Will you be my Diego?

After reading my friend Juan’s genius post on Do-It-Yourself Halloween Costumes (Estilo Mexicano, por supuesto!), I was reminded that I haven’t gotten a costume ready for my boys.

Looking around the house at what we already have on hand, I decided my youngest son would be a mariachi. I found a little guitar in their closet and then using a few odds and ends from Suegra’s sewing supplies, a little hot glue and pins, (because unlike Suegra, I can’t sew to save my life), I have a cute little traje de mariachi… But mariachi is not really mariachi with one lonely guitarist.

The problem is, my older son turned 12 over the summer, and I had previously told him he would no longer be trick-or-treating. I wasn’t happy to break the news to him because despite the shadow of a mustache and the fact that he’s taller than me, he is still very much a child at heart… But, because of my mariachi situation and the fact that he plays trumpet, I’m going to let him go one more year. (Honestly, I hate getting older children at my door asking for candy, but if they actually put effort into the costume and are polite, I think it should be okay.)


As for myself, I haven’t dressed up in years, but I felt inspired. After thinking about it, I decided I wanted to dress up as Frida Kahlo. The only question is, will Carlos be my Diego Rivera? So far he has refused. The conversations have gone something like this:

“I want to dress as Frida Kahlo … will you dress as Diego?”
“Who?”
“Diego Rivera.”
“Who’s that?”
“Her husband! A famous Mexican artist!”
“No way.”
“It won’t be chistoso, te juro!”
“No.”
“It’s just a normal outfit, like a suit jacket, and…”
“No.”
“Come on!”
“NO.”

…Later in the evening, I thought maybe if Carlos got a taste of my costume, he would be able to see my vision for how chévere this would be, and be convinced. So using an eyebrow pencil, I drew my eyebrows closer together and then put my hair up whimsically, before throwing on some artsy earrings and an elegant serape.

“Look!” I said, “I’m Frida!”

And then Carlos laughed and laughed until he almost cried. “You look like one of those weird old ladies from my neighborhood growing up!”

“Hey! No I don’t! I look pretty! I’m Frida!” I said, my unibrow furrowed.

Later that night as we lay in bed in the darkness, I thought maybe I could convince him to agree if he was half-asleep.

“Will you be my Diego?”
“…huh?…”
“Will you be my Diego?”
“….no. Go to sleep.”
“He’s a little fat so you’ll need a pillow under-“
“No!”

So, I don’t know if I’ll be Frida if Carlos won’t be Diego. So far, all my usual tricks to get him involved in my locuras have failed. Stay tuned!

Te Encontraré – PART V

(To read PART I, go HERE.)
(To read PART II, go HERE.)
(To read PART III, go HERE.)
(To read PART IV, go HERE.)

Te Encontraré – PART V
~El sábado me casé~

Years later, I admitted the truth to my parents, that our first son was not actually an accident after all.

But, this is how Carlos met my parents for the first time, sitting on their sofa, his head lowered, barely able to make eye contact with my father. Carlos had wanted to ask for my hand in marriage in the traditional way, but I don’t remember if he was able to actually speak. More likely, to put an end to the awkward silence and get it over with, like ripping off a band-aid, the words spilled from my mouth,

“Mom, Dad…This is Carlos. We need to talk to you… I’m …pregnant… and we want to get married… and…He…isn’t in the United States legally…”

My parents cycled through disbelief, anger, sadness – the entire grieving process in just minutes. There were a lot of tears, questions – some we could answer, (How far along are you?), others I knew not to answer, (Dammit, Tracy! What were you thinking?!) and emotions so strong I felt like I would choke on them. At this point my mother probably wished I was in that Turkish prison she always joked I’d get locked up in, at least then I’d serve my sentence and be free – but this, there was no way out of this. I had sentenced myself to life.

Some families would have turned their backs, but not mine. By the end of the evening, my parents embraced us both, encircled in their arms, they vowed to help us in any way they could, and prayed over us … prayed that God would take care of us despite our foolishness.

On a rainy chilly day in mid-January, only having known each other for 5 months, and me pregnant by 2 months, Carlos and I married in a quiet courtroom ceremony with little fanfare, surrounded by family who wished us the best, but probably feared the very worst.

Like I told you in the beginning, some of this story would be better remembered differently – it isn’t exactly fairy tale material, but we’ve been married 12 1/2 years now. We have a 12 year old son and an almost 9 year old son. We have been through hell and back multiple times – this marriage has not been easy. Sometimes we didn’t know if we would make it, but we’re still together, and in love more than I ever could have imagined…Despite the circumstances of our imperfect romance, so far, we have lived happily ever after.

El domingo la vi en misa,
el lunes le sonreí,
el martes me presentaron,
el miércoles fuí a su casa,
el jueves me declaré,
el viernes le di el anillo,
y el sábado me casé.

-Unknown

Te Encontraré – PART IV

(To read PART I, go HERE.)
(To read PART II, go HERE.)
(To read PART III, go HERE. )

This story is about to get even more telenovela-ish. Are you ready? Ándale pues…

Te Encontraré – PART IV
~Wedding Plans~

Things were going well between us. I didn’t know what the future held, but we were happy together. Then one day we learned that immigration law would soon change, making it more difficult for an undocumented immigrant to adjust their legal status – even if they married a U.S. Citizen.

Laying on the bed talking, we decided we needed to get married before the law went into effect to ensure we could stay together. It wasn’t a romantic moment. There was no surprise, no shaking hands to slide a ring onto…no ring.

Carlos reached into a drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a little box. He had shown me this box before, and I knew that it held a gold necklace which had belonged to his deceased father – Carlos did not even wear it himself for fear of losing it – it was that precious to him.

“No tengo un anillo, pero…”

He held out the open box with the necklace in it. I shook my head and told him it was okay, that I couldn’t take it, but he kept insisting. Finally, I took the box with the necklace and thanked him, but then promptly put it back into the drawer when he wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t want to lose it, and I reasoned, if we were getting married, the necklace would soon be in a drawer next to a bed we both slept in anyway.

Laying back down, we sighed and stared up at the ceiling. There was a problem. Though my parents knew I had a boyfriend named Carlos, (who they thought I was spending way too much time with), they hadn’t met him, and I certainly hadn’t told them that he was undocumented. I doubted they would give their blessing – Not because they aren’t compassionate people but because they are reasonable people. Even Carlos and I knew we were doing something crazy.

We needed to make wedding plans – and these wouldn’t be the plans that other brides get to make. We wouldn’t discuss dresses, flowers, or cakes – instead we tried to think of how we could convince my parents that our getting married was a good idea.

And so, if we hadn’t already been foolish, immature, reckless and impulsive enough, we came up with a plan. We decided an “accidental” pregnancy was needed to ensure things went our way.

Hold on,
Hold on to yourself,
for this is gonna hurt like hell.
Hold on,
Hold on to yourself,
you know that only time will tell.

-Sarah McLachlan / Hold On

___

Go Read: PART V

Te Encontraré – PART I

Some have asked me to tell more about how Carlos and I ended up together. It is an incredible story or a boring one, depending how I remember it, and how I choose to tell it on any particular day. I don’t mean to take liberty with the truth, but in the tradition of Latin American storytelling, (which perhaps has influenced me over the years), it’s understood that family histories evolve and change over time – eventually no one quite remembers what is truth and what is fiction.

In that spirit, I will tell you about how I met Mr. López.


“Mexicans are always making things up…Don’t ever believe these family legends people have. It’s like how white people like to say their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, but worse…Everyone’s family is like that. Everyone’s grandmother drank with Diego and Frida…and everyone’s grandfather rode with Pancho Villa. Everyone’s abuelo can’t have ridden with Pancho Villa, mijos. The Mexican army would have seen them coming ten miles away!”

-“Everyone’s Abuelo Can’t Have Ridden With Pancho Villa” by Andrea Saenz

Te Encontraré – PART I
~Yes, I kiss on the first date~

The summer fresh out of high school with absolutely no direction in life – That’s me, working at a music store while my friends go off to university. My parents encouraged me to go but never pushed. Maybe they were partly relieved not to take on the financial burden of student loans, and besides, things could have been worse. My mother always said she worried I’d end up in a Turkish prison. I think she just meant I had a way of getting myself into trouble.

Living in his brother’s apartment – one block away from the music store – That’s Carlos. He’s been in the United States for a year. He’s recently been given an actual bed to sleep in – before that, he slept on the floor. He makes a living cleaning windows, but some days there isn’t any work, and on those days he goes walking around the city.

One day, by chance or fate, he walked into the store where I worked. I watched him browse the Latin Music section before asking “Necesitas ayuda?” – Those are the first words I ever said to him, “Do you need help?”

Now, I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight. My husband says he knew right away that we were meant to be. I do admit, I felt something strange, like I was looking into the eyes of someone I’d known before.

He asked me in English, “How many years do you have?” which made me laugh. I asked where he was from – he said El Salvador, and I pretended to know where in the world that was, though I didn’t. It seems like in school we memorized the capitals of all the countries in South America, we studied Mexico from every imaginable angle, but Central America? … If you asked me where Central America was, I probably would have guessed Kansas.

Between blushes and glances at our shoes, he eventually asked for my phone number and left with it in his pocket.

The first time he called me was that same night. My little sister answered the phone and then yelled down the hallway that separated our bedrooms, “Tracy! I think it’s for you! It’s a guy who doesn’t speak English well!”

We arranged to meet the next day to spend the afternoon together. At this point I’d very much like to say that our courtship was chaste and innocent, but see this photo? This was taken in a photo booth that first day together. (My sincere apologies to all the other gringas for tarnishing your reputation. I couldn’t help it. He was cute.)

That night we sat in the grass, looking at the reflection of the moon in the glassy surface of a lake. Between his broken English and my basic Spanish, we somehow communicated, though not perfectly. Maybe that’s why we kissed so much. Besos don’t need translating. At one point he held me close and began to sing quietly into my ear. I didn’t understand the words back then, but now that I do, it makes me wonder if Carlos knew something I didn’t – If that day, he really did feel that he knew we were destined to be together.

“Yo te encontraré,
no habrá sitio en el mundo,
donde te escondan te hallaré.

Yo te encontraré,
porque eres mi destino,
aunque seas la aguja en el pajar
yo te encontraré.”

- Te Encontraré / Ricardo Arjona

___

(…READ PART II…)

Crush

Today I want to talk about “crushes”, and I found myself sitting for a minute, trying to think of my title options in Spanish. I know how to say “in love” and things of that nature, but a crush is not love. After a quick search, I gathered these possibilities:

Estar embobado/a con alguien – To be besotted with someone
Estar colado/a por alguien – To be cast by someone
Encaprichado/a de alguien – To be infatuated with someone
Estar prendado/a de alguien – To be smitten with someone
Tener un flechazo – To have an arrow shot
Estar pillado/a por alguien – To be caught by someone
Tener un metejón – (difficult to give a literal translation, maybe something like “To be really into”)
Estar remetido/a – To be tucked in
Estar perdido/a por alguien – To be lost for someone
Perder la chaveta por alguien – To be haywire for someone
Estar templado/a como las cuerdas de una guitarra – To be tempered as the strings of a guitar

All of these are fabulous in their own way – but none of them, for me, carry the sentido of “crush” – that silly, intoxicating feeling that makes one feel like a 10 year old girl crying into her pillow for New Kids on the Block just because she hearts them SO much. (…um, not that I know anything about that…pero, hands off Jonathan. He’s mine.)

So, why am I, (una mujer casada!), talking about crushes? Well because I have one, and what’s more, my usually macho husband, Carlos, is okay with it. No sé cómo, but for once he isn’t celoso. Maybe he has grown more secure in himself and doesn’t feel threatened by my childish locuras anymore. ¿Quién sabe?

Now I’m sure you’re wondering who my crush is. Well, he is a man with an inspiring story that came from very humble beginnings. He came to the U.S. from Mexico to work farms in California at a young age. He loved to write songs and he loved to sing. Some people told him he wasn’t good enough, but after the death of his mother who always encouraged him, he followed his dreams. You may now know him as “Espinoza Paz”.

To add to my juvenile feelings for him, él tiene frenos iguales a los que yo tenía when I was in middle school, which I find completely adorable.

The best thing about Espinoza is how shy he can be. (For all you timidos out there, some girls like that so just be yourself!)

Now that I think about it, Espinoza Paz reminds me of my husband. The ojos chinos, the mejillas adorables, the humble beginnings as an immigrant, the shyness… Wait until I tell Carlos, I think I have a crush on him, too.

“It’s just a little crush,
Not like I faint every time we touch
It’s just some little thing,
Not like everything I do,
depends on you.”

- Crush / Jennifer Paige

Okay – now you have to spill the beans. Who is your crush?

Sisters, Strangers & Starting Over

Book Review: What happens when a niece you’ve never met before shows up on your doorstep needing to be taken in, and the ensuing turmoil of painful memories of a lost sister and a life disrupted threatens to destroy your marriage?

Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over, is the second book I’ve read by Belinda Acosta. Like her first book, (Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz), Acosta’s talent is in drawing out each character’s deepest thoughts to show the motives behind their behavior, so that the reader feels immense empathy. Also, when it comes to writing about marriage, I rarely see myself and my husband in fictional characters but Acosta completely nails it.

The unapologetic Spanglish writing style she uses is a treat for English/Spanish bilinguals and the other thing I absolutely loved about this book was that the couple reflects the changing face of families today in the United States. (The husband in the story is Anglo and the wife is Latina. How many of you who married gringos can relate to having a name like “Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan”?)