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.






Thanksgiving Dishes Every Day by Jackie Villarreal Najera

Before I got married I told my boyfriend that I hated washing dishes.  My mother had five children when I was in high school and college. I had already grown up with five siblings. We were years apart except Linda and I were a year apart. I was also the cook for my family. It felt like I was cooking for Thanksgiving every day. Some days I cooked and washed dishes. I was not a happy camper!

When my boyfriend asked me to marry him I told him there two conditions. The first condition was that I would no longer wash dishes. He said he would the wash dishes in my place. The second condition was that I would heat my cold feet on his warm back. I always had cold feet. I guess he really wanted to marry me because he agreed with those two conditions.

One day quite unexpectly my mother-in-law came to visit. My husband per our agreement was washing the dishes. She looked shocked at the sight of her son washing dishes. My husband was the youngest in his family of four. His mom considered him her baby. She took over and washed our dishes. I was so embarrassed with her washing our dishes. I remember looking at my husband giving him the evil eye. He didn’t explain to her that he wanted to do them.

Today after being married for almost forty three years I still remind him every chance I get to do the dishes. He ended up buying a dish washer. When it broke down he bought a second one.

Today I sometimes wash them. Since in my home I have three brothers who live with me and also a niece.  My brother Jeff does the washing of all the family’s clothes and my younger brother Mano does all the drying and folding of all the clothes. No one else can wash or dry clothes but the two of them. My brother Mark cooks and even will wash dishes. My niece makes the best coffee.

It still feels like Thanksgiving every day when we do the dishes. I should be thankful that my brothers who gave me so much trouble as children now do everything I did for them. Do they remember all that I did for them? No! There’s no chance of that!



The Best Gift Ever   by Jackie Villarreal Najera

Every Christmas was special when we were children and we stringed popcorn. We were always told that they were going to put the popcorn on the tree. The adults would trim the tree with very delicate ornaments. Since I could read fairly young, I saw that the ornaments were from East Germany.

The next day after the adults trimmed the tree they said to us “the popcorn dried out so we couldn’t put it on the tree.” We believed them because we knew they would they never lie to us.

At Christmas no matter what I asked for I would get it. One year I asked for roller skates. My mother said to me, “No roller skates because you will hurt yourself.”

Then grandma said the same thing. She added, “You might fall and hurt your womanhood.” Grandma was not shy about saying those things but I’m too embarrassed to repeat what she actually said. Even now at my being a senior I still can’t repeat what she said to me. Tia Vica never said much about how she felt about my wanting roller skates.

When Christmas Day came I first opened my stocking which had ribbon candy and different nuts and giant apples and oranges. The reason that our stockings very so great was in Texas in those days we didn’t have giant fruit on regular basis.

I didn’t expect my Santa’s gift to be very special. I thought I was going to get a doll. I knew that if I got a doll it would very pretty. I didn’t want a doll I wanted roller skates.

My dad kept saying, “Go open Santa’s gift.” Dad was so excited and I didn’t want to disappoint him so I went to open my gift. I was going to say to Dad, “Thank you for the doll it is beautiful!”

To my surprise they were the skates I wanted. My dad had the biggest grin on his face. There was nothing anyone could do since Santa had brought me skates.

For the whole year I skated and skated. Since that Christmas I haven’t asked for anything else.  I have gotten many presents since then but nothing could ever be as wonderful as my skates.

Now that I’m a senior I have gotten hundreds of gifts. My family has been very loving and kind giving me gifts. I do thank them but if I never received another gift for my entire life it’s fine. I got my roller skates.

Tia Vica by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My aunt, Tia Vica as I called her, was a very hard working person. She told me that she only went to school to the second grade. She said she didn’t know how to read or write. She told me that her first job was as a babysitter for some children. She said the lady was very nice. The lady taught her to read and write.

Later in her life she worked at a hospital with the babies. She also learned a lot of names of drugs. I always knew she was very intelligent.

Now the reason I thought Tia Vica was intelligent was because she always knew how far she could go to punish us.

As children   we would fight and call each other names like pig, dumb or the worst word was stupid. When we called each those names which was considered bad language, we would see Tia Vica’s wrath. She would light a match and say, “Shall I burn your bad language away?”

Now quite honestly she never did nor did we believe she ever would use that match. She was only trying to make a point. After she did that we were very ashamed of our behavior.

Once she threaten to wash out our mouth with soap if we continued to use bad language. She never did that either but that seemed like that was possibly a real threat. I tried not to get caught using the three bad words.

Tia Vica was also a warm loving aunt. She didn’t want me to learn to sew because she did all our sewing and she kept saying, “It’s bad for eyes, mijita.” (that word just means a loving name our family would call us)

“I will do it.” She’d say, “And any other things you want me to sew.”

For a long time I believed she was another mother. I really thought her name was Tia Vica. It wasn’t until I learned about relatives in the first grade that I learned she was really my aunt. Living the same house I never doubted that she was another mother. She never saw me as a niece. She never punished me.

I remember once when I was in seventh grade I climb a fence at school. I got suspended for three hours. Tia Vica was the only person home at the time. She asked why I was home so early from school. I told her the truth.   “I was always late for band,” I said, “because my locker was too far away and I needed my band books.”

I was sure she would tell my parents but she never did. All she said was “It happens.” I always loved her but that day I realized she would always be on my side.

My aunt has been gone a while now. I miss her a lot. I have tried to bake her famous buttermilk pies and her baked apples but quite honestly I don’t like apples. I would eat them because she liked them. Tia Vica was a really good aunt and I loved her very much.




The Thanksgiving Goose by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My cousin Dolores told me a story about a particularly poor Thanksgiving. She and I were raised in the same household.  She said that at that time no one in the family had a job. Since I was very young I don’t remember this Thanksgiving. By the time I remember Thanksgiving dinners everyone in the family had a job. 

My parents, my grandmother and my aunt never told us anything bad so we wouldn’t worry. She told me that because the family was so broke at that time we didn’t have Thanksgiving food.  A friend of the family who was called “Maestro” gave us a goose for our dinner. The other dinner items were also brought over by him. I guess he also brought the things to dress the goose.  

Like I said I too young to remember this. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had been old enough to remember the goose for Thanksgiving. My family probably would have said “We are having something different and exciting for our Thanksgiving.” I would have believed them. I always believed whatever the family told me. 

By the time I do remember our Thanksgivings we had a turkey, and grandmother would make wonderful stuffing and all the regular fixings.  

As a child we ate our Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen on big tubs that were used for flour and other kinds of tubs. We were not allowed on the   regular table until we could eat without making a mess on the floor or until you were a least eight and mature. I didn’t get to the big table until I was eight and half. I guess I was a real pig when eating. 

Our Thanksgivings were great. We were not allowed to help. We were sent outdoors to play. We played swords using wooden sticks getting on each other’s back. We were always trying to knock each other off. We played and played until we were called to eat. As much as we ate we had so much leftover turkey that we ate turkey all week long. 

 As an adult at Thanksgiving I still have a lot of fun.  I still don’t cook. In my forty-two years of marriage I have never cooked a turkey. My younger brother Mark does all cooking. He says, “You want to help? Stay out of the kitchen, go do something.”   

My husband and I go out for breakfast.  We play games or sometimes watch Korean dramas. It   often reminds me of our wonderful Thanksgivings growing up.



different Cooks   by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My family, back in the late 1950’s, had six women and two men a  brother and my father. There was my grandmother, an aunt, my  mother a cousin, an older sister a younger sister, and me. All these women in our home were all different cooks.

My grandmother was good at making great cornbread and regular bread on top the stove. It seemed as though she was once a pioneer.

My aunt only baked buttermilk pies for Thanksgiving and baked apples during the year

my mom hardly ever cooked.

My oldest cousin cooked beans,  rice and things she learned in homemaking.

My oldest sister always only cooked potatoes with beef with garlic and cumin and tomato sauce on a regular basis.  My younger sister who was only a year younger than me, didn’t cook all.

I couldn’t do much but I was a good cook. It was because my family cooked the same  food on a three-day rotation. My grandmother and my aunt would ask me to cook more often. I never cooked the same food twice. I got bored real  easy. My cousin who I didn’t know was my cousin  until the first grade. Having been raised with her in the same household. She was married for almost fifty years,  is still cooks beans. Her husband Paul likes to grill outside and was very good that.

Visiting her in Texas,  I notice that brisket  and potatoes salad is still  in every restaurant. 

My older sister has changed a bit, her cooking has gotten strange. She now puts chicken and beef in the oven. She is married to a Mexican and now also cooks beans daily. Sometimes I have to try real hard at eat corn tortillas. I hate corn tortillas.  

My younger sister never liked being in the kitchen. After she got married she would call for Chinese Take Out, and pizza. Sometimes she would put potatoes in the oven.  Her husband decided to do the cooking. He would make soups and cactus salad.

When my mother had a stroke, my sister took care of her. I noticed that her cooking was still so very bad. She was sister who hated the kitchen.

I decided to buy mom food that she used to love. I couldn’t stand to have my mother subjected to my sister’s cooking.

My mother ended up having a caretaker that was a better cook. I was so glad I didn’t have to worry about the cooking any more.

After so many years my parents had three more boys and   three more girls. I did notice that all my brothers were much better cooks than my sisters.  I also noticed that my sisters-in-laws are also bad cooks.

Once one of my sisters-in-law lived in my home. She was a very bad cook. One winter day I got the flu and so she decided to cook spaghetti in my absence.

My husband ran in panic into my room and said she was putting the pasta in cold water. I told him maybe she knows something that I didn’t know. I was so sick I didn’t care what she was doing. Then my husband runs into my room again and tells me the pasta is all struck together. I told him just eat it.  

I think I was a much better cook because I was my grandmother’s favorite child. She wanted me to be better at cooking and also at other things. She taught me how to tell if something is sewed correctly, how to tell if something is good jewelry.  She wanted me to be able to identify quality furniture.

I felt like the character in the movie “Gigi.” She couldn’t do anything either.

Basically, all I really could do is cook. I was spoiled by my dad and my aunt and my grandmother. I was encouraged to do the best I could. No one ever put me down for being bad at everything else.


The Liar by Jackie Villarreal Najera

   As a child and as a young teenager I lied a lot. Now I was taught never to lie. Grandmother told me that once you lie you have to continue to lie to cover the original lie.    I knew it was true. I couldn’t keep myself from lying.  Most people believed everything I told them . I was very bad a doing most things but lying was not one them.

   Once I told my sister that it was alright to step on the sheet rock on the attic instead of where the joist was. She fell through the ceiling. Only her feet were dangling into my parent’s room.

   I laughed so hard when I saw her trying lift herself up. My parents were not happy to get a hole in their room. My sister never said that I told her to do that.

   The next lie was very silly.     A school friend told me that her grandfather worked with my grandfather and  said no one knew anything about my grandfather background.

   “Is he Mexican?” she asked.

   “My grandfather is an Indian.” I said.  

   “Really?”  she asked.

   “Yes, and I can even speak Indian.” I said.

   Now Native Americans is what we used call “Indians” in those days. The lie started when she asked me to speak in “Indian.” I spoke some gobbledygook to her. She believed me!

   She spread the news throughout the whole school and then everybody wanted to hear me speak in “Indian.”

   I ended up saying my grandfather didn’t want me to speak “Indian” anymore. Now my grandfather had died when I was four years old.

   Not being good at anything was a problem, so I often lied.  I said was I good at some made up things. Like I could heal people because I was “Indian.” I also said that I could dream about what would happen in the future.

   Now because I continued to lie, I think I was punished. I did start to have strange dreams. I did have some dreams about some future events. I got really scared. I told my grandmother about my dreams. I didn’t tell her that I had been lying a lot.

   She told me my “Indian” grandfather was also a dreamer of future events. She was happy to know I was like him. I told myself before I went to bed not to dream. Every night I told myself not to  dream.

   I didn’t stop lying. I told some friends that I had been to all fifty states. They were so impressed they told my teacher. I think she knew I was lying.

   I had been to a lot states but not even close to fifty. Since my father’s parents lived in Illinois that is where the lie started. I don’t lie anymore because I realized how wrong it was. When I don’t say to myself not dream  even as an adult sometimes I still dream about future events. I wish I didn’t have that ability  but is it that life  is about  when you had some strange relatives.