Originally published in the Marymount Manhattan College Review, 2004-2005/Number 17
She ruled with a fist full of comet and adobo. She cooked almost as much as she cleaned. The house always smelled of zofrito and Lysol with a hint of desperation.
She collected odd objects; magnets, pots and pans and arrangements of plastic fruits. Visitors never escaped the premises without a parting gift. Abuela would unhinge a pot and send the visitor on his or her way and after she’d unload an object to an unsuspecting person she’d find herself rebuying the same item again.
She lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights so tiny the furniture appeared to be painted on. She was mulatto with impeccable skin and had a knack for storytelling. She’d regale us with tales of aunts and uncles that could have been had they escaped her wired hanger and forceful yank.
My other abuela from my mother’s side didn’t fare so well, she drank a home brewed concoction to expel her unwanted seed and in the process expired.
But this Abuela with skin the color of cafe con Leche threw Spanish words in your direction at a rapid fire pace as if afraid they’d expire. She’d flail her arms for emphasis and responded to your frowned eyebrows by placing her left hand on her hip and say things in Spanish like, “don’t tell me we’re going to need subtitles” and punctuated it with the arch of her pencil filled brow.
Abuela now in her advanced age is a little less animated. She sips her whiskey and watches on as her grandchildren form families of their own and reminds everyone of stories she once told.