Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding My Way Home

I have experienced many wonderful surprises during the past few days but perhaps the greatest of these was seeing my two older brothers, Jaime and Ramon, show up unexpectedly at my reading in Boyle Heights this past Sunday. I walked into ChimMaya Gallery and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw two white-haired versions of the guys who used to carry me around as a child. I hadn't seen them in many years so the fact that they were just standing there, smiling, next to one of my nieces made me gasp out loud. It's an odd sensation, seeing people from one part of your life appear in an altogether different setting but there they were. They had heard I was doing a book signing in their neck of the woods and they rushed out to greet me.

Photo by Angie Skull
My brother Ramon (Raymond) came prepared with an album including photos of me at various family functions through the years, which he happily shared with whomever was interested, sparking several conversations. It was funny, embarrassing and above all, touching. My bros stayed for my reading and even waited in line to have their books signed by me and to catch up on my life. I actually had to move them along because they were so eager to keep talking. I hinted that there were others in line waiting for me to sign their books. "We waited in line too," my niece replied. "I know, maybe we can talk after this," I offered.

At the end of the signing, my brother Jaime (Jimmy) exacted a promise that I would go over to his house for dinner sometime this week. I knew I already had a full schedule but I decided it was important to make time for family and I agreed to stop by for dinner on Wednesday.

When I showed up to dinner, I was greeted by my sister-in-law who insisted that I have some hot tacos that had just come off the stove. "They smell great," I said, "but shouldn't we wait for the others?" I knew that my niece had planned to come over, too.

"Oh no," my sister-in-law replied. "I've already prepared 120 tacos. They're all ready to go but I can't fry them all at once, so everyone will just eat as they arrive."

"120 tacos?? Are you planning to feed an army?" I thought she must be joking until I saw a giant sheet pan stacked with folded tacos ready for the fryer. A huge bowl of fresh salsa, a giant bowl of shredded cheese, another of grated lettuce and a pan full of enchiladas, plus rice, beans, chips and of course, cake.

Before I knew it, I had a big plate of food in front of me and my entire family started arriving at my brother's house. Brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews and family members for which I'm not even certain of the appropriate name (grandnieces and grandnephews?) filled the house until we were all bumping into each other. I got hugs and felicitations from everyone. They had all heard I had a book out and were happy for me.

My brother turned on the tv and had everyone gather around. Suddenly, I heard my voice reading and singing at ChimMaya Gallery. The room went silent as everyone watched. I was mortified. What would they think? In my youth, I always felt like the black sheep of my family. As an adult, I still feel like an odd duck but now I know that they are seeing me for who I am. And the best part? They were all there to support me.

At the end of the night, everyone wanted their picture taken with their Auntie Alice and I felt like I'd finally made it home.

Photo by Angie Skull

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, Alice I am so happy that you squeezed in the visit and had such a great experience. A little out of body? - Pat