Date Night and Love by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My parents had a date night. It was always on Fridays when they would go by themselves. I knew that my parents really loved each other. They would hold hands when they thought we were not watching.

What they would do on date night was to go dancing, see a Spanish movie, or visit friends from Texas. Since we are Texans living in California, I think they were homesick. We did visit Texas at least every three months for many years.  My Dad getting sick made that impossible. We could not to visit Texas as often as we had been doing.

Being sick did not stop my Dad from going on date night with my mom.  I once saw my parents dancing at a wedding. They were dancing to Spanish music. While they dancing they would lift their leg slightly at the same time. It was a great sight to see!

While my parents went out on Fridays, we were allowed to date on Saturdays. I didn’t start dating until I was 20 years old.   In our family every day had something special attached to it. On Sunday no one was allowed to go out. Sunday was a family day. We went to church then we might play baseball or all go out to a restaurant as a family.

We also might visit friends of my parents. On Sundays we did everything together. I actually hated family Sundays. Going to church was something I liked but I hated visiting my parent’s friends.

If I could turn the clock back I think I would enjoy visiting with my parent’s friends or playing baseball with my family.

When I told my husband about my parents having date night he was not surprised. He knew my parents. He knew my dad was funny and loving even to him. When I asked about his parents going out on a date night he said, “No.”

I also knew my husband’s parents. I did love them and I knew they also loved me. What I found amusing was they would raise their voices to each other. My parents never fought or raised their voices to each other or even to us.

In comparison, even one of my husband’s older sister yelled at her father.  I knew she was yelling at him to take him to a doctor. When she and her father were yelling I hid in the closet. I was not use to people yelling at each other.

In my family you get punished for what seemed like forever for even speaking rudely to an adult. We would get also get a lecture every day. Yelling at an adult was a crime in my family, even to take them to a doctor.  If they want to go to their doctor we respected their wishes.

I actually never heard of a child yelling at parents or even getting mad at them. Even when I told my husband I thought his parent did love each other very much. They did nice things for each other when no one was watching them.

I know every parent is different but you can tell the love they feel for each other by the way they treat and love their children.

 

 

 

 

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My Allowance by Jackie Villarreal Najera

When I was about 8 years old I started receiving an allowance from my Dad. I received 5 cents every payday. Now 5 cents was a lot of money when I was young. I could buy two pieces of candy for a penny. The one cent candy was not large but for 5 cents that was a lot of candy.

My dad said to us, “You can spend the money any way you want.”

Sometimes I would spend my money on pickles from a barrel, potato chips or ice cream. I didn’t buy ice cream a lot because my siblings always wanted a taste of the treat. I was left with very little ice cream.

My grandmother who we lived with, didn’t like us getting an allowance. She knew we would buy candy and other bad treats. She said that candy was bad for your teeth and too much sweet makes you fat, and can lead to diabetes and other bad things.

My dad continued to give us an allowance. He spoiled us all the time. That is not to say that we didn’t get spanked when we did wrong things. In general he really spoiled us. When we went to eat with Dad, he would let us order anything we wanted. If we only just ordered French fries and nothing else it was O.K. with him.

Dad’s philosophy was if you go out to dinner, eat what you desire. We never had to eat good food like at home with grandmother.

As I grew older Dad increased my allowance quite a lot. I started to feel bad that I was still getting an allowance when I started high school. I had to walk a long way to Roy Miller High School. I really didn’t have time to stop to buy anything. The following year I went to Carrol High school on a bus. I had less time to buy anything but Dad continued giving me an allowance.

I thought when I started college Dad would no longer give me an allowance anymore. He actually increased it even more. He would give me $20 and he would say, “Just in case.”

I’d respond, “Just in case of what?” He would always say, “You never know.”

I thought it was a strange thing to say because I had a car and Dad would fill it with gas anyway. Once I caught Dad watching me from across the street. I got home and asked him why he had been watching me. He said that because it was my first weeks at college and he was worried about me.

What could I say, that was what my dad was like. He continued to give me an allowance. I hadn’t spent the first $20 dollars that he had originally given me when he would give another $20.

I started working at a residential camp. Dad didn’t like for us to work. He said, “You need to have fun when you are young, there is plenty of time to work when you’re older.”

I told him that camping isn’t work it’s fun. He would say “are you sure it’s fun?”

“Yes Dad it’s fun.” I didn’t know that I was getting paid to have fun. I sent the money home. He came to visit me at camp to make sure I was alright. He brought me my favorite food and took me out for my birthday that summer.

My dad has been gone a long time now but being spoiled and getting an allowance, I remember.

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of the Girls by Jackie Villarreal Najera

When I was in high school my older brother John did not allow anyone to eat with me.  Whenever any of my friends tried to join me, John would scare them away.   Afterword, he would buy me sunflower seeds or dried shrimp to make up for that.

My best friend, Mary, came to eat lunch at home with me. I was showing her our piano when John walked in and yelled, “Get out!”   Mary ran out of our house in complete panic and she never came to our house again.

I use to get into a fight when John got home. He would just laugh which made me mad. I would say “I promise I will do the same to your girlfriend.”

He’d say, “Go ahead.”

I had actually already gotten even with her family. I knew that John’s girlfriend Chrissy loved her brothers. I also knew that her younger brother had a crush on me.

Every day as I walked home he would run inside to get me a glass of water. I would always say, “No thanks.” And he would always look so disappointed.

The truth was that I was not allowed to accept anything from anyone even water.

I thought John was just being weird to me but, that was not the case. We were in San Francisco on summer when a young man looked at my sister Linda. Now Linda is a pretty girl with long black hair and large eyes. The young man just turned his head and looked at Linda. John took the man aside and spoke to him. I saw the man‘s face turn red. I couldn’t understand what had just happened.

Now I am not a “shrinking violet” by any means. I also don’t have any filters either. I always thought my family was very violent, that also included me.

That is not to say my feeling don’t get hurt when people cuss at me or say awful things that I cannot respond to. That is possibly the time I cry. (I am not counting death in the family). There have been those occasions too. In general, I am not that fragile.

When I was senior in high school, my younger Frank was a freshman at the same school. Frank always said he was told by my dad to take care of the girls in the family. My dad had already been very sick about 3 years.

I told Frank that taking care of me was not necessary. In actually I should be taking of him, as his elder. I also told him there was no need because I was no longer fighting and I had matured.

He mentioned he was still going to take of me. One day Frank was hanging around in a corner of the school. I heard some of teachers saying that they were afraid to go to that corner because a scary boy hangs out there. I was very curious who that scary boy was so I went to look. It was Frank! I told Frank “Get out of the corner now!”

His response was “O.K.”

I knew Frank was looking for me and he didn’t know the teacher were afraid of him.

If people only knew what kind and pussy cats Frank and John were.  My brother Frank has died and I miss his constant trying to take care of me and my sisters.

 

“Ama Grande” by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My father’s mother was called “Ama Grande” which translate to Big Mama. Her real name was Cipriana. She was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. She moved to Summit, Illinois with my grandfather. He was a commercial shrimperwho left Corpus. He moved his family to Illinois because the shrimp he was catching started to be too small.  was a conservationist.

We used to visit with them 3 weeks a year in the summer time. Now my “Apá Grande,” or Big Daddy was very sweet and had a great smile.

My “Ama Grande,”  or grandmother on the other hand, hardly ever smiled. I didn’t know her well. I knew she did not know my name. Since I had really red hair she called me “the red hair little girl.”

When we visited my Dad’s mom we kids were not allowed to talk. We usually just sat on the couch with our legs crossed not saying anything unless Grandmother asked us a question.

We would respond as briefly as we could. It is considered bad manners to converse with an adult. Children should be seen and not heard was “Ama Grande’s” motto.

One day my cousin Lydia’s husband who worked for a Diary Company brought us coconut covered marshmallows. He stated that they were for us. My grandfather started to open the package when my grandmother walked through door.

“What are you doing?” She yelled and put the half opened package in refrigerator.

Now Dad had gone to visit his sister next door. He knew we would behave properly until he returned. When he finally did he asked us very quietly, almost at a whisper if we had eaten.  We shook our head and he said O.K. and said to his mother that we were going to visit his brother. He said to her, “We’ll see you later.” We all knew it was an excuse to take us to eat.

We told Dad about the marshmallows  Lydia’s husband had brought us, and that grandmother would not give us the treat.

He just said that was O.K. He would buy us ice cream instead. My “Apa Grande” and my father were very loving people.

Some of our cousins were also visiting. We all went outside and talked. They asked me how our visit with Grandmother was. I said it was fine.  They just laughed and then said that no one liked her. Now I was raised not to trash talk anyone, by my other grandmother. Then I finally remembered that when I was a child I got very sick. “Ama Grande” brought me some lemonade to make me feel better, so I knew she wasn’t bad.

My cousins told us because I didn’t know  that “Ama Grande” was hated by all her grandchildren. I was surprised and said that we didn’t know her that well. They said that we should ask the other cousins about our grandmother. But I knew different, because when I was young I got very sick that I couldn’t even open my eyes. My Ama Grande brought me some lemonade. She wanted me to feel    better . I didn’t tell my cousins the story because I had not remembered until after they left.

The week I was to get married my “Ama Grande” came to visit Dad. I wasn’t sure my dad had invited her to the wedding.

A couple days before my wedding, my mom decided to make tortillas and dinner for “Ama Grande.” Now my mom was not a good cook, but I was. So I cooked and mother made tortillas. Mother can make the best tortillas and she was fast.

“Ama Grande” watched Mom make the tortillas. Then she remarked “I didn’t know tortillas could be so fat.”

I could see my mother’s face and I thought she going to hit her.  Then she smiled and said, “People make different tortillas.” The tortillas were not fat but perfect.

Mother had learned how to make tortillas from her mother  Ama Abuita was a wonderful cook. She had taught me to cook.

Mother hated cooking and Grandmother would say, “If you don’t like to cook it is O.K.” Her mother said, “Just do something else.”

When “Ama Grande” came to my wedding she actually gave me some gifts. She wrote my real name.

I still cherish those gifts because she actually knew my name. I didn’t expect that.

 

The Favorite Child

I’ve written before about my Dad and that he and I were very close. I was not his favorite child and I knew that since I was young.  I was such a chicken and I was always getting lost every place I went. He always held my hand where ever we went. I never knew I was even lost though.

I got lost on a regular basis. When I got lost sometimes, Dad would find me next to an electric fan. I think he thought I was crazy.   He always told me that the girls were his favorite children. He never made me feel like I was not his favorite child, but I knew my younger sister Linda was his favorite. She was also my mom’s favorite child.

It’s funny but I was never jealous of   Linda. My parents always said that being jealous was a bad thing. My grandmother and my favorite aunt also said the same thing.    I was about four years old is when they stated to teach me to not to be jealous of anything.  They started with candy because I was very young. They ended saying that being jealous makes a lot of negative energy which is a bad omen.

I didn’t know what “omen” was but it sounded terrible! So I never wanted to be jealous just in case that was a really bad thing!

I knew that I was my grandmother’s favorite child. Even though I knew this she also didn’t want my other siblings to know this. She treated us kind of the same.    She was not like my dad who never wanted the other children to know who his favorite child was. I think that no matter how hard my parents tried, I always knew who that person was. I think our family feels that the other children don’t realize their feelings on who is the favorite child. I think they feel you might be jealous. I now know that they never realized that is not the case.

They never gave Linda something that they didn’t give me.

My grandmother did give me “under the table” things that she didn’t give the other children. She loved me because I reminded her of her family.

She told not to tell the other children. It’s funny but the other children knew that I was my grandmother’s favorite child.

I know the other siblings were not jealous of me. They were also taught that being jealous was bad omen.

I still don’t what that means!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Like Cold Weather by Jackie Villarreal Najera

I was born when my mother was 20 years old and my dad was 21. They were so young that they loved playing baseball.  My older brother and sister were old enough to play ball with them.

I was not really old enough to participate in the game. I really didn’t understand the game, and I also hated being outdoors.

The Southeast part of Texas was humid and hot. Corpus Christi is by the bay and other than swimming to cool off, it can get hot! My Texas family doesn’t think Corpus Christi   is very hot.

I always wanted to live in a place that has a cold climate that also rains a lot. My older siblings thought I was crazy. I did go to Alaska on a cruise, that is only after I got married. I wanted to live there.

Most of my family live in Texas. Apparently, many generations of my family were Texans. I’ve always known this because each generation gets told the story of our arrival to Texas. Anyway, I hate hot weather.

My parents wanted the kids to be knowledgeable about a lot of things from going to museums, to zoos, and trying different foods.

Some places we visited were great with cool weather. I   hated the hot places we visited. My dad loved to travel and took us to about 30 states by the time I was ten years old.

Dad wanted to educate us. I loved the traveling, but the zoos in some of the states smelled really bad, and they were hot also. I guess you could say they were stinking hot.

I did learn a lot, and my father was happy when he asked me what I had learned from the museums. I lied and said I loved it and gave many answers. He liked my answers.

I still wanted to live in a cold climate. The moment I decided to go live in Alaska, that was when I remembered that Corpus has really cold weather for three to four months and we also have a rainy season too.

I got homesick for Corpus Christi. Isn’t it always that way?

Stupid Me by Jackie Villarreal Najera

 I have done some things that are really stupid. One day I wanted to eat some chocolate cereal.  I don’t usually like cereal but I felt lazy so I decided to eat simple food.  A lot times my husband will put the dog food in a baggie. I didn’t know that he does that.

 We had gone to Texas to visit my family.  For the trip we took the car which usually takes about two to three days. My brother Mark made a small special suit case with things for our dog. We even we even sleep with our dog.    Mark told my husband the case had everything our dog needed, our dog’s toys, and food for our trip.   My husband didn’t listen to him and put the dog food in a baggie. When we returned from Texas he placed the dog food with the cereal on top of the refrigerator.  That is where we place our cereal.

 I didn’t know this so I put the “cereal “ in a bowl. The cereal was not sweet. It really did look like chocolate cereal. I added milk and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t sweet tasting. It turn out to be dog food! 

 I could have kept this information to myself but I have no filters so I told everyone. The whole family laughed. Mark related the dog story for a whole month.  It didn’t really bother me because I don’t get embarrassed easily. My husband always says that all my family doesn’t have any talking filters.  My husband now doesn’t have filters either. I think he has been around my family too much. I have the three brothers living in my home. None them have any filters.  My husband is really close to all of them. My husband started not having any filters also!

The next stupid thing I did was in a Japanese restaurant. I don’t like a lot of Japanese food but my husband does. We went to Camarillo, California and it was only four O’clock and all the restaurants were closed except this Japanese restaurant. I hadn’t had breakfast except for one boiled egg at seven that morning so I was very hungry.

I hate rice but I was even willing eat that. That was as how hungry I was. My husband and I were having a conversation when our food came without my noticing. When I finally saw the food and I asked for chopsticks.  I always eat with chopsticks in most restaurants.  For some unexplained reason my chopsticks flew in the air and most of our food landed on the floor. I started to laugh but the waiter came and politely said, “I was so bored I am glad to be doing something.”

   I responded without my laughing, “I‘m sorry for the mess.”

 We paid the bill and quickly got in our car and left. My husband knows me quite well. He knew that I was going to laugh uncontrollably. I was laughing so hard that it made him laugh too. I really had to say this: “Are we ever going to come back to this restaurant again?”

   I just kept laughing really knowing the answer.

 

Peaches by Jackie Villarreal Najera

I once saw a Chinese drama that was similar to a story or “cuento” my grandmother told me. Now I know that in the beginning there was land bridge between Asia and Alaska. I think the Asian people moved across to what now is North America. Since I am 50% Native American I thought the cuento was very strange.

In my grandmother’s cuento there a very good person who was going home to take of her mother. The good person was always in a good mood.  A bad person had lost her eyes.

I was never told how she lost her eye sight, at least I don’t remember. The bad person was always in bad mood.  She felt she deserved some eyes. She tricked the good person and told everyone that the good person had stolen her eyes. She took the eyes and left the good person blind.  The mother of the good girl   told her grow some peaches and ask for some eyes. The good daughter decided to grow some peaches.

The peaches grew and were so large the people were amazed at the size of the peaches. She took the peaches and started to sell them. However, she didn’t want money for the peaches. She started selling the peaches yelling “Some peaches for some eyes!”

Her peaches looked so delicious that the bad person wanted so buy them. The good daughter had refused to sell her peaches except for some eyes. The bad person wanted them so much that she gave her eyes for the giant peaches.

I don’t know where this strange story came from. My grandmother often told us stories that usually had some moral value to them except for this story. Normally my grandmother would use names when she told us stories. This reminds me of a Chinese drama I recently saw.

Thinking back, during the summer nights when she gave us watermelon and told us “Cuentos”, those were the best years of my life.

Feeling Bad about Upholstery by Jackie Villarreal Najera

I have written about my father being loving and funny. He was musically inclined and played the guitar and sang. I remember his other talents as being a great mathematician and an avid reader.

One day Dad sent for an upholstering book. The book didn’t have hardly any pictures. Dad read the manual and began upholstering our couch.

I had begun college and I had to walk home about 6 miles. When I arrived our couch was purple with white flowers. My aunt started working with my dad.

The following week our couch was bright orange. It stayed orange for about 6 months. I couldn’t remember what color our couch had been originally. When they finally changed the color of our couch it was an ugly green color.

I could not bring myself to criticize my Dad about all the ugly colors of our couch. Then I realized that he had been practicing and buying inexpensive materials. I never said anything to my dad but I felt so bad that I had bad thoughts.

I finally realized that having bad thoughts is just bad as saying them.

All the Lonely People

When I was in college at San Jose State I started meeting a lot of sad students.   The first person I met that was sad was a young student who never stop talking. I called him “the parrot.” He just kept talking, talking just like a parrot.

I told my father about this student that would not stop talking. He was giving me a headache, I did feel sorry for him though. I told him he could visit my home.  The next week he brought a case of apples from Watsonville, California.

I had no idea that he liked me. My father said a guy brought apples. I asked my father who had bought the apples? He said he seemed very shy. After daddy described the guy I said to my dad, “that’s the guy who won’t stop talking.”

The next sad person I met was from India. I gave him my address and told him we were a large family.   If he wanted to, he could visit us. It was Christmas time and I just felt sorry for him. I really didn’t think he would actually come but he did.

He came and ate with us. He continued to come to our house. He later he said he was in love with me.

My parents really liked him. He went every place with us even to flea market. He wanted to buy me a lot of things, but I declined them. I wasn’t sure what it meant in his culture to accept things he bought me.

I have always felt sorry for people who seem to need company. Even as a child I always looked out for people who just needed a fiend, even when other kids made fun of me because I was friends with kids that were not clean or just different, I didn’t care.

I think that I feel compassion toward others because my grandmother taught me never to discard people.  I still live that way.