The Boyfriends by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My Older sister Gloria had a friend named Gilbert who was in love with her. She only liked him as a friend. She hardly ever spoke to him.  One day he came to our home to see Gloria. She was not home. I started talking to him and discovered that we had a lot in common. Now I did not like him as a boyfriend but he was just as nice person.
Then Gilbert asked me to the homecoming game. Since my parents and my grandmother knew his entire family, they said I could go.  Now tradition at the homecoming is that we receive a large mum flower with initials of the school and some school ribbons attached.  I honestly thought I would never get one.
Gilbert got a mum for me. I was so excited to receive that flower. After that Gilbert invited me to a party. I was just sixteen years old and I was not allowed to date. My parents didn’t consider this a date. They felt that I was just going out with a friend of the family.
The last thing Gilbert did for me before going into the Army was to go to Mexico. He got me a jewelry box.  Now my sister Gloria did not have romantic feelings for Gilbert but for some reason she got really angry at me. She said Gilbert was her friend and not mine. She was also so angry that he had bought me a gift and did not remember her.
I know she did not care about my gift but she did care that he had forgotten about her.
I didn’t want to tell that Gilbert was still in love with her. Those feelings would have made her very made uneasy. So, I never told her.
Now Ernest had a crush on my sister Linda. Linda did not like Ernest. He would come over our home to see Linda. She thought of him as friend.   I decided to befriend Ernest. He was about a year younger than me but was a nice person. We became best friends. Linda didn’t really care about Ernest. The minute that he stopped talking to her, upset her.
I was taking her friend away. I know Ernest still liked Linda but he gave up on her and we continued our friendship. We even went to camp together.  Once a girl name Ruth decided she really liked Ernest. Since he and I were only best friends, I told him a girl liked him. He asked Who likes me?”  I responded “Ruth likes you.” He immediately swooped out the window and said “I’ll see you later.” I continued to be his friend until they moved away.
My sister Linda is real pretty. She has large eyes and long black hair. She knew she was pretty because people always said that about her. She also was a social butterfly. I in turn was shy and loved to cook so I often stayed in the kitchen.
One day I took a job with a friend of Linda named Scott. I think Linda liked Scott. Now I really worked hard helping him with his printing business. In return he took me to dinner and bought me food for lunch. We often ate together.                                                      Linda worked a few doors away and came to with Scott.  He didn’t understand why she kept coming over. I was too embarrassed to say that she liked him. Scott continued to take me to a lot places. He talked about his family and his ex-girlfriend. I listened to all he said and we became good friends instead of employee and employer.
Looking back at my friendship with guys who liked my sisters I might have asked Gloria and Linda first if it was alright to be friends with them.
I guess you really can’t take things back.

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Infamous Wedding by Jackie Villarreal Najera

In our family before you married someone there was an investigation of that person.  If it revealed something negative you, most likely were told you should  not marry that person. That was the culture I grew in.

I had grown up with Dolores.  I always thought of her as my sister.    We lived in same house since my birth. It was hard not to think of her as my sibling.   She was technically a first cousin. I always thought her mother, my aunt as my mother too.  Dolores, my sister Gloria, and I were always cleaning the house together. We always did all the work together.

Now, on the day of Dolores’ wedding we were told not to help her clean the house. Dolores had decided to get married in our home. She cleaned the house by herself. I really felt sorry for her. I wanted to help her clean the house. Our home was never dirty.  I knew she wanted to have everything perfect though. She also wanted to decorated the house for the wedding.

That infamous day Dolores waxed the floors.  That was not unusual, she often waxed the floors on Saturdays. This time though, she was getting ready for her wedding. She looked real tired, but excited.  We were told if we helped her we would be punished. 

Now the marriage of my cousin Dolores was very funny and kind of sad.

It started when Dolores decided to marry Paul. Paul didn’t have a father living in his home. To my family it was a red flag. There were other problems. I think it was revealed that he had been married before. That was a really big deal to my aunt.

My father told my aunt, “There is nothing you can do. She is going to get married anyway.”

My aunt was in the back room crying as my mother put alcohol on her neck to calm her down.

As my dad lead Dolores, down toward the minister, suddenly all hell broke loose. The ambulance was called for my aunt. Dolores was upset her wedding had been ruined.

I had been looking in the window trying see my sister get married. Once in while I’d go to see how my Tia Vika was doing. Being younger than Dolores by about eight years, I thought I should comfort her because she was so upset her mother had ruined the most important day of her life.

Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could say to her to comfort her. Especially since I did not stand up to my mother and my aunt to help Dolores.

In my family, you never questioned mother’s or my aunt’s decisions. I really couldn’t help then. I look back and think I should have helped.

My father did help Dolores but he would not have liked my being disobedient toward my mother and my aunt.

Dolores and I are still very close to each other. She is still married to Paul fifty plus years later, and for many years my aunt lived with Dolores and Paul.

It’s funny now. She finally accepted Paul. She adored her grandchildren.

My aunt is now gone. Dolores was very sad after she lost her mother.  

She does not care any more about her funny and sad wedding.

The Healers by Jackie Villarreal Najera

 My grandfather was a carpenter. He was also a healer. People would come to be massaged and get herbs from him. He never took any payment for his services.  People would bring their babies to get healed and then get blessed by him. When my grandfather died people would still bring their babies and others to get healed.

My grandmother had learned a lot from my grandfather. She turned out to be better at healing than him. People were always coming to our home. I kind of resented those intrusions. Grandmother told people that unless it was an emergency, to come on Saturday or Sunday.

I knew the reason she had done that. She worked eight hour a day. People still came during the week though. She never turned anyone away.

 After work grandmother would ask me to massage her feet with lotion. She would only ask me. She would say, “You have your grandfather’s special hands. You know exactly where I hurt. It is just a gift. Your grandfather would be so proud of you.”  Everyone in my family wanted to be massaged by me.

These days I massage my husband when he complains about being sore or when he has a headache. Sometime he is amazed when I rub his feet and he feels better all over. As always, he is amazed that I can tell exactly where to massage him.

I once had to tell him I have my grandfather’s hands and that my fingers just can tell where he hurt.

These days my fingers hurt from arthritis. I still do not refuse when my husband needs a massage. It’s a family tradition.

Easter Baskets by Jackie Villarreal Najera

   The Easter baskets that we would often receive were a regular size and always had our names written on the boiled eggs. We also had a large chocolate rabbit and jelly beans. I always loved my Easter basket.

   Every Easter Sunday, my cousins would show up with the largest Easter baskets that I had ever seen. My cousins would brag about how big their baskets were. They teased us about how regular our baskets were all Easter Sunday.

   One Easter Sunday I finally realized that my father put a lot of work in making up the baskets. He always wanted for us to believe that the Easter Bunny had left the baskets. I didn’t want to tell my dad that I had stopped believing in the Easter Bunny when I six years old. I always played along with my dad because I dearly loved him.

   That same Easter Sunday, as my cousins started to open their baskets, they noticed that our basket had our names on the eggs. They asked me how that had happened?  I was always very bad as a child so I responded, “The Easter bunny just likes us better.”

   For the first time, I noticed that my cousins were actually jealous of us.  My dad had been listening to me and was laughing.

   He then said to me “It’s not nice to make other people feel bad.” I understood what he meant but it was a lot of fun teasing my cousins.

   The following Easter Sunday my cousins still had large Easter baskets but that year they did not brag about their baskets. I actually felt sorry for my cousins. It turns out that their father worked all the time and didn’t have time for them.

Dog Lovers by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My family are all dog lovers. When my brother John was young he had a dog name Brownie. The dog was his love.  Brownie had a bad habit of chasing cars. John was too young to train his dog. One day Brownie was hit by a car and died. My brother cried and I saw Dad cry too. He then told John “No more dogs.” Dad couldn’t stand to see John so upset. 

After John was a teenager we moved to a different house that  was only temporary. Our permanent  home was always with grandma. During that time John collected dogs and fenced them in an empty lot.  Dad found out and said, “Let them go!”

John could not be discouraged from his mission of getting a dog. One day he showed up with a Samoyed. I don’t remember where he got a dog that had so much fur. The part of Texas that we are from has five months of humid hot weather. The dog was probably very uncomfortable. He named the new dog Roxie.  

My dad really liked dogs also. When I was in my twenties my father had a dog name Lady. She was very docile. Our dog liked to visit our neighbors. She would get treats from almost every one. 

One neighbor hated  Lady and claimed she bit him. Our dog was taken away. The lying neighbor just smiled as our dog was taken away.  

I decided to get even with the jerk. I rang his doorbell at three in the morning. I left poop in his doorway. I found out his number and called him often. He called the police and accused us of harassment. He had no proof of anything. I just laughed. After dad found out what I was doing, he told me “You can’t be doing bad things to other people.” So, I stopped.

That man moved away after that but I knew his name and I decided to continue the harassment in secret. 

Now that I’m old I think back at all the rotten things I did.  I guess some of us take a lifetime to learn.

My Brother Frankie by Jackie Villarreal Najera

 My brother Frankie and I were close from the very beginning. He was three years younger than me. I can even remember the day he was born in our home. He was hyperactive and had to take medicine for that problem. He was even a sleep walker.  

He was calm with me though. As children, Frankie and I had many freckles. We used to play “Dot to Dot”  with them.  There were times when we tried to draw pictures with our freckles. Mom would try to remove our pictures because we always drew them with a pen.

One  day when Frankie was five years he walked across the street by himself. Mom asked me where Frankie was? We looked for Frankie all over the house. Frankie was no where to be found. The nieghborhood  store  sent a note telling us Frankie was there. I was sent there to bring Frankie home.  I lectured Frankie about  crossing street by himself. 

He responded”I know about watching for cars”

   The following day Ernest  asked my mother to let Frankie work at the store Ernest thought Frankie was cute and gave him a job. Frankie swept the floors at the store. I was very surprised because Frankie was too young to even  do things around our home.

   Ernest asked him, “What salary do you want?” Frankie then said he wanted Juicy Fruit Gum for his Mother.  Ernest then said that was fine but, he was also going to give all the broken cookies to him from the cookie barrel. There were a lot of broken cookies and  mother didn’t care, she had the broken cookies with her coffee.  

     Once Frankie was helping my dad paint the house. Frankie was sensitive to the paint. My father did have  the windows open, but Frankie started to react to the paint fumes. They rushed him to the hospital. The doctor said that because of his medication, he shouldn’t be around any strong odor.  I remember that he wasn’t actually helping dad paint. Dad had given Frankie a little brush just to keep him busy. 

   Frankie was always trying to help. As an adult Frankie was always buying me a lot of  things. A few years ago, he knew I liked antiques so he worked for a lady that instead of payment he said he preferred her antique dresser. She said he worked too hard just for the dresser. He said it was fine with him and that he just wanted the dresser. He gave me that dresser for my birthday.

Once I said to Frankie that my orange carpet was ugly. He immediately removed it and then said, “Now buy something you like.”

He was very generous with me.  When my dog died I couldn’t stop crying, so Frankie didn’t know what to do. He went to the store and bought me my favorite food then cooked it. I felt so bad that he was trying so hard to comfort me.

He then took me to the Orchard Supply Store and bought me things for my bathroom. He did all this so I would not cry about my dog. 

When I think about my brother who is no longer with me. I get really sad because I never really did anything for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Deposit No Return by Jackie Villarreal Najera

Maria was my father’s first cousin. She lived with my great grandmother, “Ama Juanita.” Since my great grandmother did all the cooking, Maria never learned to cook. Besides not cooking, Maria just liked to go dancing. Her brothers had a band, called Los Seis Nacionales. They had recorded many records. Maria loved to go see them and go dancing. 

Maria had a boyfriend name Pablo. He was usually her partner when she danced. One day according to my dad, Pablo kidnapped Maria. Dad said to me, “Pablo stole her from her family in order to marry her.” He didn’t marry right her away though, Dad continued.  They lived together for about six weeks.

Then one day Pablo brought Maria back to her family. He said,  “She doesn’t know how to cook! Teach her!”   

So, Maria was returned to her family. Pablo said, “I will pick her up when she learns to cook.” Maria decided that she was not going to learn to cook. The family decided to try to teach her. She said,  “No way.” 

Since Maria had other guys who liked her, she forgot about Pablo. My Great grandmother told her,  “You’re flour from a different sack now, go back to Pablo.” Maria did go back to him. She never learned to cook.

 My dad over years would tease his cousin about being brought back home. She would laugh and tell dad “Stop it!” then she says, “Let’s go dancing!”

Every so often my dad would still tease her saying, “Maria why did he bring you back?”

Maria had children who knew how to cook. She remained married for twenty-to thirty years and then got a divorce.  

She later married a person who didn’t mind that she could not cook.

 

 

 

 

Stephie and the Girl by Jackie Villarreal Najera

At one time Stephanie and Kiersten have lived in my home.  Stephanie was my funny girl. Stephanie loved movies and often imitated them. For example, she saw the Princess Bride and a character hits someone on the head to “jog the memory.”  Stephi decided to jog her younger sister’s memory by hitting her on the head.

Stephi then saw the movie Holes where boys dig holes to “become good little boys.”  Stephi started digging holes in my back yard.

“Stephi what you doing?” I asked her.

“I’m digging a hole to become a good little boy.”

“Sweetie you’re a girl” I told her.

“That’s okay.” She said. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Stephi loved our dog. One day Stephi was walking around with a pillowcase. The pillowcase was moving around.

“Stephi what is in the pillowcase?” I asked her.

“The dog.” She said.

“Put the dog down!” I told her.

“OK.”  She said as though she hadn’t done anything wrong. When I told my husband, he just laughed. The dog started barking at her every time he saw her for about week. She just picked up the dog and said she was sorry and the dog forgave her.

We often took Stephi with us to the county fair, restaurants and shopping. No matter where we went people would stop us and remark that they had never seen such a beautiful girl. They often get friends to come and see the most beautiful child. Stephi never reacted to all the attentions. She just wanted to go shopping and as she put it,

“Let’s get more stuff!”

Stephi no longer lives with us. She is now twenty-four and loves to take pictures. She knows cameras well, even my advanced camera that has a lot of features.

Kiersten lives in my home now. We call her “The Girl” because everybody in my home are older people.  She left for a while and then returned. Since my brother, her father lives in my home she wanted to live with her dad. My brother has been divorced for many years.

Kiersten was nothing like Stephanie. “The Girl” is stubborn and funny. Kiersten hated preschool. Every day she’d cry, “I don’t go to school!” Every day she would find something in my home and take it with her to school. It must have been her security object.

One day she comes home and tells me, “Miss Jovita is mean to me.” I told her I’d talk to her. I really just wanted to make her feel better. I thought it was funny so I told Miss Jovita about her complaint. I thought she also would laugh. She got angry and told me, “Kiersten wakes the other students from their naps.” She didn’t have a sense of humor.

Even as a baby Kiersten liked to throw food on the floor. I guess all babies do that, except my Kiersten liked to yell in a high pitch voice. She hated almost every food.

I also took Kiersten to different places. I once took her to Mc Donald’s and put her in the high chair. I told her to stay there and not to move. I said, “Stay seated or you’ll fall and land on your head.”  Of course, she stood up and landed on her head.

I gave a party at Chuck-E-Cheese and she got under the table and wouldn’t come out. I thought maybe she wanted a party at the museum like Stephanie’s or an animal party just like her sister. Kiersten didn’t want a party.

We finally gave her a party at my home and she seemed happy. Unfortunately, this when she turned twenty-one.

Kiersten now likes many different foods. When she and her dad went to China as her high school graduation present, she ate everything. She even ate scorpions on a stick. She said she loved them.

These days she loves Mexican menudo (tripe soup), and tries most foods. I guess as an adult she learned to appreciate different foods.

Today she goes to college and is an artist.

 

 

 

 

My Two Sisters by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My younger sisters, Janet, and sometimes Joanne were funny and sometimes rude as kids. Janet was great dancer. She danced at colleges and churches.  I would tell Janet that we never say yes when the people offer us cookies or other sweets. This rule was a thing I grew up with. Grandmother told that me

 “You never take anything offered to you, it would be like you haven’t eaten.”

“Why?” I asked grandmother. “It is considered very rude.”

“We always want people to know that we did eat.” Said grandmother. 

I tried to instill the rule that I learned as a child to Janet. She did not understand the rule. Every time she danced and they offered her cookies she would grab it. I decided to buy cookies and tell her,

“Don’t take cookies if they offer them.”  I told her that she could have the entire package of cookies that I purchased. The church offered her cookies and she took them again!

 I finally had to tell Dad about her bad behavior. She finally stopped grabbing cookies. 

One Saturday my aunt made pancakes for the family. We all ate two pancakes, maybe three. Janet wanted more than that. She kept asking for more pancakes. In our family, we never ask for more of anything. Usually, my aunt would ask “Do you want one more pancake?” That meant we already had at least one pancake. 

My aunt would stop asking after two pancakes. Janet, however, continued asking for more pancakes. My aunt at first thought it was rude but, just gave her more. She probably figured she was exceptionally hungry. Janet continued asking for more pancakes. Then Janet went to the bathroom then returned and wanted more pancakes. My aunt started making tons of pancakes for her. She ate them all. Her stomach looked like a basketball. 

One Sunday while driving around we saw some boots that were left in an empty garage. The door was opened. Janet yelled out,

“Look!  There is an invisible man!”

Everybody in the car just said, “Huh?”

We all started laughing. I don’t think Janet understood why we laughed. 

Today Janet lives in Hawaii. She doesn’t over eat any more. She now runs ten miles a day. She even runs in marathons. She ran the Boston Marathon twice. She has three grown kids that are very smart.

 My sister Joann was also sometimes funny. We once sent her to buy a deluxe pizza. She returned saying, “They said they didn’t have a duplex pizza.” 

We couldn’t stop laughing.

Once she made a mayonnaise sandwich with just salt and pepper. She said to me there was no meat. My father always made sure we had meat. She just liked mayonnaise.

 Joann is extremely smart. She never forgets names, dates, and years of things. 

Janet and Joann are very talented now that they are adults. They sure were funny as kids.

 

 Don’t Hurt Any Living Thing by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My Amabuelita, my grandmother, once caught my brother John throwing rocks at a cat on our roof. When Amabuelita caught him, she was mad. She said “Don’t ever hurt an animal. You know cats eat mice.” She continued by saying, “You don’t ever hurt any living thing.”

“I won’t do it again” responded my brother.

Now, I never believed my brother when we were young. Then one day, John made a sling shot. He decided to shoot at birds. He wasn’t very good at that. He did once actually hit a bird by accident. He didn’t want me to tell on him

 Every early afternoon there was an old woman named Luz. She was tall and skinny and hunch over. She would sit on our porch and smoke a cigarette. Sometimes My brothers would ask her to leave our porch. She just ignored my brothers. I used to wonder how she got into the porch without any care in the world?

 When my grandmother heard what my brothers were doing to Luz she got very angry. She told all the kids never to bother Luz. I asked my grandmother if she knew Luz? She said it didn’t matter but not to bother her anyway.

When I was a child, Luz continued to smoke in our porch on regular basis.

“Is Luz crazy?”  I asked grandmother.

“Why would you say that?” she answered.

“Well she looks like she’s crazy. She always opens our gate and walks right in. You don’t allow anyone else to come in except relatives.”

“I know but, don’t ever bother Luz anyway.”

I always expected Luz to open the gate and walk in. I never actually ever saw her open the gate. She would just be there.

Then one day she didn’t come. I had been trying to be nicer to her. I had started to like her. Grandmother had said to be nice to everyone. Everybody needs our respect.

Luz never came back. I did see her in another porch once.  No one ever saw her again. I think she probably died. I felt kind of sad that I was not kinder from the beginning.

 Today I don’t dislike anyone anymore. I remember Amabuelita saying,

“Don’t hurt any living thing.”