Her name was Beatrice Rodriguez Garcia. My ‘Buelita. She was one of six children born to Mama Lola. Her brothers were Macario, Vicente and Tirco, Her sisters were Rosa and Maria, my namesakes. As my Mom would tell it, ‘Buelita was the only child of the six who was legitimized by their father. You see . . . their father had another family in town. Mama Lola was his mistress. Mom wasn’t real clear on why ‘Buelita was the only one he legitimized, but he seemed to favor her, get her gifts, take her with him into town, and had the most interaction with her out of all his children with Mama Lola. Mama Lola lived alone with her children out in el rancho, close to El Calaboz. She was known to have a wild streak and Mom would tell the story of how Mama Lola liked to ride horseback, often with as little clothing on as possible. Mama Lola also had the custom of lighting Menorahs around her house at certain times of the year and couldn’t really say why she did it only that it was always done that way and that’s how she was brought up to do things. ‘Buelita was the only person I ever knew that was born in the 19th century, 1899 to be exact. She passed in 1969, but I still have vivid memories of my grandma, as if I had just lived them yesterday. She wore her hair in a bun or thick braid, pulled back tight with “peinetas”. It was the type of hair uncommon for people of indigenous heritage, it was wavy, but a more tight wave, like the hair one would see in people of Persian descent. Her skin was olive tone “y tenia ojos castanos y claros.” She married Samuel, my grandfather, at a young age and gave birth to Romeo, Samuel, Araceli and Alicia, my Mom. Although 49 years have passed since ‘Buelita left us, I can still remember the weekends when she and Grandpa would pick me up in their white Dodge Dart. It was a 2 door, with red interior and a black top. I would sit between them and every time Grandpa would speed up ‘Buelita would shout out, “Ooooooooooooo!” I think she did it just to watch me giggle and laugh with joy. I can still smell ‘Buelita’s scent which was a combination of Tres Flores Brillantina in her hair and Tres Caritas Crema on her face. She used to like to wear a navy, blue dress with tiny white polka dots and a lace collar. On those weekends I spent at the beach or el rancho with her, I followed her everywhere.
From her living room through the archway, which I loved to run under because over it hung beaded curtains. I would run from her bedroom into the kitchen where she cooked. I can still see the painting over her bed of Jesus praying in the moonlight on the eve before his crucifixion. I can’t forget the aroma of the corn tortillas she cooked on the comal. Saturday nights consisted of her neighbor, Rafaelito, coming over to hang out (I loved Rafaelito. He was young and handsome, and looked like one of The Beatles) and later ‘Buelita filling la tina with warm water from the olla on the stove, then ‘Buelita would have me stand in it and pour cups of warm water over me with a tin cup and bathe me. The day she passed and the days that followed still bring a lump to my throat. I remember standing in the hallway watching my Mom as she answered the phone. It was a call from the hospital where ‘Buelita had been staying. I watched my Mom as she leaned forward and then shrunk into the chair next to the phone and began to cry like I have never seen her cry since. Lolita, our maid, came over to me, picked me up and took me outside. Over the next few days, many people came in and out of the house, uncles, cousins, relatives, friends. I was only about 4 years old but remember being held back near la carroza at the funeral home because I wanted to see my ‘Buelita but no one would let me get close to the grown ups. Daddy held me in his arms as I fought him, kicked him and asked him to let me go and put me down. He didn’t. He just held me tight, reassuring me that everything would be alright and that the grown-ups would take care of everything. I never got the chance to say good-bye to my ‘Buelita and to this very day miss her dearly. She was the only grandmother I ever knew. She was my first playmate. my first best friend . . . . She loved me. My ‘Buelita’s love was oh so special and everlasting, so strong I can still feel her love and presence in my life to this very day. I will always miss her.