No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Muchas Gracias, Tia-Nita!

There's something wonderful that happens when I talk to my Tia Anita, or as I called her when I was a kid, "Tia-Nita"- at the end of each conversation I get to hear, "te quiero mi hija".
It never fails to fill me with the warm fuzzies. I don't know why hearing it in Spanish makes so much of a difference. Maybe it reminds me of being young, with aunts and uncles aplenty, surrounding me with love. Hearing them all speak in Spanish with one another always made me feel like I was being granted access to a secret society. One that was forbidden in my house. 

"You look white, so you never have to tell anyone that you are half Mexican. They'll just make fun of you." I remember my mother saying to me. "Always check the box that says White-Non Hispanic", she'd tell me on the first day of school. She was and continues to be, I don't want to say ashamed, but I can't think of a better word for it...I guess that's it, she was ashamed of her heritage, her ethnicity. 
I would ask her how to say one word or another in Spanish, and she'd always say, "Oh, I don't know. Ask your Auntie Maggie or your Tia-Nita next time you see her. Eventually, I learned to just go directly to my Grandma. She was always happy to teach me Spanish. She was quite disappointed that I knew so little of it, and often spoke to me wholly in Spanish and then asked me to tell her what she'd said. Mom hated that game. 

I wonder when it started for her. Was she embarrassed of her own skin color as a child in school? Was she picked on, teased? She grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have seen her yearbooks. She was beautiful, seemingly popular, and above all, she seemed to have a good number of Hispanic class mates. I can't imagine that self-loathing came from those years. 

Maybe it started after she married my father. 
I remember going to a family reunion for his side of the family. I wondered why I had never met so many of  his aunts, uncles, and cousins. I remember a man coming toward us saying, "Well, there's ole' Jimbo with his half breed kids!" And I remember another man, apparently a minister at a rural Baptist church telling my dad he should visit his church, but he warned, "You shouldn't bring that spick wife of yours. They won't let her kind in." I think we left the reunion right after that. 
It's funny how things like that stick in your head, but I think if that stayed with me the way it has, what effect did it have on my poor mother? 

I wonder how those men would feel if I met them today, and introduced my wife to them? 
I wonder how, after experiencing those situations in their own lives, my parents could treat their own daughter's partner with such disdain, without even taking the time to get to know her.
I wonder if they'll ever come around. 

I don't know the answers, and I don't know if I'll ever know them. But I do know that I have found a place within myself that is proud to be half-Mexican and half-German. Proud to be a lesbian. Proud to be exactly who I am. And maybe, just maybe, my Tia Anita reminds me of that place within myself, and reminds me that I am a part of that secret society that my own mother was so frightened by. And for that I say, Muchas Gracias, Tia-Nita!  

2 cookies cracked:

Summer O. said...

What a shame, for someone to be so embarassed of their heritage. I'm sorry you had to go through that. But look what and who you are now. Talented, beautiful, and better than what you were taught.

Reb said...

I am sorry to hear that your mom was treated in such a fashion by her in-laws and that she was reluctant to own her heritage and be proud of it. I am sorry also that your parents can't realize that they are doing to you what was done to your mom.

My dad (whom I assume was much older than your parents) eventually got to know my brothers partner and although he still had a hard time with it, he did accept that both my brothers were gay before he died. Sadly mom didn't have the time to do so and never met my brothers partner who is amazing.

So, they may yet come around to accepting her, it may not be in a big gesture way though.