unlearn fears

March 7, 2017

when your Mami told me we were pregnant, i went down on my knees. my legs couldn’t support my body’s newfound emotions. i cried. i cried hard. i cried for the 28-other months that i held her while she cried after we read another negative result. i cried for the 28-other months that we either walked into a sterile exam room or met up with Doddie, filled with all the hope of creating a family on our terms. sometimes in the middle of work weeks we’d drive into the city and back on the same day, days in a row, just to try again. i cried for the over thirty injections i gave Mami every night for two-weeks (her abdomen filled with puncture bruises -i tried my best to be the most gentle nurse). i cried for the day we went in for egg retrieval and i sat in the waiting room alone, sending positive energies and calling you forth. i cried for the day when they did the embryo transfer but i was hospitalized the night before and wasn’t able to be there. i cried for the day, ten-years ago when i had a hysterectomy and said farewell to you from my own womb. but i cried mostly because Mami’s heart broke so many times before the day we finally received the good news. i was overwhelmed that the Happiness of You had finally come to heal our broken hearts.

and just as quickly, fear settled in.

how do i unlearn almost 39-years of learned fears? of doctrine and dogma? how can i make sure that i don’t teach you this? will i be a good parent? how can i make sure that you won’t hate anyone? especially me? will lack of biology affect our relationship? will you be bullied at school because you have two moms? will my family see you as one of us? will their religion get in the way of seeing you in all of your beauty? will they see us as a family? and why do i even care about what others think?

the layers run deep.

on december of 2007, Mamá had a hysterectomy. i still remember that day clearly. your Mami and i had not yet met. i seriously thought that the reason i was unable to have my own children was a direct result of a punishment reserved for me for being queer; for not being what the world wanted me to be. and so on that day when they removed the crib that i thought would one day hold you, i became womb-less and actually believed that i was less of a woman because the sum of my parts no longer added to the expected whole woman necessary to bare and raise children.

we have waited a long time for you. every heartbreak along the way has strengthened our Love for you. but before it strengthened us, it broke us into a million shattered pieces. when you Love someone the way i Love your Mami, and you know they want something so wholeheartedly, that every time they don’t get their wish, a piece of your heart experiences necrosis. it dies. it feels unrepairable. and it’s not that i didn’t want it as bad as Mami. it’s that i had already reconciled it in my head that you were no longer a possibility in my body, so i shut that down and hardened my heart. so when Mami and i were ready to start the journey to you, i chose to focus my energies on helping her bring your Light to this world. and each time we received news that we were not pregnant, i witnessed Mami’s pain and i couldn’t place it anywhere but inside of me. i didn’t want her to see my hurt and i felt that i needed to be stronger for her.

when your Mami and i met, one of our first conversations was around raising children. we talked about everything related to this , including and questioning if this was something reserved for “the others.” we struggled with questions around heteronormativity and whether we were trying to assimilate to “them” (as if parenthood is reserved for just one set of people). we struggled with the idea that if we went through with it, we’d have to find an environment where you would be safe and you could thrive and grow, happy and healthy… and safe again.

i feared the church. that place that watched me grow and screamed from the pulpits that i was an abomination. i feared what others said, that our Love was null in front of the eyes of god because “it wasn’t real.” i feared it would show up in places that would affect you and your emotional and spiritual development. i feared you’d hate us, or just hate me because the biology wasn’t there. And well, blood is thick and heavy and it weighs in. but it also flows…

i was immediately on defensive mode thinking that at school you’d be “the weird kids.” i was scared that anyone would harm you, either physically or emotionally. I for sure would catch a case and end up in prison because i already Love you like i have never felt Love before. if anyone even attempts to hurt you i will literally loose my shit. you see, your two little lives, are always be protected by my own and Mami’s as well. you should also know that you are officially covered under the insurance of our Love. that means that no harm will come your way that you are not equipped to handle. that means that you are always protected.

all of these fears, my little big Loves, are just fears based on my upbringing. this world will try to teach you things that you will need to unlearn real quick. i will do my absolute best to make sure you don’t learn those lessons that come from a place of other people’s void or ignorance.

the truth is always in Love.

this world you’re coming into is pretty scary nut beautiful. and it is going to try so fucking hard to show you otherwise. this world will want to make you think you are something other than Loved. some will never see us as Family, some will want to make you think you don’t belong here or you are something different than your peers but i will raise you to know and understand that you are perfect, whole, and complete as you are.

you come from a deeper Love. you come from a place of Hope and Faith. you come from Fight and Struggle. you come from Joy and Peace. your existence is powerful beyond measure. your existence is a revolution all its own. ignore the noise of other people’s fears projected on our lives.

we are Familia. punto.

when your mother told me we were pregnant, i went down on my knees and an overwhelming gratitude filled my entire body. you became not one but two heart beating reminders that fears dissipate when i surrender to Love..

 

#52essays2017

 

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saturday mornings

January 28, 2017

Saturday mornings smelled like pancakes and mistolín at our place. The record player only played boleros. The kind that had you pausing between cleaning and grabbing whatever was near you that you could turn into a microphone and sing at the top of your lungs: “Dueño de ti, dueño de nada…no soy yo, ese a quien tu le dices mi dueño…” My mother lived a lot of those songs. She would sing them like she wrote them.

“Los sabados son de limpieza y oficio,” Mami would say. As she wrapped her hair in a pañuelo, rolled up her pant legs, and slipped on her chancletas.

Saturday morning my brothers and I would wake up to the sound of Mami talking to her plants as she watered them. She’d have a couple of boxes of cereal sitting on the kitchen table with bowls and spoons. We’d serve ourselves a bowl of conflei’ con leche and sat our little nalgas in the living room floor. She’d make pancakes and eggs. Manny, David, and I would sit and watch our morning cartoon marathon.

While we did that, Mami floated around. Sometimes she was in her room, other times she’d sit and watch TV with us. She’d start writing a list of what needed to get done. And she would start cleaning her room. At 10am we knew we had to shut the TV off and start picking up our rooms.

Mami only knew how to deep clean. There was no half-ass cleaning. You either cleaned the shit outta’ something or you didn’t. She cleaned everything and she enjoyed it. She liked to move things around and make things pretty. She played with colors and themes and figurines. She would reorganize closets and drawers, change bed sheets and bathroom curtains. Mami could’ve ran a business on cleaning and organizing. My mother would make our tenement apartment feel like a 5th Avenue suite.

Once the house was clean, we had to run errands: from the cashiers check place to Con Edison to paying the guy at la bodega who let you take fiaó, she had a running To-Do-List. The routine was important for her. It kept her feeling grounded.

We’d get on the train and head to downtown Manhattan. My little feet running alongside her long strides; I held her hand tightly. She’d look at us and smile. And that is how she confirmed what we always hoped would happen at the end of errands. We knew she was going to take us to our favorite place. Our anticipation and excitement grew exponentially. We were three kids: 11, 10, and 6-years-old, so our excited energy was pretty intense.

Mami would stretch dollars just so she could take us to Playland. This was one of our all-time favorite treats. She would give us each $5 to play .25 arcade games. That was 20 games each. For my brothers, that lasted much longer than for me. But it wasplayland-rgb-1985-copy the look on Mami’s face that made me happiest. Because for her, in that moment, she was responsible for the happiness and well-being of three little lives. And in that instance, on that particular Saturday, she didn’t feel like she couldn’t provide. She didn’t feel like she didn’t have enough. No. In that moment, as our smiles grew our faces, we gave her the happiness and peacefulness of a perfect day.

Saturday morning… José José is belting El Triste and I start to clean and understand in a different light why my mother cleaned the way she did while she listened to these songs. There was some soul-cleansing happening at the same time she dusted and mopped. I’ll make sure to find a way to treat myself at the end of this day… I’ll find a way to paint smiles on the faces of others.

#52essays2017

 

 

dye the narrative

January 4, 2017

this past fall i participated in a writing course. i did it as a way to “return to my writing.” my writing and i had a break up. and i had been in this “writer’s block” for some time that turned into days and later months. then years. it felt like an eternity since i had been able to put something together that i was proud of; something that i could read and feel good about.

created and facilitated by Vanessa Mártir, i signed up for the course: Writing Our Lives. The semester finished in early December. on the last day of class we workshopped each other’s work. we were proud of what each person had put out. and at the end, we hugged, and went our separate ways. we’ve been keeping in touch with each other. the internet makes it easy.

last week, Vanessa posted on FB that she wanted to challenge others to take on something she had done in the closing year: write one essay per week in the year 2016. she did it. literally, she wrote an essay. per week. for one year. when i read her post asking folks to consider challenging themselves,d my initial thought was like, “eta’ tipa ‘ta loca o le patina el caco’?”

but i thought about it -i literally slept on it. and i asked myself that damn question that we hate when others ask, “are you a writer?” “what qualifies you to claim the title?” “have you published anything?” the more i repeatedly asked myself these questions, the more frightened i became. often, we let others determine who and what we are. when they ask these questions, we feel inadequate because we may not meet other people’s definition of a writer.

well f*ck that. i’m a writer because i say so. my story has been published in every single step i have taken towards my truth.

i decided that i’m taking on the challenge. why? cause i’m crazy. and by crazy i mean that i know how difficult it is to write just one essay. i here i just committed to write one per week. but you know what? this SERVES me. it FEEDS me. it allows me to connect with my communities.

i write because for too long our collective stories have been silenced, omitted, and erased. our stories are too powerful and too poignant. they are needed so that we may dye the “dominant narrative.”

for too long our communities have been silenced. we have been slaughtered and the stories written said we were the ones wielding the knives. we’ve been maimed and the newspaper headlines read that it was our hot blooded temperament that created the war. even our screams have been attributed to hysteria. to some sort of “glitch in our system.”

John Leguizamo wrote an article about the detrimental effects of the “exclusion” of our communities and the “message it sends to every Latino child.” He writes about the importance of making our lives visible.

my writing is visibility and accountability. i am here to tell my story and empower others to tell theirs, so the OUR narrative reflects us in our truth. for too long they have colonized our tongues and twisted our story to create fear and hatred. the inaccuracies have portrayed us in such negative ways that we started to believe what the stories wrote about us. even our grandmothers, whose souls were untouchable, yielded to the narrative and died believing we were somehow broken.

i am here to write my story. because the power it holds is immense. i will take on this challenge because los muchachos necesitan saber nuestra verdad. they need to know that we are legendary. they need to know that we were, are, and will always be here.

our stories, the account of our events, our experiences are unique. they stand out because we stand up. i refuse to allow others to tell my story or my people’s story.  so i’m here. with pen in hand, blank pages in my notebook and a lifetime of stories to share because i am invincible not invisible.

i accept the challenge as a creative battle. with the ultimate prize of reclaiming our stories so that our children can know of the pen warriors that came to tell our truth.

#52essays2017

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image from pbs.twing