Poor Frail Me

People have always seen me as helpless. I don’t know why that is the case. Now being taken care of  started  with my parents, that is a given when you have good parents. I have always lived with my parents, my grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, and four siblings. I remember writing about how Dad took extra care of me. I was a woose (sic),  afraid of the boogeyman. Later, my family did everything for me from sewing for me,  (a school project), to knitting for me. I was never allowed to do things be myself. At home I knew they loved me and just wanted to do things for me.

Now the trouble started when everyone else felt that I looked helpless. I am not a frail looking person. When people aren’t around I can actually do things by myself.  Strange people  were always trying help me cross the street or helping me up a small  embankment. I couldn’t go any place where people weren’t  trying to help me. I traveled to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica by myself. When I got there people started to help me. I couldn’t do anything without being attacked with many people invading my space. I couldn’t say no to all these people trying to help me. I thought it was rude to say “No, Thanks.”

Later on I went to Israel to excavate an ancient site called Hazor. There were about 130  different cultures who all spoke English. I did not now anyone there, also, I was one of the oldest people there.  I was in excellent health. I had started to dig and kept a low profile so I wouldn’t get people to try to help me.

Three weeks after I had been there without anyone trying to help me a strange thing happened. There were about six Spaniards  who didn’t know that I understood Spanish. As they began telling jokes, one the jokes made laugh. Right away they got very excited and asked if I understood what  they were saying. I just nodded to them. Later I told them that some people thought I spoke bad Spanish. I knew right at that moment that I should’ve kept a low profile. From that moment they began to hold my hand and helped me cross the large rocks that I had crossed by myself earlier. They held my hand  when we went  to breakfast on the excavate sight. Not only did the Spaniards help me  but a Korean man also helped me. I had wanted go to Jerusalem on the bus by myself. The Korean said he would go with me. I asked “Are also going to Jerusalem?” His response was “No, I’m escorting you.” I asked “Why?” He  said “I don’t want you to go by yourself.” He followed me and looked out for me. I really felt stupid that no one trusted me.

I am nearly 69 years old and of course  I am a senior. People still continue to try to help me. My younger brother Mark  has held my hand when I cross the street. I kept telling him that I don’t need any help. He feels that I don’t know how to cross the street alone. He brings me dinner to my room. When I tell I’ll go to the table to eat he says no. My other brother Jeff washes my clothes, he doesn’t feel I can do that. My brother Mano dries my clothes and folds them. He tells me “I will dry them.” I tried once to dry my clothes and got a lecture from my brothers.

Even when I travel far away from my siblings, there are always people that continue to stop what they are doing to help me. When my cousin’s husband died I just mentioned once that I didn’t eat meat. I really wasn’t  going to eat. I thought that I  would eat something later. As  excepted, they brought me a plate of vegetables and a large plate of fruit. I knew they bought the plate just for me.

I guess I’ll have to accept the fact that all my life people will continue to  help poor frail me.

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Chaperons

My parent were married when they were very young. My mother was fourteen years old and my dad was fifteen years old. In those days my parents getting married  so young was not very unusual, but then it kind of was.

My grandmother finished raising my mom and dad.  My mom was so young that she did not have children right away. The way I hear how they ended up getting married was horrifying by today’s standards. My parents were caught holding hands. Apparently, holding hands was so bad before marriage that they forced them to get married. My family was very conservative when it involved relationships.

When my older cousin Dolores who lived in same household since my birth, starting dating, was not allowed to date without any chaperons, her dates always had to pay for us whenever she dated. By us, I mean My sisters Linda, Gloria and me, also my brothers John and Frank.  I always went with her where ever she went.

My courtship was the same. Whenever I went any place, my siblings went with us too. At first my now husband was confused because he had never heard of using a chaperon when dating. He had read about using chaperons when dating in the 1800’s. He had not really dated much.

Some girls liked him but he was too shy to ask them out. I did not know he was shy I just started talking to him and he responded back. Everyone  that that knew him said he was very shy. Shy I told them? He never stops talking, I told them. Everyone seemed surprised.

As everyone knows, I have always been a brat. When I first met my now husband he was teaching a section in poetry at San Jose State. He had mentioned in class that everyone can write a poem. I ardently disagreed with him. After the lecture he sat down  next to me since it was next to the only empty seat.  I touched his cheek letting him know he was wrong about everybody writing poetry, and he turned bright red with embarrassment. I knew I was being bad but I didn’t care. I started to like him but I had forgotten his name. I went   to his professor and asked his name. I couldn’t remember his name for the longest time. Then I saw him again at a club we were both members of. He pulled my long hair trying to get my attention. I started to stare at him and he smiled at me. Someone called his name  and I finally remembered.

When my older sister said she liked a boy, I would go and tell him! She would really be embarrassed. I felt great embarrassing my sister. I really did feel that he should know my sister liked him. Why prolong both their agony being apart. Actually I was just being a brat.

She thought got she was getting even with me 15 years later by telling my mother that I liked a “hippy” boy. Mother was shocked. I didn’t care what she told my mother.  I was still a brat.

I went to my dad and introduced him to my dad. My dad liked him.  I remember my dad asking my boyfriend what kind of music he liked. My husband said Bob Dylan was his favorite musician. My dad mentioned one of Bob Dylan songs and said he liked him also. My boy friend, Joe, seemed surprised at my dad’s knowledge of music. I told him my  Dad played the guitar and knew a lot of music. Dad did  prefer Spanish songs.

Although my sister wanted to get back at me for embarrassing her, she forgot I don’t embarrass that easily. She also forgot that I once told her that  I always went skinny dripping at camp all the time.

Being embarrassed, I don’t think so.

 

Oatmeal!! ugh!! by Jackie Villarreal Najera

Growing up eating oatmeal everyday was the pits. I hated eating oatmeal. I hated eating breakfast so early in the morning.  I was not a breakfast person. Eating breakfast so early in the morning gave me a stomach ache.

My grandmother was a nutritionist that never went to school. She told us that oatmeal was the best food for children. She said that eating eggs when you are  young is bad for you. My older siblings were allowed to eat eggs with side dishes like potatoes or beans. I was served oatmeal and cinnamon toast.

One day I left for school without eating my oatmeal. Now I was already cooking for the family when it was my turn. We had a schedule as to who cooks and who makes tortillas. The rule of the family was you eat everything placed in front of you during dinner or they make you eat it for breakfast. Since I skipped eating my oatmeal, my aunt warmed my oatmeal for dinner. I think it was to teach me an important lesson, eating your breakfast in the morning was what was excepted of you.

That was strange because I  was  already cooking dinner for the family, but, I was  still forced to eat oatmeal for dinner. Once in while my dad would cook “eggs  in a basket”  for us.  The recipe is simple. First dad tore a small hold in the middle of a slice of bread. He and put an egg in the hole and cooked the eggs on top of the bread. He also gave us  the extra piece of bread from where he tore the bread.

My grandmother was not pleased that we ate an egg. The good thing about the relationship between my grandmother and my Dad is that it was very good. Whatever my dad did. my grandmother really felt it was alright. They were very close and no matter what Dad did grandmother never criticized him. They really loved each other. My dad felt that having oatmeal everyday was probably boring for us. That is why he would either cook us “eggs in a basket” or buy us Malt o’ Meal cereal, or Cream of Wheat. Sometimes he would buy presweetened cereal. He would only do these things once month on a Saturday, never during the week when we went to school. The only thing I was not asked to eat was anything with mayonnaise. Everyone knew I was allergic to it.

At school the teacher would have a chart where we showed her our fingernails. If our fingernails were clean we got a gold star. The teacher would then ask us who had breakfast. We had to raise our hands to show we had had breakfast. Then she would ask us what we ate. The other children said that they ate beans and some kids ate eggs and some ate nothing. When she asked me what I normally ate for breakfast, I said oatmeal and cinnamon toast.

The kids all laughed at me when I told the teacher about my breakfast. She said that it was an excellent breakfast and that she grew up the same way. I looked confused because the teacher was not from my culture. She was what we called  in those days an “Anglo.” The kids started teasing me, calling me an “Anglo.”

Recently I took a DNA test and I do have Anglo blood. I do not have a lot of it, only 12%. If only my teasing friends realized the absurdity of it. Quite honesty, I mostly have Native American blood. I guess it doesn’t matter what you really are but what your family says you are.  My grandmother said forget that foolish talk when I told her that the kids were teasing me. She said  to just forget all the stuff about culture and just eat your oatmeal.

Grandmother always knew best.

 

Thanksgiving Song by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My sister Linda had a friend named Darlene. Darlene was invited to eat with us one Thanksgiving. My family was a musical family. My Sister played the guitar. My dad played and so did my brother. My sister Brenda had a good voice. I was the one who didn’t have any talent. I once played the flute very long ago.

This is where the story gets hilarious. When Darlene came to our house she seemed very nice. After we finished eating she decided that she should thank my dad for inviting her for the holiday.

She stood up and starting singing. My dad seemed surprised and I knew he wanted to laugh because she had a terrible voice. My dad was a really great man and told her that her song was greatly appreciated.  We all agreed that her song was great. My dad had raised us to be polite all the times.

She wanted to sing something else and dad said to ahead and sing again if she wanted to. Then my sister invited her friend to go see her room instead of hearing another song. Darlene stayed all afternoon.

In those days we always had leftover turkey on Thanksgiving. Darlene made herself a turkey sandwich. She asked my brother if he wanted half of her sandwich. He responded “Sure I’ll take it.” Darlene then took the top slice of bread and gave to my brother. My brother seemed confused at half of her sandwich.

After she left we   asked my sister if she was alright. She said she was in college with her and did very well.

“Then what’s wrong with her?” We all continued asking her. She kept insisting that nothing was wrong with Darlene. She just likes to sing.

I started laughing and then the entire family also laughed. I have always have a contagious laugh. When I laugh everyone also laughs.

My dad said it wasn’t nice to laugh at someone. I told him that it wasn’t that she sang but it was that she just stood up and sang terribly. My dad just said that Darlene was a nice girl that just wanted to thank us.

“I know dad, but it just seemed very strange” I was very bad. When I started laughing again and the other family members didn’t want to laugh but they join in again. Now that I am senior I think of all the bad things I laughed at when I was younger and they are still funny.

 

Texas Fideo by Jackie Villarreal Najera

This was my Dad’s favorite recipe. It has now become one of my husband’s favorite recipes too. I am a Texan. My parents are Texans and so are my grandparents and so forth. The reason I’m telling you this information is because the following recipe is a Texas recipe. The ingredients are:

  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.
  • Fideo (vermicelli), you can also use small shell pasta, it can also work on this recipe too.
  • ¼ onion.
  • a small bell pepper, it doesn’t matter the color but I always use green.
  • 1 stalk of celery.
  • A heaping teaspoon of cumin.
  • A heaping teaspoon of garlic.
  • ¼pound of ground beef.
  • 1 can of tomato sauce or a can of tomatoes.

First you chop the celery, onion, and bell pepper into small pieces.

Second, put oil in a pan heat, and add the Fideo. Cook until lightly brown.

Then add the hamburger and brown that too. The browning of the hamburger only takes about five or so minutes.

Add the cumin and the celery, bell pepper, and onion. Add the garlic last. We don’t wasn’t to overcook the garlic because it can become bitter if it is sautéed too much.

This combination of celery, bell pepper, and onions is often called the “trio”. You can use the “trio” in all kinds of food.

Add the tomato sauce.

Let it boil at a low temperature.

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The Fideo will be done in about twenty minutes. If you want it soupy turn the stove off. When my husband wants it dryer I put a lid on the pan until is fairly dry.

I have tell you that my husband’s mother made Fideo with a little garlic too. He tells me that his mother’s recipe was good. I tasted her Fideo and it was very different from the Texas recipe. Being a Texan I could never say anything bad about anyone’s cooking, even when I don’t like it. Joe was very surprised the first time I made him Texas Fideo with spices and meat. Now he can’t imagine eating Fideo any other way.

The Best Huevos Rancheros Ever!

I don’t eat any meat anymore, but when my husband has a craving for Huevos Rancheros, I will make them for him.  This is his favorite breakfast. It is a Texas style recipe.

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Here are the main ingredients, serves four:

  • ¾ cup chopped onions
  • half a pound of bacon finely chopped
  • half cup vinegar

¼ cup chopped chilies,

  • three tortillas per person, lightly heated in oil
  • one generous tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • one generous tablespoon of cumin, (comino)
  • 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. Some of the bottled chili peppers are hotter than others. Pick your own comfort level.

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  • First, I chop bacon into small pieces, then chop the onion.
  • Cook the bacon until it is crispy.
  • And the onion, cumin and garlic.
  • Add the chili peppers and the vinegar.
  • Heat three corn tortillas with oil, then place them on a plate.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil.
  • Fry the eggs, place the eggs on a plate, and cover with the sauce.

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The Best Huevos Rancheros Ever!

The Twilight Hour by Jackie Villarreal Najera

It has always amazed me that twilight is a very sad time day for me. During the winter it’s about five thirty or so, in the summer it’s later. I do not know why I have always felt  this way, even when my loving family is around. After I got married, I mentioned the sad part twilight to my husband. I was really surprised that he felt the same way.  It got me wondering whether other people felt the same way as we do.

One thing I remember about what grandmother told me, “Being alone shouldn’t make you lonely.”

What I never understood is why at a certain of day I become so sad. I am usually not alone at twilight. I have tried to figure out why at that time day I get sad. Some of the things I tried to not to get sad that part of day is to joke around with my husband. I try not to think about feeling sad, by using the computer that is far away from the outdoors.

Nothing I do stopped me from feeling sad.  Unfortunely, nothing I do that can stop the sad part of twilight of arriving.

I do remember the first time when the sadness of  twilight began. I must been twelve years old the first time I felt this sadness.

I felt too embarrassed to tell my family about the sadness. They would probably say I was depressed. I do not get depressed. I have been a happy person and I had a great childhood and a great life also. However, now that I’m a senior in age I still get sad a twilight.

 

 

Grandmother’s Cooking by Jackie Villarreal Nájera

My grandmother said that we don’t waste food. She thought it was a sin. She was the greatest cornbread and bread maker. Sometimes if not all the cornbread was eaten, which was hardly ever, if it was close to Thanksgiving, she would use that cornbread for stuffing for the turkey.

If there was none left she would make cornbread again. I remember that she used chicken gizzards chopped very small and the chicken broth too.  I hated the chicken gizzard but the way grandmother made it was great.  Sometimes my aunt added pecan nuts or raisins. It was a tradition to exchange plates of stuffing just to see how my aunt’s stuffing tasted.

I think my grandmother really wanted to see if my aunts remembered how to make stuffing. If the recipe was different than grandmother’s, she would get mad.

Another recipe grandmother made was bread. She would make it over the stove. On really cold days hot bread was the best. I have made really good bread but it doesn’t compare to grandmothers. I have tried to make her cornbread with no success.

Like I said no food was ever wasted. If I cooked rice with hamburger, it’s a Texas recipe. I would have to come up with another way of using it if there was leftovers. Sometimes I would add more tomatoes and cheese. Sometimes my leftover recipes were not good but my family would still eat the food.

Sometimes my leftover recipes were really good, my family complemented me.  I started to learn more about what things to do with leftovers. I was about eleven years old when I started trying to make recipes with leftover food. I was never criticized about my cooking ever. My grandmother felt that if I liked cooking, everyone should encouraged me. I still love to cook.

I have three brothers and a niece who live with me. They all decided to do things around my house. Mark my younger brother does the cooking. He barely allows me the kitchen. He loves to cook too. He tells me my food isn’t any good. I remind him that he grew up with my cooking. I honestly think he just likes to cook. However, he doesn’t know how to cook leftovers.

He tries to throw the food away. I will cook the   leftovers. I taught my husband to cook leftovers too. I told him it was sin to throw food away. He then remembered that his mother also made leftovers too.

It’s funny how we grew on opposite sides of the country and we still had the same attitude.

 

Fury and the Boy Joey by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My younger brother Joey was born in our home. He was born on a Saturday morning.  We were watching a television program that had a horse named “Fury and the Boy Who Loved Him.” The boy was named Joey. Since were allowed to help name the baby, we decided to name him “Fury.” My father never said it was an inappropriate name. My father only said, “Why don’t we name him Joey after the little boy.”

We were satisfied that at least he was named after our favorite character.  Now that Joey is an adult and even a grandfather, we still tease him that he came very close to being named “Fury.” He is such an easy going brother that he just laughs.

As a child going to first grade, he was a brat. For a year and half we lived in a suburb of Chicago called Summit. When it snowed a lot we still had to walk to school. I realized it sounds like a cliché, but it is true.

One day Joey decided to sit down while walking home and decided not to not walk any farther. He just sat on the snowy sidewalk.

“Joey get up!” I told him.

“No.” he responded.

“If you don’t get up I’ll leave you here.” I told him.

He continued to say “No, No.”

“O.K. then bye.” I said and started to walk away, pretending to leave. I thought he would follow my sister Linda and me.

I was responsible for him. He knew I he couldn’t leave him there. I tried to leave him there thinking that he would follow my younger sister Linda and me. He just sat there and didn’t move an inch.

Finally Linda and I made a cradle with our hands crossing. We were so tired when we got home. Joey just laughed.

I told him “You try that again and I promise I will leave you there!” I said.

“Yea right!” He said. Actually he was right. He knew that I wouldn’t do that. I was the person that everyone knew was the responsible one.

 

No Filters by Jackie Villarreal Najera

I have no filters when I talk. I have talked about skinny dripping and politics that often embarrass people. I think I learned it from my grandmother and her best friend Maria Pantoja. They would talk about all kinds of things.

They would talk about marriage and then they would laugh. I think they were actually talking about sex. They had no filters when they talked. Sometimes they laughed at so many things that half the times I didn’t understand what they were talking about.

One time I told a teacher named Mrs. Leader that sometimes I went to bed with no pajamas on.  She seemed shocked. I was really surprised. Then I told her I’m not embarrassed because at camp I used to go skinny dripping too.  She didn’t know what to say. Her mouth was wide open in shock.  She then would say “I could never do that.” “You live alone don’t you?”

She replied, “Yes but I still couldn’t do that.”

I was really surprises at her attitude. Like I said, I discovered that I have no filters when I talk. My husband will tell me that what I just said was kind of rude. I often respond what it isn’t possible because I’m a Texan. We are always polite. So I often will go to apologize.

I was usually very shy. I learned to listen to adults talking. That’s about the time I began not feeling embarrassed about talking about anything. What is very strange is that my mother got embarrassed easily. If I asked my mother about anything even the monthly cycle her face turned red. She was nothing like my grandmother or me.

My aunt Tia Vica was not embarrassed easily either. Sometimes she needed tell me something even she when was in the bathroom. She would call me in and tell me to go and do some errand. I could talk to my aunt about anything.

These days I am shy to talk to people I’m not too familiar with like, my husband’s family. It is because I’m afraid I will embarrass my husband because I have no filters.

I also discovered that my husband has no filters when he talks to my family. He jokes with them which they don’t think his jokes are funny. I think they are. He teases our minister at church. I still laugh because I think he’s funny.

Maybe it’s because I have no filters and never have.