El Año Nuevo in Retrospect

This morning, I woke up with a longing for a New Year’s Eve day morning with my mom. Although New Year didn’t really involve as much magic and make believe as Christmas, my mom still had some traditions/superstitions she wouldn’t let go of like the 12 grapes with 12 wishes at midnight. Some she got from the morning shows she likes to watch. We would always comment on the new rituals. Which ones we could and would like to do, but never did.

One year, when my mom was working for Mrs. Raney doing the live-in thing, my mom and I completed the following in the first couple minutes of the New Year:

Ate 12 grapes making a wish with each
Toasted with some rancid Champagne
Swept the entrance to get rid of bad/old vibes
Retrieved pennies from the potted plant with our right hand and threw them into the house

I don’t think any of this really did anything, but it was fun. After running around like maniacs, we laughed perhaps at how ridiculous it all was. Still, it was so much fun, and those couple minutes always replay in slow motion when I think of celebrating el año nuevo.


New Year

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions. They seem like another thing that if I don’t get done I will beat myself up over.

Last year, I made two: work on my writing and be a better teacher. I think I did both. Sure I haven’t had anything published on my own yet, but I’ve been working on it. In fact, I have a lot of new material that I’m working on editing and work shopping. At the start of the school year, I was an awesome teacher, and I know a lot of people believe that my jump from 6th to 7th grade is something that a great teacher does. I think I pull my load and I don’t think I’ll ever really be content because there is always more that I can do in regard to my work.

Since the cana count has been increasing, in lieu of resolutions, I’m making one of those “things to do before I croak list.”

1. Ride a horse
2. Visit the Grand Canyon
3. Spend a day on the beach on the Pacific West Coast and East Coast
4. Go to as many museums as possible in NYC
5. Take a month-long vacation in Mexico
6. Go deep sea fishing
7. Pet a snake
8. Set foot on the eastern hemisphere
9. Publish a book
10.Write a story about Gabi
11.Have the office of my dreams
12.Learn to drive a motorcycle
13.Sit in the audience of a television show
14.Create a soundtrack for my life
15.Donate to a substantial amount to a charity

That’s all I can think of right now. I think this will work better for two reasons. The first is that I love making to do lists and crossing things off. There’s nothing like being able to roll your pen over a task and at the end of the day being able to condense or throw away the whole darn thing because there’s nothing left. The other reason I think this will work is because I have longer to complete this list. Sure, I could croak at any moment, but somehow, I think I’m doing this life thing for a long time.

Enjoy the last leg of ‘07 and the birth of ‘08.


Blue Christmas

I don’t know if my mom loved to or felt like she had to create this sense of magic for me at Christmas time. She wasn’t like some parents now who refuse to allow their children to believe in Santa. My mom let me write letters to him, asked me what I wanted so she could tell him, and insisted that on Christmas Eve, Santa come to visit. The only difference is that I was allowed to interact with Santa.

Somewhere, sometime, someone had acquired a Santa suit, and I think it was Filly, my middle brother, who would always wear it. I don’t know if the suit had come with or without the beard, but it ended up missing the Christmas when I was five. So they ended up making do with a remnant piece of blue faux fur that had been used in the doll house my mom and brothers had made me for me.

I don’t know if it was the beard or that Santa was so tall and lanky and had eyes just like my brother, but that was the Christmas I knew, for sure, that there really was no Santa. Still, I pretended to believe because it was tradition. Being that at five, I already had a niece, I knew I couldn’t ruin this for her.

During my dark years*, I would dress up as Santa and go around delivering gifts for my nephews and my brother’s friends’ children. It was so much fun to see the look on their faces when they saw me. It made the itching below the beard and hat worth it.

So if it was out of obligation, love, or just tradition, my mom’s work churned out so much more than happy memories. If I were to ever have kids of my own, I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same con blue beard y todo.

Feliz navidad!


Three Snapshots of My Mom

My mom sits across from me at the Chinese restaurant in a cramped booth. She puts a cube or wobbly cherry red Jello into her mouth. She tries to push it through the gaps where her teeth used to be, but the Jello is too slick. It slides out the side of her mouth and onto the table. We laugh and laugh.


We’re home alone. My mom decides we’re going to bake a chicken. She rinses it off in the sink and rubs salt and pepper on it. “Here, hold the oven bag,” she says.

I stand there, holding the bag just like she asked. She drops the chicken into the bag and it falls through the bag onto the linoleum floor. We laugh and laugh, neither of us can stop. I imitate the chicken several times as if a chicken carcass could have fallen and landed any other way. It is forever our little inside joke.


Mrs. Raney comes in yelling at us about something we don’t understand. We sit there and listen to her. Then my mom and I just look at each other. For some reason, a song pops into my head and I start, “Y los muchachos del barrio la llamaban loca!”

Before long, we are both singing together. Mrs. Raney responds with the same crazy look we gave her and walks away.


Gabi: A Character Study

My sister smells of perfectly brewed fresh coffee and brand new books. She sounds like Arjona, Intocable, y El Trí. She looks like a mosaic with her lightning-struck hair, swimmer’s legs, mocha Frappuccino-colored skin, and chocolate chip mole. To me, she represents gall, strength, intelligence, and compassion.



Today was one of those really long days. I didn’t have an off period because I covered a class for a colleague so that she could observe her mentee and there was a meeting during my other conference period. I ate lunch quickly, so that I could get caught up with some other things during that time.

Right after school, I had a mentor meeting. We did get this really cool gift pack of some photo albums, a journal, and a box for pics and a light dinner.

After that, I went to a local intermediate school for a reading. There weren’t a lot of people there because there was a basketball game, but the audience was quite attentive. There was this one kid there who was really cool. He was taking pics for the year book, and he seemed to be really into the whole thing.

I heard once that Cisneros said at a conference that readings drained her, but for me, they do the exact opposite. It’s so invigorating to talk to people and sign their books afterward. That’s my favorite part of the whole ordeal.