Parties by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My grandmother felt that getting a party every year was not good. She said we would not appreciate it. The exceptions were Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. 

My brother Joey, when he was a year-old, grandmother showed him his cake. He grabbed a piece of the cake with his tiny hands and ate it. I don’t remember my first birthday cake. I suppose we all had a cake at year old.

My sweet sixteen birthday party was at Cole Park. I was very excited because there were a lot of people there. I especially liked having the college students from the University of Corpus Christi. My birthday was in the summer so none of my friends from school came. The food was great but I really didn’t care. I received lots of presents. I didn’t care about that. I honestly did not need anything.

 My Dad always bought us lots of things. I thanked everybody for coming to my party, and we went home. I didn’t think anything was better than that great party. I was sitting by the window still thinking of the great party. Suddenly I heard a guitar playing. I looked out and the man said

  “I have come to serenade you on your birthday.”

 I was surprised and very happy. I didn’t think anything could top the party but, I was wrong.  I knew my father had paid the man to do this. Then he started to sing. He sang my favorite Spanish songs. That is how I knew my Dad had done this. Only he knew all the songs I loved. It was my perfect night.

 I didn’t get another party until I was twenty-three. I was already going with my boyfriend who is now my husband of forty-two years.

This birthday was very strange. My mom insisted that I get a new dress for the party. I took my boyfriend to help me select the dress. The party started without me. When I returned, there were a least sixty people at my party. My guests were eating and having a good time.

 A friend of my mother had a son who liked me. He wanted to take me for a ride. I told him I had a boyfriend and it was my birthday party. My mom insisted that I let him take me for a ride. I didn’t want to but, mom insisted. I tried to tell mom that it was weird. I was having a party. I went with the strange boy anyway.  

There were things he wanted to show me, I ended saying “I’ve seen it.” No matter what he showed me I’d say “I have seen it.” He finally brought me home. My guests didn’t even know I was gone!

 I got home just in time to cut the cake.                                    

It was one strange birthday!



Tall Tales Maybe by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My Tia Lala once told me that she had been a Can Can dancer. I did not know whether it was true or not. When I was a young teenager she was about 75 years old. She sang very well even at her age.

 She also said that my father use to give my mother a ride on his bicycle’s handlebars. She said that my parents were married young, and Dad still rode a bike. I did know that my parents were married young. I did not know my father rode a bike.

 Another aunt told me that one of my female relatives got in a gunfight with the Texas Rangers.I asked “Please repeat that.” I must have asked her at least ten times to repeat it. I was so shocked I forgot ask her the name of the relative.

Another story was from my dad. He said his grandfather told him that his great-grandfather came from Spain. He came to the State of Colorado. He said that everyone in the family were fishermen. They thought Colorado sounded Spanish to them. They discovered that the state did not have an ocean. Then they traveled to Texas and found the ocean. He thought some of his relatives went to Mexico and others to Texas to fish. 

I really don’t know whether my aunt LaLa was telling the truth. I don’t know if aunt Lala was really a Can Can dancer. I don’t know whether a female aunt got in a gunfight with the Texas Rangers. I do know that what my dad said, he believed. My father was never in the habit of lying to me. 

My grandmother told me that my grandfather was Cherokee. Grandmother never lied to me. I don’t know if that is true. I think Grandfather probably told her that.

I have tried to look up all this in the internet. In the meantime, they are tall tales for now.


       Being Good at Something by Jackie Villarreal Najera

Albert Montez and my dad were close friends. Actually, Dad liked all the Montez boys. They were his favorite nephews. Albert and Dad liked to play the guitar and sing. I remember that Albert had a wonderful singing voice.  

My dad loved visiting his hometown in Texas. The minute Albert found out my dad was in town, Albert would go and find him. They would play the guitar for hours.

Dad had cousins that even recorded music.

 I was never musically inclined. Two of my siblings play the guitar. The rest of them can dance very well. One of my brothers danced so well that he even performed in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. I cannot dance at all. 

Like I said, I couldn’t do anything. My dad decided to give me guitar lessons, I failed at that. My dad then decided to give me tennis lessons. I failed at that. I felt very bad that I was so inept. I decided to learn to play any instrument.

 In middle school the only instrument that was left was the flute. I started to learn to play the flute. My family left the house so they could not hear me play. I must have been very bad. Only my father stayed to encourage me. His face told me that he was very proud of me. I did learn to play the flute. I wasn’t very good at reading music.

 I asked my dad if I could work at the YWCA.  I thought it would be fun to work at Day Camp. Day Camp was only three hours a day but, I was working five hours a day.

The YWCA director asked if it was alright to paint some picnic tables. I said it seemed like fun. After I finished painting it was time to go home. I had not realized that my dad had been watching me. My dad was so angry that they had ask me to paint. I said I had volunteered to paint. He thought they were taking advantage of me. I said that they were not. That everything seemed like fun to me. When I told him I was invited to residential camp.

 He asked me, “Do you really like camping?”

“Yes Dad, I’m pretty good at it.”

“OK then go for it.”

 He was happy that I had found something I was good at. I learned songs that I taught my siblings. My dad couldn’t be happier that I was finally good at something.

I ended up teaching horseback riding, canoeing, and uphill backpacking where I took the kids overnight. I even learned to cook outdoors. I came home and taught my dad a recipe where you wrap carrots, hamburger and potatoes in foil and throw into the coals. It’s called, “campers delight.” He was so ecstatic that I had showed him something, that he used it whenever he barbequed.

I know my dad was so proud that I finally became good at something. I was happy that I made my dad proud at last.

One thing about my Dad is that he felt that if I became good at something I would become a happier adult.

I did become a happy adult!
























      I hate Mayonnaise by Jackie Villarreal Najera

I hate mayonnaise. I have never tasted it but the smell makes me throw up. My brothers love it. They know I don’t allow it in my home.

 Sometimes my brothers will buy it and hide it in the refrigerator. The minute I open the fridge, I throw up. They have stopped buying mayonnaise because I always throw it away.

 My dad thought my aversion to mayonnaise was just psychological.  When I was in third grade, Dad would make my lunch. He would spread a tiny drop of mayo and a lot of mustard. Since I liked mustard, he decided it was a good way to mask the smell of mayonnaise.

At night, he would ask “Did you eat your sandwich?”

“No dad.” I responded.

“Why not?”

“It had mayonnaise.”

 My father tried one more time to put mayo in my sandwich. I told him that I had given away the sandwich. I did not want to tell him that sometimes I had thrown it away.

 My father finally stopped hiding the mayo with mustard. He knew I wasn’t eating my sandwich. I think my dad thought I’d die of hunger. He finally asked me to watch him make my sandwich.

He once tried to tease me with marshmallow cream that came in a jar. My father was very funny.

He would say, “Come and taste it.”


 He would finally admit that it was not mayonnaise.

I thought I was the only one who hates mayo. It turns out that three of my siblings also hate mayonnaise. Three nephews and three nieces also can’t eat mayo.

 My sister use to think that I influenced her family to hate mayonnaise. 
I had to remind her that I hardly see some of her children. 
Hating mayo must be a family tradition.

Getting Lost by Jackie Villarreal Najera

 One Easter Sunday when I was about six years old we went to Cole park. Every year we would go and hunt for eggs carrying our Easter baskets. My father would make a big production hiding the eggs. I was not very interested in doing that because I could never find too many eggs.

In the park was a small creek that got my attention. I was looking for tadpoles. I was so enthralled that I didn’t even know my family had already gone home. My father always counted us as we got into the car.

I guess in those days I was always daydreaming and very quiet. They forgot me. When dad found me, he looked pale and frightened.  I did not know I was lost.

My father picked me up hugging and carrying me to the car. I was surprised because usually Dad just held my hand when we walked.

The following year we came back from Chicago on a train. We were at the depot. I was fascinated with my surroundings. I was looking at the flags that were everywhere. I had been holding my father’s hand. I let go of his hand as I looked at the flags and then reached out and took what I thought was my dad’s hand.

The man whose hand I had taken was not my fathers. The man looked surprised and just laughed.  My father was in panic mode looking for me. I still did not know I was lost. I was still looking around when Dad found me. He started to get angry when suddenly he stopped and picked me up and just sighed.

 My husband tells me that that holding someone else’s hand instead of your father’s hand is common. It happened to him too. He got yelled at by his parents when he got lost.  

I’m so glad I’m a girl. Dad never yelled at me when I got lost. He always said his girls were his love and joy. He always added I love my boys too.

I knew my dad meant it because any time I cried he would give me anything I wanted. I knew that sometimes I took advantage of my dad’s love for me. After I became teenager I decided never to did that again.

My dad has been gone for a long time now. My younger brothers now give me anything I want.  My husband gives me anything I want too. Sometimes when I cry they do not know what to do.

One of my younger brother who is also gone, could never see me cry. He would often go and buy me my favorite food and other things he thought I would like.

I still cry mostly because I miss both them a lot. I really don’t care if I get anything anymore.

Isn’t that the way life goes?

   The Green Car by Jackie Villarreal Najera

One of the worst experiences I had was when my sister Linda was almost kidnapped by a man in a green car. Linda was a year younger than me.

One fall day when I was about twelve years old my mom sent me to the store. Linda came along.  The store was about half a mile from our home.

A man in a green car moved slowly following us. I noticed the car right away. The man opened his door and offered Linda a piece of candy. Linda didn’t know any better.

My sister was about to accept the treat when suddenly I grabbed her by her hand and ran. The man followed us.  I was in a panic mode running and trying to hide. Then it occurred to me that there were houses all around and I started ringing doorbells. A lady came the door and I told her our problem. She called the police. I was never so glad that there were good people in my city.

My city of Corpus Christi, Texas is really a safe place.  Despite of what happened to Linda, I was never afraid to go anywhere by myself.

 I am now old and I think back at my life as child, it was a happy time. My parents always made sure we had fun and were protected. We never had to worry about anything. Dad always said “Have fun, there’s enough time as adults when you will have to work.”

He was never so right about that!

Grandma! by Jackie Villarreal Najera


My grandmother taught me how to cook. She baked bread on top the stove instead of the oven. She made wonderful cornbread. She always said that making cornbread with sugar was almost a sin. All these things I never learned to do.

She did teach me how to cook other Texas style cooking. I remember my grandmother watching me cook. She never said anything to me, she just watched. After I finished cooking I tasted the food. The food was bland.

 My grandmother then said “You forgot the cumin.” “Granma why didn’t you tell before now?” I asked. She did not answer me.

Two days after that incident I decided to bake a cake. My grandmother was watching me again. I mixed all the ingredients and even tasted it for flavor. The cake seemed perfect to me. I put the cake in oven and when it was done I then let it cool.

I then took a knife and went around the outside of the edge of the cake pan. I took a plate and turn it upside down. The cake fell into crumbles.

Grandmother said, “You didn’t add shortening and flour to the bottom of the pan.”

I started to worry that I would never learn how to cook or bake. I was making so many mistakes. I remember that I was eleven years old when I began learning how to cook.

I am now over sixty-five years old and sometimes when I cook I never forget the cumin. I also never forget to flour the pans when I bake. Truthfully, I have never learned how to make cornbread or bread on top the stove.

Now that I think about it Grandma taught me how to cook without saying a word.

Smelly Sardines by Jackie Villarreal Nájera

My dad and I liked eating sardines at night. At least three times a week we would get up about eleven o’clock at night   and eat sardines and crackers.

The next morning after that, my mother would yell:  “You’ve been eating sardines again! You and your dad stink up the house!”

My father and I would never own up to it. We didn’t want to get yelled at again.

However, the next night we would do it all over again.

We loved sardines.

Getting yelled at by Mother was expected. She hated sardines in general and fish in particular. She hated those times when Dad fried fish.

Once Dad and I ate fried fish every day for a month. It drove my mother crazy.

Since Mother hated the smell of fried fish so we went back to eating sardines.

“You are at it again, eating those stinky sardines!”

How did she know since we threw the sardine can in the garbage outside?

Dad decided not to buy sardines for a while. Since I receive a generous allowance from him I decided to buy some sardines.

I was eating sardines at night  when my dad suddenly showed up.  The temptation was too great for him and he sat down and joined me.

“Mom is going to yell at us.” I said.

“I know.” Responded my dad.

I have become much older now. I have become a  pescatarian . All that means is while I don’t eat beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. I will eat fish, especially sardines.

I never thought I was very much like my mother but I guess I was wrong. These days when my brothers make spare ribs or any other meat, I will usually yell:

“It stinks!” and I  run to my room  and close the door.

The Last Laugh by Jackie Villarreal Nájera

 My brothers think it’s funny to constantly tickle me. I have three brothers living in my home. They are Jeffrey, Mark and Mano.  I am the oldest in the family. My family is actually a lot fun, sometimes but the constant tickling can get old.

“Stop!”  Usually means to them that I want more tickles. I have told them “I’m your older sister, so stop!” All it means to them is more tickle attacks.

 I tell Mano. “You are the baby so stop tickling your big sister.”

 His response as usual is, “Yea right.”

 One of the worse things that my brother Mark does is wait until I’m busy and he sneaks up on me and kisses me on my neck. He knows my tickle spot and it makes me jump.

He teases, “So you want be kissed?”

He sometimes jumps on my bed or gets in front of the TV.  If I tell him to get away he stays longer. The way I get back at Mark is to threaten him by saying “panties” or saying “I like skinny dipping.” He runs into his room with his hands covering his ears and yelling, “LALALA! I can’t hear you!”

I can also get back at Mark by laughing at my husband’s silly jokes. He hates that, especially when they are not funny.

Jeff has not recently jumped on my bed. That is just because he had several knee and foot surgeries.

Mano also loves to tease Jeff and me.  He makes fun of the way we walk. Actually, Mano teases everyone about their walking.  Mano is a little different with me. He waits until I’m drinking coffee and then he attacks.

He comes and starts tickling me and kissing me until my coffee is all over the table and then he laughs. He also loves to make slurping sounds when I drink water. He has sounds for everything I do. The way I get back at Mano is by sucking my thumb imitating the way he sleeps. He hates that.

  A friend once said to me “I would love to have brothers.” 

“You’re kidding of course.” I say.  “You don’t know what it’s like to be constantly attacked every day. I can’t even drink coffee in peace. I’m always afraid they are behind me ready to attack.”

“It sounds like you have a fun family.”

“Sometimes it is.” I say.   “Sometimes I can even get back at them.

I do love my brothers very much, they mean everything to me.

The way the boys tease me is kind of the way I teased and attacked my Uncle Manuel during our “war.”  You can read about that here: (

I guess everything that goes around comes around.

Karma! Who knew?


Living in a Small Town by Jackie Villarreal Nájera

 In 1977 I was working at the Rural Health Center in King City, CA as a class director for home health aides.

 My schedule would start at 9 a.m.  The reason I mention this is because of the incidents that happened that year. 

I always took a shower before going to work, then I would put on my robe and go outside to pick up the newspaper. One day as I went outside, I got locked out of the house. I went next door and called my husband to come open the door. He was teaching school at the time.  He had to tell the principal my situation. He mentioned that I was naked. I had told him that I only had my robe on.

Small towns are strange. By the time I got to work, everyone already knew that I was locked outside naked. There was nobody in town that didn’t know.

“You were naked outside your apartment.” Was followed by chuckles.

“No, I had a robe on.”

 “You were naked” They insisted.

 My reputation spread quickly. I would go to a restaurant and people would laugh. “That girl was naked.” They would say. I whispered to my husband that I didn’t even know those people.

King City was really a friendly place. In most restaurants if something was not a menu, you could get it anyways.  Some people still laughed when they saw me. I’d always knew it was about my nakedness.               

“Anything for that crazy naked girl.” They teased even after six months had gone by.

Then there was an incident which put my husband Joseph in a bad light. We were going to work, and as habit I would lean on the door of our Scout truck. When he stopped the truck, he went to the passenger’s side to open my door. I must have been daydreaming because when he opened the door that time I fell out. I landed on my buttocks not really hurting myself. This happened on Broadway, the main street in Old King City.

The rumors started again.  My husband was abusing me. No matter what I said, everyone in town was very sympathetic. “Poor me they would say, her husband abuses her.” Sometimes they added, probably because she was naked that time.

Knowing everything about our lives in a small town was sometimes irritating. There are times when it turns out all right.

Every year we went to the county fair. One year I registered in a raffle with only my first name. Next day, I received a notice to come pick up my prize. I went to tell them it was mistake.

The county fair people said, “You’re Jackie, right?”

“Well, yes” I responded.

“Here is your prize”.

When I told Joseph that I won a prize. He was pleased. I explained that I had only put my first name and forgot to put my last name.

 He said “That’s strange”.

Then is when we realized we really did live in a small town.