Because I am trying to put together a collection of short stories, I don’t usually share the pieces I work on unless it’s my sister, roommate or my writing group. However, I think this piece explains my feelings in the last post. It's currently untitled. Anyway, here goes...
When my mom and I are visiting, we like to pull out the various photo albums we have accumulated over the years. Every picture has a story. Sometimes I know them and others I’ve never thought to ask. And the, there are some that I never get sick of hearing like the one of my late tía Socorro at my first birthday party.
My tía Socorro was my tío Kiko’s wife. Tío Kiko is my mom’s brother, he’s the oldest male in her family. When there was any kind of family gathering, Kiko, Socorro and the marabunta, their five kids, were sure to be there. My tía Socorro passed away when I was maybe 17 or 18. Gangrene eventually ate up her body. Even though their visits often got on my mom’s last nerve, she always held high respect for Socorro. There was a solidarity between them that was indestructible and I have always been able to sense it when my mom tells me the story behind this picture.
There is only one photo of this even which I now keep in my photo album under the skirt of my night table next to my bed. In the picture, I’m standing on a chair wearing a cranberry colored dress with a white apron. My pigtails are held together by bright red satin ribbons. Huddled around me are my brothers, sisters and my maternal aunts, uncles, and cousins. In front of my relatives and me, there is a table with a cake coated with white frosting and red accents. Around the cake are boxes of all sizes wrapped in flowery wrapping paper with large bows tied at the top.
I remember first hearing the story that went with this picture from my mom was five or six. The party was taking place at my Abuelita Maria’s house in Cd. Juárez. The table for the cake and the gifts had been set up near one of the grey brick walls that formed the court yard. Chairs were set up along the other walls of the courtyard leaving enough space for the kids to break the piñata and run around, and probably the most important, late night dancing by the adults.
I don’t know if we had already broken the piñata when the downpour began, but according to my mom’s version, she and my oldest sister carried the table with the cake and the present into Abuelita Maria’s kitchen before anyone else could get inside.
The kids were the last ones to leave their endeavors to shelter themselves from the rain. One of the games they were playing must have involved the broomstick used to hit the piñata because one of them dropped it on the cement floor and a loud “clack” was heard. A moment later, my tía Socorro who was in the doorway of the kitchen with her back to the courtyard, ducked and held the back of her head shouting, “¡Aye! ¡Me dieron cabrones!”
My uncle and others ran to her rescue only to find she hadn’t been hit. Apparently, one of my cousins had dropped the piñata stick near the street entrance of the courtyard.
As I grew older, I always wondered why this story was told so many times; but I never questioned it. Years later, I found out from my mom that it had been a bittersweet day for my family. My party was the last of its kind because the following day, as I sat next to my Dad in the dust covered white Checker Cab crossing the Puente Libre into El Paso, my mom and three of my sibling, lead by my tío Chuy, would be slipping through a hole in the chain link fence under the same bridge.
From that day until my uncle Chuy’s funeral four years later, my mom would not set foot in her native country. But because of my tía Socorro, we have one happy memory from that day.