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.