We’re sitting at the table, myself, Carlos and Suegra. She is telling us one of her stories – puro chisme, of course. This is what she brings back from El Salvador along with the souvenirs, suitcases full of gossip – usually about who died, who is dying, who is sick but not dying, and who got really fat.
“Recuerda la Nia Marí?” she says. Carlos nods. Yes, he remembers her.
“Tiene dos hijas,” she goes on, “y qué mujeronas!” Suegra says, “Con las panzas así!”
She extends her hands far out in front of her to show how fat they are. She tells us they look pregnant but they’re not pregnant. Then she gestures to me and says, “La Tracy no es nada!”
In previous years, this would have caused me to burst into tears, but I know she doesn’t mean it how it sounds. She isn’t the most tactful person and she probably thought she was giving me a compliment – but saying, “Those women are really fat – Tracy is nothing in comparison!” doesn’t translate well to English, does it?
To make matters worse, Suegra is force feeding me when eating is really the last thing I want to do. (Because although I didn’t cry, it did make me self conscious.) Last night she mixed up a jar of Tiste, poured a glass and forced it into my hands. “Drink it, drink it! You’ll like it!”
I don’t want to drink it-drink it. Tiste is made from corn, sugar, water and cacao, and though that combination sounds horrible, Tiste, full of carbs and sweetness, actually tastes good. I took the smallest sorbito I could, told her it was fantastic, and then handed it off to my older son when she walked away.
Other things she has tried to force feed me the past week: Semita (pineapple cake), Conserva de Coco (sugar coconut candy), and Hot Chocolate – (she had the cocoa specially milled for me in El Salvador.)
To make matters worse, Suegra bragged about how much weight she lost in El Salvador … She does this thing where she sticks her thumb in the waistband of her pants and pulls it out so we can see just how much.
Thankfully, the universe always keeps things in balance – including egos. We went to the Latino market and my favorite cashier (the one who gives me a discount), greeted Suegra enthusiastically. “Where have you been?” he said to Suegra. She beamed, for her absence was noted. “I was in El Salvador,” she said. “Ah,” the cashier responded, “Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen you in so long, but you look much fatter!”