Family Album


Long Island, New York, 1987. Saturday morning in my house, my house where our family had been through enough by that point to know that we were never going to be the family that poses together on a Christmas card by a decorated tree.

This is still the time of records. That Saturday morning, my Mexican mom slides a record out of a new sleeve and walks over to the record player. The woman, Linda Ronstadt, is singing what seems to be Mexican songs. In Spanish. My mother wasn’t as in touch with her Mexicanness back then. Neither was I. I jerk my head around to stare at my mother. What was this? What was my mother doing? What happened to her Donna Summer record that she usually liked to play Saturday mornings as she cleaned the house?

My Mom’s eyes go far away. She sits at the kitchen table, her cold hands wrapped around her warm cup of coffee.

And right on cue, my supposedly tone-deaf mother who has no sense of rhythm, perfectly belts out the mariachi’s grito, or shout of,”Ay ay ay.” She gives me a rare smile from that far-away place. Then she says no more and continues drinking her coffee.

Chicago, Illinois, 2000. Christmas Mass at St Sylvester’s’s church. The mass is in Spanish. Mariachis come out to play at the end of the service. I turn to my husband Picasso and notice he has tears in his eyes. I’ve never seen him with tears in his eyes before. He squeezes my hand to let me know that he’s O.K. He smiles at me lovingly from that far-away place. While Linda Ronstadt is not at the Christmas mass at St. Sylvester’s in Chicago, the music sounds similar to that Saturday morning record that my mom started to play on a weekly basis.

San Francisco, California, 2013. At my temp job, I listen to a moving interview with Linda Ronstadt on NPR and I remember that Saturday morning album, Canciones De Mi Padre.

I look it up on YouTube.

I hear this song.

The memory of those Saturday mornings, that St. Sylvester Christmas mass force me to stop my data entry temp work and simply listen.

The scent of my mom’s strong cup of coffee mix in with the almost overpowering scent of myrrh and pine from our first and last church Christmas in Chicago.

I discreetly wipe my tears away while “reviewing” a stack of papers.

And if someone passed by my cubicle right then?

I most certainly would’ve smiled at them from a far-away place.


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