Sometimes I fear that I might forget the stories that keep my grandma (Tita) alive. It’s been a while since I’ve remembered new ones, though I lived a life-time of memories with her. In every new experience I have without her, I often think about what that experience would be like if she were a part of it, if she were there, here. She was such a beautiful light and only now that I have discovered my light, have I recognized and appreciated fully the power of her light, her heart, and her vibrancy. With all the pain and suffering she endured, her light was never dimmed, and that’s what made her magical.
Sabado Gigante, a Saturday night variety show on Univison, which aired for fifty three years, finally came to an end a few weeks ago. I had stopped watching the show, but it saddened me to know it would never air again, mainly because it had been part of a season lived with my Tita.
When I was in middle school, and Tita had finally gotten a stable apartment through a low-income housing program, up to then we had constantly moved from eviction notices to people’s living rooms to people’s garages, we would look forward to spending Saturday evenings watching Don Francisco. Often that was the highlight to our week and it was one of the few consistent experiences in our lives. It made us laugh, live in the moment and forget about the problems and burdens that felt so oppressive at times. I remember sitting in the prettiest living room I had ever had. It wasn’t fancy, but it was comfortable, and we had taken care to decorate it with the little money we had.
We had bought a sectional sofa upholstered with plaid burlap fabric, more in tune with late 1970’s décor, with help from my uncle who had co-signed for us to get credit from a furniture store that sold “gently used” furniture, though for most of the time that just meant there wasn’t any noticeable tears, stains, scratches, or dents. We bought a few throw pillows that were on sale at a store called Pic-N-Save and had found a lamp and some decorative ceramic pieces for the coffee table at various garage- sales. At sixty-years-old, It was the first apartment, home, Tita had had to her name and the first place she and I would live in for more than two years. We both had finally found a home of our own. This is what made sitting together watching Sabado Gigante so special.
Tita had purchased one of those old wooden-boxed TVs from a place called Ren-To-Own. It was our very first version of a big screen, high definition television. Every Saturday evening was a huge event for us; Don Francisco, the host of the show, brought some normalcy and much needed respite from the screams, the resentment, and the blaming that still consumed my family, then. Tita would prepare cafecito by boiling milk and adding Nescafe instant coffee and sugar to it. We’d each sit with our favorite pancito, sweet Mexican bread; un bisquet for her and a conchita for me. Cuddled up with my Tita on that burlap sofa, laughing hysterically, pressed against her flabby, strong arms, I felt safe.
I’ve come to realize that it isn’t the memories that I have to hold onto, but it’s her love. For it is that love that allowed me to persist, to survive, to become the beautiful being my Tita saw I was.
Tita Carmen May 23, 1926 – November 24, 2010