My brother Mark by Jackie Villarreal Najera

      My brother Mark is a lot younger than me. I don’t remember all of his mid- teen years but I do recall some weird incidents.

   Once when I was taking the grocery bags inside the house, Mark was only five and he was standing behind the door. He just stared at me. Chills came over me.  I felt like he was like one of the children in the movie “Children of the Damned.”

   The next thing I remember about Mark as he was growing up. I really never really paid too much attention to him unless it impacted my life.

   Now the next incident had to do with my other brother Jeff. Jeff made a bow and some arrows. I do remember hearing my father say to Jeff, “Don’t make a bow and arrows, you’re going to hit someone in the eye.”  Jeff took my father’s warning as just a suggestion. He kept shooting at Mark as he hid behind the sofa like the turkey shoot Gary Cooper did in the movie “Sargent York.” The arrows kept coming as he hid and every so often Mark would stick his head out. Then finally he was hit in his eye.  My dad took him to the hospital and to this day he has a scar in his pupil.

  Although Mark lives with me now and is very helpful and silly as an adult. He used to drive me crazy as teenager. He used to dance instead of walk. Every place he went he would dance. It was so embarrassing. Dad would say, “Leave him alone, he will get over it.” Just like he said, did get over it, about five years later.

   I guess dancing was better than when he was in Kinder when the teacher taught him rhyming. For a whole year he could not talk without rhyming every sentence. That drove me nuts.

   Dad would say, “he will get over it.” 

He did get over it.

   Mark does have a photogenetic memory. As little boy, I would read him a story and he wanted more stories. I finally sent him to bed and then I heard him repeat the entire three books that I had read to him. He didn’t miss a word. He is the same way now as an adult.

  Now that I think about it, He probably had to put up a lot from me.

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  The haircut by Jackie Villarreal Nájera

    When I was fifteen years old I used to love cutting hair. I didn’t want to do it as a profession but just for fun.

   One summer day my sister Linda asked me to cut her hair and give her bangs. Now I was never very good at anything. I decided to try and cut her hair.

   Her hair was long and very straight. The first time I cut her bangs she said, “It’s too long.”

   I continued cutting until her bangs were sticking out because I had cut it too short. 

   I then started to laugh and I couldn’t stop laughing. She looked in the mirror and was horrified at the extra short bangs and started to yell at me.

   When I finally stopped laughing I told her, “Your hair will grow back.”

   The next person to ask me to cut their hair was my brother Joey. Now my brother had red hair. I thought I was doing a good job when all of sudden I noticed that he had a bald spot in the back of his hair near his neck. In trying to overcompensate for my mistake I only made it worse.

   I then started to laugh. My family has always known that the minute I start to laugh something is wrong. Joey is very much like my dad, all he said was, “Its o.k. it will grow back.”

   Linda had walked through the door as I was cutting his hair. She started to say,      

   “I would not let . . .” 

   And she stopped when I started to laugh and I couldn’t stop laughing and she knew I had screwed up.

   The next victim was my husband Joseph. The good thing about my husband is his hair only grows long in the back. I also cut his hair. I cut his hair a couple of times.

   He finally said, “I think I will go to a barber.” I didn’t laugh but I really wanted to. If I laugh at my husband he gets even by pretended to tickle me.

   There is no part of my body that does not tickle. He always pretends to tickle me and I laugh. He knows that always works.

  My brothers all know that I don’t have any skills at cutting hair. Sometimes when one of my brothers need a haircut I volunteer to cut their hair.

   Most of the time they say,

    “When pigs fly.”

I Can See the Dolls are Dancing by Jackie Villarreal Najera

   When I was young, Mother use to say to me that the milkman was my father. That was because he had red hair. I knew that my mother was just teasing me.    At that time, I was the only one in the family with red hair. That was until my other red headed siblings were born. 

   At first, they were not sure my other siblings really had red hair. I was born bald until I was almost four years old.  I only had red fuzz. My other three red head siblings were also born bald.  The other nine siblings had black hair and were born with some hair on their head at birth.

   When my younger sister Brenda was about sixteen years old  she once over heard something she misunderstood. My sister Linda and I were talking about adoptions. I had not realized that Brenda had been listening to us. We do have an adoptive child. It was not her. Now knowing that all four of us have red hair she thought she was adopted.

   She ran away from home thinking that she was adopted. She ended living with a Mexican family who really did not like her. They told her she couldn’t even speak Spanish. She sang songs in Spanish but she didn’t know what they were about. The people took off to Mexico during the night and left her behind. Which was probably a good thing because we don’t know anyone in Mexico.

   I felt angry at her for being stupid and also felt sad for her. I tried to tell her how her being adopted was crazy. I told her “If you are adopted so are Frank, Joey and me. So, think about it.” I said.

   “Oh, yeah.” She said.

   I told her, “If you have any questions just ask and don’t assume anything.”

   When Brenda was about eighteen years old I told her a story. I told  her my grandmother had once said to us, “Put your dolls away before going to bed or they will come alive at midnight.” Now I  remember that I told her that  Grandmother had said that before we go bed do not play with our dolls at night.

  One night she came to my bed at midnight scared out of her wits. She said “I saw my dolls dancing around.” 

   I said “Dolls don’t dance around. Besides you don’t play with dolls.”

   “I did see them dancing around!”

   “You were probably just dreaming because of the story I told you.” I said.  

  “Listen!” I told her. “Grandmother only told us that story so we would not play late at night. She wanted us to be rested for school.” To this day she believes that dolls dance at night. No matter what I say to her, she doesn’t believe me about how silly it is to think about the dancing dolls. I think next time I’ll tell about vampires and how they really exist.

   I can’t help it. I am really bad.

 

 

 

 

 

Poems to Jackie by Jackie Villarreal Najera

When I was in middle school a boy name Kiko sent me poems. My mother read them because she thought they were cute. She asked me why he had sent it to me. I told her I didn’t know. I continued to receive his poetry once a week. Mother continued reading the poems and he always ended with the words: “I love you.” I think my mom always thought my  sister Linda should be receiving the poems but not me. I didn’t care because I was too young for love anyway.

When I started high school, I received poetry from a guy name Edmund De Orca. I remember his name because it was a strange name. I received many poems from him. He didn’t say he loved me. He said he liked me and that I gave him inspiration so all his poetry was for me. Later he said that he actually loved me and that creeped me out. I didn’t want to hurt his feeling so I said nothing.

After I started San Jose State University there a young man who was teaching a section of a semester in poetry. He said everyone can write a poem. I disagreed with him. Since there were no seats except next to me, I touched his cheek to say to him: “You were wrong about writing poetry.”

 He turned bright red with embarrassment. I thought it was so cute that I asked the professor what was the name of his graduate student? He said his name was Joseph. I kept forgetting his name. One day we saw each other at a school club. He kept pulling my long hair. We started talking and we became friends. Then we dated and then after a few years we married. He then wrote some poetry that got published. I gave him a party to celebrate. I once asked him to write a poem for me. All he came with was: “Time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana.”

He wrote it in a paper heart which I keep in a special place. Once in a while I run into the silly rhyme. I keep it because he wrote it for me.

   I really do like poetry like Robert Frost. I never wanted to tell him my secret. Since I told him that I hated poetry. I guess it’s not a secret anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boyfriends by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My Older sister Gloria had a friend named Gilbert who was in love with her. She only liked him as a friend. She hardly ever spoke to him.  One day he came to our home to see Gloria. She was not home. I started talking to him and discovered that we had a lot in common. Now I did not like him as a boyfriend but he was just as nice person.
Then Gilbert asked me to the homecoming game. Since my parents and my grandmother knew his entire family, they said I could go.  Now tradition at the homecoming is that we receive a large mum flower with initials of the school and some school ribbons attached.  I honestly thought I would never get one.
Gilbert got a mum for me. I was so excited to receive that flower. After that Gilbert invited me to a party. I was just sixteen years old and I was not allowed to date. My parents didn’t consider this a date. They felt that I was just going out with a friend of the family.
The last thing Gilbert did for me before going into the Army was to go to Mexico. He got me a jewelry box.  Now my sister Gloria did not have romantic feelings for Gilbert but for some reason she got really angry at me. She said Gilbert was her friend and not mine. She was also so angry that he had bought me a gift and did not remember her.
I know she did not care about my gift but she did care that he had forgotten about her.
I didn’t want to tell that Gilbert was still in love with her. Those feelings would have made her very made uneasy. So, I never told her.
Now Ernest had a crush on my sister Linda. Linda did not like Ernest. He would come over our home to see Linda. She thought of him as friend.   I decided to befriend Ernest. He was about a year younger than me but was a nice person. We became best friends. Linda didn’t really care about Ernest. The minute that he stopped talking to her, upset her.
I was taking her friend away. I know Ernest still liked Linda but he gave up on her and we continued our friendship. We even went to camp together.  Once a girl name Ruth decided she really liked Ernest. Since he and I were only best friends, I told him a girl liked him. He asked Who likes me?”  I responded “Ruth likes you.” He immediately swooped out the window and said “I’ll see you later.” I continued to be his friend until they moved away.
My sister Linda is real pretty. She has large eyes and long black hair. She knew she was pretty because people always said that about her. She also was a social butterfly. I in turn was shy and loved to cook so I often stayed in the kitchen.
One day I took a job with a friend of Linda named Scott. I think Linda liked Scott. Now I really worked hard helping him with his printing business. In return he took me to dinner and bought me food for lunch. We often ate together.                                                      Linda worked a few doors away and came to with Scott.  He didn’t understand why she kept coming over. I was too embarrassed to say that she liked him. Scott continued to take me to a lot places. He talked about his family and his ex-girlfriend. I listened to all he said and we became good friends instead of employee and employer.
Looking back at my friendship with guys who liked my sisters I might have asked Gloria and Linda first if it was alright to be friends with them.
I guess you really can’t take things back.

Infamous Wedding by Jackie Villarreal Najera

In our family before you married someone there was an investigation of that person.  If it revealed something negative you, most likely were told you should  not marry that person. That was the culture I grew in.

I had grown up with Dolores.  I always thought of her as my sister.    We lived in same house since my birth. It was hard not to think of her as my sibling.   She was technically a first cousin. I always thought her mother, my aunt as my mother too.  Dolores, my sister Gloria, and I were always cleaning the house together. We always did all the work together.

Now, on the day of Dolores’ wedding we were told not to help her clean the house. Dolores had decided to get married in our home. She cleaned the house by herself. I really felt sorry for her. I wanted to help her clean the house. Our home was never dirty.  I knew she wanted to have everything perfect though. She also wanted to decorated the house for the wedding.

That infamous day Dolores waxed the floors.  That was not unusual, she often waxed the floors on Saturdays. This time though, she was getting ready for her wedding. She looked real tired, but excited.  We were told if we helped her we would be punished. 

Now the marriage of my cousin Dolores was very funny and kind of sad.

It started when Dolores decided to marry Paul. Paul didn’t have a father living in his home. To my family it was a red flag. There were other problems. I think it was revealed that he had been married before. That was a really big deal to my aunt.

My father told my aunt, “There is nothing you can do. She is going to get married anyway.”

My aunt was in the back room crying as my mother put alcohol on her neck to calm her down.

As my dad lead Dolores, down toward the minister, suddenly all hell broke loose. The ambulance was called for my aunt. Dolores was upset her wedding had been ruined.

I had been looking in the window trying see my sister get married. Once in while I’d go to see how my Tia Vika was doing. Being younger than Dolores by about eight years, I thought I should comfort her because she was so upset her mother had ruined the most important day of her life.

Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could say to her to comfort her. Especially since I did not stand up to my mother and my aunt to help Dolores.

In my family, you never questioned mother’s or my aunt’s decisions. I really couldn’t help then. I look back and think I should have helped.

My father did help Dolores but he would not have liked my being disobedient toward my mother and my aunt.

Dolores and I are still very close to each other. She is still married to Paul fifty plus years later, and for many years my aunt lived with Dolores and Paul.

It’s funny now. She finally accepted Paul. She adored her grandchildren.

My aunt is now gone. Dolores was very sad after she lost her mother.  

She does not care any more about her funny and sad wedding.

The Healers by Jackie Villarreal Najera

 My grandfather was a carpenter. He was also a healer. People would come to be massaged and get herbs from him. He never took any payment for his services.  People would bring their babies to get healed and then get blessed by him. When my grandfather died people would still bring their babies and others to get healed.

My grandmother had learned a lot from my grandfather. She turned out to be better at healing than him. People were always coming to our home. I kind of resented those intrusions. Grandmother told people that unless it was an emergency, to come on Saturday or Sunday.

I knew the reason she had done that. She worked eight hour a day. People still came during the week though. She never turned anyone away.

 After work grandmother would ask me to massage her feet with lotion. She would only ask me. She would say, “You have your grandfather’s special hands. You know exactly where I hurt. It is just a gift. Your grandfather would be so proud of you.”  Everyone in my family wanted to be massaged by me.

These days I massage my husband when he complains about being sore or when he has a headache. Sometime he is amazed when I rub his feet and he feels better all over. As always, he is amazed that I can tell exactly where to massage him.

I once had to tell him I have my grandfather’s hands and that my fingers just can tell where he hurt.

These days my fingers hurt from arthritis. I still do not refuse when my husband needs a massage. It’s a family tradition.

Easter Baskets by Jackie Villarreal Najera

   The Easter baskets that we would often receive were a regular size and always had our names written on the boiled eggs. We also had a large chocolate rabbit and jelly beans. I always loved my Easter basket.

   Every Easter Sunday, my cousins would show up with the largest Easter baskets that I had ever seen. My cousins would brag about how big their baskets were. They teased us about how regular our baskets were all Easter Sunday.

   One Easter Sunday I finally realized that my father put a lot of work in making up the baskets. He always wanted for us to believe that the Easter Bunny had left the baskets. I didn’t want to tell my dad that I had stopped believing in the Easter Bunny when I six years old. I always played along with my dad because I dearly loved him.

   That same Easter Sunday, as my cousins started to open their baskets, they noticed that our basket had our names on the eggs. They asked me how that had happened?  I was always very bad as a child so I responded, “The Easter bunny just likes us better.”

   For the first time, I noticed that my cousins were actually jealous of us.  My dad had been listening to me and was laughing.

   He then said to me “It’s not nice to make other people feel bad.” I understood what he meant but it was a lot of fun teasing my cousins.

   The following Easter Sunday my cousins still had large Easter baskets but that year they did not brag about their baskets. I actually felt sorry for my cousins. It turns out that their father worked all the time and didn’t have time for them.

Dog Lovers by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My family are all dog lovers. When my brother John was young he had a dog name Brownie. The dog was his love.  Brownie had a bad habit of chasing cars. John was too young to train his dog. One day Brownie was hit by a car and died. My brother cried and I saw Dad cry too. He then told John “No more dogs.” Dad couldn’t stand to see John so upset. 

After John was a teenager we moved to a different house that  was only temporary. Our permanent  home was always with grandma. During that time John collected dogs and fenced them in an empty lot.  Dad found out and said, “Let them go!”

John could not be discouraged from his mission of getting a dog. One day he showed up with a Samoyed. I don’t remember where he got a dog that had so much fur. The part of Texas that we are from has five months of humid hot weather. The dog was probably very uncomfortable. He named the new dog Roxie.  

My dad really liked dogs also. When I was in my twenties my father had a dog name Lady. She was very docile. Our dog liked to visit our neighbors. She would get treats from almost every one. 

One neighbor hated  Lady and claimed she bit him. Our dog was taken away. The lying neighbor just smiled as our dog was taken away.  

I decided to get even with the jerk. I rang his doorbell at three in the morning. I left poop in his doorway. I found out his number and called him often. He called the police and accused us of harassment. He had no proof of anything. I just laughed. After dad found out what I was doing, he told me “You can’t be doing bad things to other people.” So, I stopped.

That man moved away after that but I knew his name and I decided to continue the harassment in secret. 

Now that I’m old I think back at all the rotten things I did.  I guess some of us take a lifetime to learn.

My Brother Frankie by Jackie Villarreal Najera

 My brother Frankie and I were close from the very beginning. He was three years younger than me. I can even remember the day he was born in our home. He was hyperactive and had to take medicine for that problem. He was even a sleep walker.  

He was calm with me though. As children, Frankie and I had many freckles. We used to play “Dot to Dot”  with them.  There were times when we tried to draw pictures with our freckles. Mom would try to remove our pictures because we always drew them with a pen.

One  day when Frankie was five years he walked across the street by himself. Mom asked me where Frankie was? We looked for Frankie all over the house. Frankie was no where to be found. The nieghborhood  store  sent a note telling us Frankie was there. I was sent there to bring Frankie home.  I lectured Frankie about  crossing street by himself. 

He responded”I know about watching for cars”

   The following day Ernest  asked my mother to let Frankie work at the store Ernest thought Frankie was cute and gave him a job. Frankie swept the floors at the store. I was very surprised because Frankie was too young to even  do things around our home.

   Ernest asked him, “What salary do you want?” Frankie then said he wanted Juicy Fruit Gum for his Mother.  Ernest then said that was fine but, he was also going to give all the broken cookies to him from the cookie barrel. There were a lot of broken cookies and  mother didn’t care, she had the broken cookies with her coffee.  

     Once Frankie was helping my dad paint the house. Frankie was sensitive to the paint. My father did have  the windows open, but Frankie started to react to the paint fumes. They rushed him to the hospital. The doctor said that because of his medication, he shouldn’t be around any strong odor.  I remember that he wasn’t actually helping dad paint. Dad had given Frankie a little brush just to keep him busy. 

   Frankie was always trying to help. As an adult Frankie was always buying me a lot of  things. A few years ago, he knew I liked antiques so he worked for a lady that instead of payment he said he preferred her antique dresser. She said he worked too hard just for the dresser. He said it was fine with him and that he just wanted the dresser. He gave me that dresser for my birthday.

Once I said to Frankie that my orange carpet was ugly. He immediately removed it and then said, “Now buy something you like.”

He was very generous with me.  When my dog died I couldn’t stop crying, so Frankie didn’t know what to do. He went to the store and bought me my favorite food then cooked it. I felt so bad that he was trying so hard to comfort me.

He then took me to the Orchard Supply Store and bought me things for my bathroom. He did all this so I would not cry about my dog. 

When I think about my brother who is no longer with me. I get really sad because I never really did anything for him.