the latest installment of our featured columnist, Maria Cisneros
Memoirs of my Grandomother
by Maria Cisneros
Often we find ourselves questioning who we are as individuals. As my father often likes to remind me, who we are as children is often the person who we truly are inside. I must say then, that I am a truly blessed and happy human being. Family is number one for me, if that point hasn’t been made already; they are the ones that have kept me sane and centered. In life, one particular person often influences us more than others. In my case, I’d have to say this person was my grandmother. She was an exceptional woman. I could write a whole book about her but I’m going to share a couple of lessons she taught me. This woman was just too awesome to keep them all to myself.
When I was around six or seven, I would spend Saturday nights at her house. I looked forward to these nights because it was my mini-vacation from my brothers. My grandma’s house was my reprieve. At that time, my family and I didn’t live next door to her (twenty-four years of my life we were neighbors). My parents would drop me off, she would make us something to eat, and then we’d sit down to watch Star Search with Ed McMahon. We would discuss who we thought were the best contestants and we especially loved the dancing segment. After that was over, instead of going to sleep, we’d stay up and watch Gilbert Godfrey host a horror movie on the USA network. My grandma hated the sound of that man’s voice, but that didn’t deter her from catching the night’s flick. It was either watch that or Tales from the Crypt, but we’d always end the night with a scare. My grandma had a soft spot for horror movies, ghost stories; anything that was spooky or mysterious, she loved it. The following morning, she would wake me up early, bundle me up in my clothes that she had warmed on the gas heater (not recommended since it is a fire hazard, but if you’ve never had your garments warmed by the gas heater…you just haven’t lived) and we’d head over to Popeye’s. It was always the same order: two biscuits with jelly, a coffee for her, a hot chocolate for me, and the chilly welcoming of a quiet winter morning. It was the absolute best.
Although my grandmother was a loving woman, she had a competitive side to her (a trait that most family members carry). She loved the game Scrabble. As a child, the family would get together at her home, the children would be shooed outside, and the Scrabble tournaments would commence inside. It was a frequent happening in the Cisneros family. Aunts, uncles, cousins (when they were finally of age) would sit in her kitchen: letter tiles in place, official Scrabble dictionary on hand, Scrabble board centered on the table and they’d play for hours at a time. At the end of most game sessions, more often than not, my grandma would be the triumphant one. Last June, I came to Laredo for the weekend. My grandma was living with my father since she was no longer able to live alone. She asked me to play her a game. Knowing it would make her day, I said sure. For a second, I thought “I’m going to win”. Yeah, right. I would look at the board trying to see the game like she did. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how in the world she would put these giant words together. Some words were really simple but they’d end up being seventy points. I’d count them twice just to make sure she was correct (during which she would look at me annoyed), and sure enough, she’d be right. Every once in a while she’d say, “mija, busca a ver donde agarras mas puntos” and “no estas tratando”. In all honesty, I was trying to put words together and find perfect spaces for them. I really was giving it my best. When I would finally put down a word, she would challenge it and make me find the Scrabble dictionary to make sure it was a word. She was fighting my fifteen point word even though she was a hundred points ahead of me! She was a tough one. Well at the end of the game, she won by like a hundred and fifty points. To think that all my childhood I had looked forward to playing her because I knew I could win and this is what happened. She won like she had always done. She was never one to give up without a fight.
Aside from her loving and competitive side, my grandmother was a comedian in her own right. She had an awesome sense of humor. Anytime she’d hear a joke, she’d remember it and retell it whenever she got the chance. Grandma especially had a fondness for dirty jokes. When I was younger, she’d send me out of the room while she told the other adults ‘pepito’ jokes. Try as I might, I couldn’t hear them that well from the other room, so I never understood what they were all laughing about. When I was finally of age to hear them, this was last year, she told me a joke about an old lady and oranges. It came to mind because she was eating oranges at the time, and remembered that specific joke; even then she made sure my father was out of the room because it was a bit scandalous. It’s one of the two perverted jokes my grandmother told me. The other one was about a rapist who broke into a home where a grandmother lived with her two young granddaughters…yea, it was a good one. She was always one to find humor in anything and she had a very sharp wit (again, another trait shared by most family members). When I’d visit home and get the chance to tuck her into bed, she’d tell me “Sueñe mija con los angelitos, pero yo con los abuelitos de los angelitos”, and then she’d laugh and tell me not to tell my father. I kept that from my father until after she had passed away; the whole family got a kick out of it. Even with her not being here, she was still making us laugh.
It’ll be a year in November since she passed away. When she left this world, she had all of her children with her, loving her as much as she had loved them all. Reminiscing about how intertwined my life was with hers, I now understand that the nights spent with her taught me about how important time with family is and how it should be cherished. Her reign as Scrabble queen taught me that although the puzzle might seem hard, there will always be a solution; I just have to keep my eyes open. Her penchant for jokes, well it taught me that sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. Being her grandchild for twenty-seven years was the absolute best gift I could have ever been blessed with. She certainly was my angel.