. Contacts put me in the real world, a clear one. Glasses don't remove me from a world they allow to look into the one I'd like to be in.

A morning of frustration led me to finally cutting my hair. Having to style my long hair around a pair of glasses only worsened my mood. Without thinking too much I just started cutting. It felt great! It made wearing glasses a bit easier. Now, to pick out a pair of stylish frames. Viewing the world through these little windows is an experience I'll learn to work with. 


I received the best performance review. August blurted out over dinner, "You are the perfect Mommy." This was followed by, "You are so sweet to me." I felt my face becoming warm and tears building as I humbly accepted her sweet comments. They came after a difficult week.

Before August was born I thought of how squeamish I was and wondered how that would change once she arrived. After she was born I didn't seem to have a problem at all. Then again, I never needed a burping cloth, she never had an upset stomach. We were both slightly traumatized last Wednesday morning when she became unexpectedly and quite violently ill. She kept turning towards me, her arms outstretched reaching for me as she became covered in the previous night's dinner. I tried so hard to comfort her but my body was not allowing my heart to supersede old reactions. As I wretched I felt I had failed my child in the most ridiculous way. 

Once I steadied myself and washed her up, we sat on the couch. I apologized for not holding her when she was scared, confused and needed me the most. Dwelling on failure just didn't happen. I held her close and began to go over foods she had eaten, places we had been, people we had been in contact with wondering if fever and other symptoms would set in. As I quickly visited all possible scenarios in my head, she started to panic and we headed for the bathroom again. This time I managed myself better and was able to be more comforting and useful to her. I wanted to be "all Mommy" for her, the woman who had labored thirty six hours not the twenty year old who became nauseated with smells on the bus.

She didn't like the trip to the pediatrician and fell asleep at her appointment. I had so many questions because there was only one symptom. I was told it was nothing more than a bug. There was the danger of dehydration and keeping up with fluids. The sick days were spent watching shows, reading books, electrolytes, broths and ginger water. She told me she was too sick to dance when I turned the radio on. There was too much noise in my head. She woke up Saturday morning with a smile on her face and said, "I feel better, I feel better, Mommy." I really saw sunshine in her eyes. Now that we have had this experience, it feels like we both have moved up a level in childhood and motherhood. 

Winding Down

The way a summer comes to an end...I passed the swimming pool this afternoon as dark clouds rolled over the sun and the wind kicked up a flurry of dried leaves and dead bugs. This week, we skipped our late morning swims because the water has been uncomfortably chilly. We put it off for later in the day but instead have found ourselves settling into a nest of  pillows on my bed to read storybooks or watched some newly discovered Miffy cartoons. From one week to the next things are different, the days are changing. Summer for us is over,

I've noticed that August has started speaking of sweaters and jackets for two weeks now and wanting to go outside dressed cozy. It's still quite,quite warm but I find what her internal clock is telling her very interesting. For me, a change in seasons is marked by the way nostalgic thoughts build and make their way into my days. I no longer dwell with them, sending them off because I am happily at work creating future nostalgic thoughts. 

A quick trip to the tall pines of east Texas brought some pine cone hunting. We gathered a small bag to use in the coming months. While I am still not ready to make mole, drink Mexican hot chocolate or start baking yet, I have picked up the needles to knit August a new sweater. Things are winding down.


When we'd return from our visits to Mexico, I'd cry the whole trip back to the United States. I'd start missing my Abuelitos from the very first hug and kiss goodbye. There were several hugs and kisses before we finally boarded the train or started the drive to the next city or to the airport. The scents, the sounds, the language, all the things I'd see and experience during my weeks there were profoundly different from life in small town Texas. 

I knew then, as a child, that it was all special because it was not what I saw day to day at home. I am still feeling the impact of these early trips. I pine for a beautiful walled garden that had tropical fruit trees and a dirt path that would wind around it. It seemed enormous to me at the time. It was so beautiful to me and I still remember it as a very magical place.

From the moment I'd wake up, the walk to the kitchen would fill my senses. The windows opened to the scent of burned sugar from the sugar cane factory, the high pitched buzzing of mopeds outside, the donkeys pulling carts of fruit and the man calling out. Then there was the smell of coffee, vanilla, papaya and limes in the kitchen giving mornings there a very distinct olfactory memory. The milk and eggs tasted so different from what I was use to. It took time to understand the reasons why things tasted the way they did. Eventually I happily accepted the strong, rich flavors of the foods. Everything was strong and rich. The first few days were overwhelming for me, as a child, but I also felt that I belonged, not only among my family, but to all of Mexico. 

Outside, through the back door I'd go exploring, passing the concrete sink where my Abuelita would wash clothes. When it was wet it smelled like clay. Over the years I had seen large lizards and huge, fleshy spiders, burrow owls and colorful insects. I'd climb the tree with the oranges that tasted like lemons and sit on a branch where I could see over the wall in all directions. I'd sometimes watch the family next door. They lived in a humble home made out of wood, not many Mexican houses were built that way. The littlest children were often bathed in the concrete sinks outside in the morning. From their house came the smokey and delicious, greasy aromas of tortillas and chorizo. I soon made friends with the girl who lived there. She then took me on adventurous walks far from my Abuelito's house.

As the years went by things changed. More of my country came into Mexico. I started hearing more American music as I passed stores while accompanying my Abuelita on mandados. Television shows and movies weren't dubbed in Spanish but played in English...cable eventually brought my living room to my Abuelito's house. The garden became a workspace for my uncle's ironworks business, and my Abuelita didn't need to walk into town anymore, there was a car parked under what I thought was a large covered porch for parties but had always been a carport. 

So much of Mexico changed through the 18 summers that I had. I didn't return once I left home for college and my last visit was in 2007. But when I don't feel I quite understand "The American Way" of doing things or when American culture feels so forced and I grow weary of not knowing what to do in certain social situations, I do feel it's because since I was a child I never felt I fully belonged in the United States. We'd return home from Mexico, to quiet streets, neatness, order, bland fruits, people you had to try to read because you couldn't feel them. I'd cry on and off for weeks finding comfort at my Granmo's house. It was a tiny world where I felt I belonged, with the smell of tortillas, squash growing in the backyard, tall trees and roosters crowing.

Visiting Granmo's house

Several weeks ago, I kept returning to that afternoon spent in my grandparent's enormous front yard flying kites. My grandfather made us the kites out of brown paper bags, they had string that was actually scraps of strings that had all been tied together and real rag tails. They got off the ground and soared so high. I remember the laughter and viewing it all through hair in my eyes. My Granpo's hair was blowing in the wind too. He had a huge smile, a torn shirt and a hole in the knee of his khaki pants.

There are photos of that day and I saw them a few years ago. I wanted so much to have copies. The photos show us all but it's not at all like the memory. I am frozen in time wearing shorts and an over sized shirt, stuck in those awkward years of puberty. But in my memory I am still every bit a child with her heroic Granpo, giggling and laughing. excited about a kite.

Those kites came from a question,"Granpo, what kind of toys did you play with when you were little?" He made us the toys he played with. One afternoon he gave us each a sling shot cut from the trees in his own yard. He had searched for strong forks and sawed them. Then he cut rubber from something he had around the garage. I don't remember what exactly, perhaps it was part of a tire. They worked and our rocks went flying. Some weeks later he made us wooden guns that shot rubber bands. They were made of scrap wood and a clothespin glued on. We'd stretch the rubber bands and see them fly. Then came kites. The first few never got off the ground. I remember his improvements. Finally he took the sticks from old kites that he had found at garage sales and created the brown paper bag diamond shaped kites.

It may have all been in one summer or carried through the months into the following spring, but I can't recall the frame of time. I remember being seventeen or so and finding one of the old, wood guns outside and thinking back of the fun we had with it. I wish I had picked it up and saved it. I didn't because it belonged at Granmo's house and there would always be Granmo's house. I remember being in bed and wondering how much longer  I had with them in my life and went over favorite memories. It's because of that exercise, going over the day, then going over memories and then thinking of loved ones before bed that I feel I still have so many memories with me. Now I ask August to recall her favorite parts of the day before she goes to bed.

I have his hands, long fingers, big hands, even down to the shape of the nails. I have hands that like to make things, figure things out. I noticed that early on, as a child. I saw him build and make so many things, so many clever things and wanted to be just like him. He fashioned an electric box to light up a party for their anniversary out from things he had in his carport. That was magic.

These days, my tall, strong Granpo with his large strong hands is sleeping almost all day long. He stands as tall as me because of osteoporosis and he is in so much pain because of complications with a recent fall and a seventy year old war wound. My Granmo is his constant. She gives him life, she feeds him, bathes him and fights with doctors to get him the medical care he needs. She has the help of nurses and friends but no one has the stamina and determination that she has. She wakes up every morning in the arm chair next to his bed. When he wakes up he calls out to her,"Nena, donde estas?" She answers."Aqui estoy viejo." She tells me of how must it have been for him those hours when he was left for dead on the side of a mountain in Italy during the war. She has never spoke of this before.

My grandfather received the Purple Heart. My grandmother met him when he returned from the war, she was only sixteen. Their story is a complicated one. They didn't spend much time together as newlyweds because he was away undergoing surgeries for what was thought to be a possibly paralyzing wound. So went the first years of their marriage. For seventy years her priorities have included keeping her husband well fed and always on time for his doctor appointments. The both of them are in the twilight years of their marriage and lives.

However, when I did get to visit, a month ago, I saw that my grandfather was not going to pass any time soon but he is just terribly afraid and depressed that he will. "Granpo, you aren't dying". I said it with a smile and I said it carefully but it was something I had not thought about saying. He looked at me and said,"No?" I gave him a confident and sincere no. I then asked him if he remembered all those toys he made for us that time and the chickens he kept and how I want fruit trees, goats and chickens again one day. He remembered and smiled through my memories and then told me how to start a fig tree. Then we were visited by a strange little bird that came up to the window. It was orange, not red like a cardinal. "Look Granpo, look at that beautiful little bird, look, August, I have never seen a bird like that!" As I reached to take a photo my grandfather told me he visits often. I looked it up and it is a Summer Tanager, a song bird.

My Granpo has recovered from that fall as best he can for 93. He is no longer in great pain and my grandmother has returned to sleeping in her bed. We talk daily and she always tells me how well he is eating. She's been telling me stories I have never heard before. I am asking questions I wouldn't dare ask before. I'm understanding them more, their relationship and it's a story that has always demanded real love very early on. With all the beautiful big band music that was playing at the time of their courtship and early years of marriage, the crooners singing of romantic love, they were thrown into the fires of what it's really all about. At first it seems so sad and unfortunate, so unromantic. Then my grandmother tells me of all the letters she wrote when he was in the hospital hours and hours away. He tells me of  how much he wanted to just be home, a new husband to the prettiest girl he ever met and father to his new baby boy. It took years for them to recover from it all.

When I visited I really was touched by the devotion, trust between them. There were no distractions, no projects, no outings, no yard work, no tending to animals, no business, all that has disappeared. It's the two of them. As I walked across the yard where we once flew kites, back to the truck, I drove off feeling that all the happiness and love I always found in their home came from two very strong people that have always known what real love is and what it takes, no love songs, the real thing.