Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fifteenth Birthday

I always adapted things to my own ways, because I liked being creative and I did not like adapting to the ways of others, if they did not work for me. When I was in 8th grade, my close friends and I were feeling a little out of place with all the "quincianera' celebrations taking place that year because they were very extravagant, beginning with the dresses being very expensive and beyond our budget. We couldn't be the "damas" or maids in those celebrations, and some girls who were our friends ended up with "damas" they hardly knew, but who could afford the dresses.
When my 15th birthday came up, I didn't want to have strangers around me as maids..I wanted my friends and only my friends celebratng with me. Instead of choosing one color for the 14 girls to dress the same, I decided I wanted them to use whatever they had already making a variety of colors like a rainbow. I didn't care what they wore, but I cared that I would choose and have my closest friends around me celebrating together. Some of them didn't even have a celebration of their own, so this was their celebration too. It was simple but beautiful in our eyes, and that was what was important. None of my friends had to feel left out.
I did have one problem for a while, because my best friend and neighbor was only 10 years old and at that time maids were usually 14, or very close to 14 or 15. At first her mother said no, but I found a way to get past that. I invited her mother to be my "madrina" or godmother and then she felt compelled to say yes.
I still needed one more girl a couple of weeks before my birthday and my mother stopped to talk to a neighbor and she found the last girl because the lady had a granddaughter. At first, I was not too happy, because I hardly knew her since she was only 13, but it was ironic that we later became like sisters for the rest of our lives. In fact, I am still friends with about half of then now that I am old.
My fifteenth birthday was beautiful. My 14 maids walked in to the strains of music with me flollowing and then my godmother. I was so proud of my friends with their pastel promlike dresses of net or lace in pinks, blues, greens and violets--a pastel rainbow. After the solemn mass with all of us receiving communion, we went to my house where we had cake and chocolate and played games, laughed and played music and danced to rock and roll. My mother did not allow boys, but we had some fun anyway. My friends and myself were still not boy crazy yet...we were just starting to notice them!


Weslaco was unique in its way in the 40's. The milkman may not have gone to too many houses in my neighborhood, but the "tortilla" man did. Every morning between the hours of 10am and noon, the "tortillero" drove up to the curve and the housewives were ready to buy packages of corn "tortillas" fresh from the local "tortilla" factory. The "tortillas" were still hot and they were were the best I have ever eaten. My mother always bought some for our lunch, which usually consisted of Mexican rice or "fideo" made by her, with refried beans.
Then about 4pm, she would make wheat flour "tortillas". She never measured anything that I could see. She just put some flour in the bowl, added some salt with her fingers and some baking powder with a spoon, some lard and poured the water and mixed. Her "tortillas" always came out perfect every day. She rolled the out on a flour board, with a wooden rolling pin from little balls of the mixed and kneaded dough and cooked them on a big iron skillet with a heavy lid. Her "tortillas" were big, bigger than most other "tortillas I had seen being made in other houses where they were cooked on an iron "comal"( a flat grill).
When I arrived home I would have a tortilla with coffee to hold me till suppertime at about 6pm.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My early education from Kindergarten to 8th grade was at St. Joan of Arc parochial school in Weslaco, Texas. In retrospect, I feel it was the best education anyone could have had, because those nuns gave me a very strong core of learning

Offering Flowers in May

When I was seven years old, we had a beautiful thing happening every night for the month of May each year in our Catholic Church named St. Joan of Arc. The church had the rosary each evening with little girls offering flowers to Our Lady at each mystery. Little girls dressed in white with their first communion dresses and veils and carried bunches of flowers from their garden. They lined up at the door and at each mystery, they walked in with beautiful singing to deliver the flowers to the altar where teen girls took the flowers and placed them on a table. These young girls would then collect the flowers from the table and take them back to the door to be randomly distributed among the little girls who would walk again to the altar with them. At the end of the rosary, the flowers were then placed in large vases in from of the huge statue of the Virgin Mary.
This beautiful ceremony was repeated every night until the last day of May, when one little girl was chosen to crown the Virgin Mary. i think this was a beautiful ritual and I was one of those little girls who participated. To this day, everytime I smell real flowers or a garden, I remember those beautiful evenings in church giving homage to the Virgin Mary.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Great Aunt Andrea

I will always remember the image of my great grand aunt on my father's side. Her name was Andrea Garcia Valdez. My family used to visit her in the 40's when I was a small child and she died when I was 12 and she was about 104. The image that has stayed in my mind all this years is of her sitting in front of her huge wood stove in her kitchen..the kind you see depicted in Christmas cards. She still cooked and cleaned her house when I was a child. She wore her shoulder length hair in a little bun held together with wire hairpins, which she sometimes placed on the stove front fender to redo her knotted bun of hair.
She was a widow with three sons in their 40's still living in the property, but in small houses of their own. her only daughter, the youngest married several times and had two sons and a daughter in their teens. Sometimes she too lived on the property or with her mother between marriages, but her children were a troublesome lot most of the time, getting into trouble. Both she and her daughter died young and Aunt Andrea and her middle aged sons had to deal wityh the two young boys.
The youngest of the three brothers, married and moved to Mexico with his wife, but the other two remained single all their lives. They showed a lot of respect and help to their mother as she aged. She was their bank...with two little cloth bags in different colors hanging on the inside of the waist of her skirt. Before they went shopping for anything, they would as her for the money and she would go to that respective little bag and give that son his money.
Both uncles were always talking about current event happening in those years because they always read the newspapers daily. they also both spoiled me with little presents. It was actually with some fabric that one of them, Nieves, gave me that I made my first dress for myself when I was 13. It was a weird color material of little triangles in orange and pink, but I did like it very much.
After they died, I lost track of my young cousins for many years, but saw the wife of one of them in Fort Worth in 1992.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tomasita Villarreal

My aunt Tomasita Villarreal, my father's sister, was a seamstress well known in Rio Grande City for many years. Her specialty was wedding dresses and everything needed for a wedding. She made from scratch and showed me how to make the little white orange blossoms used in the wedding crown, the wedding lasso and the wedding corsages and the bride's bouquet! She could make all of it from scratch and they looked just like the ones bought in expensive boutiques. In fact her living room looked like a boutique.
She also made wonderful machine embroidery on blouses, dresses and even pillow cases or other linen. She was very talented. I will never for get the things she created. She had a lot of patience in her work.

Quilting in my Family

Quilting in my family was very important when I was a child. My mother and some of my aunts all made quilted blocks and made them into quilts.. I remember my mother carding wool given to her by her brother from his own sheep. When the wool was first brought home by my mother from her brother's place was all rough and had thorns and stuff that the sheep got into, before the wool was sheared off the sheep. She had wooden cards, or wooden paddles with nail-like things to kind of clean out and sort out the wool to prepare it to be used as the stuffing put between two fabric parts--the front part made up of pieced blocks and the backing, sometimes made from one color or pieced also. She had huge wooden frames, to hold the basted quilt to work in the patterned quilted stich lines. Sometimes she would make a quick tuffed quilt, putting in tufts of thread scattered throughout the quilt instead of stitching lines.
Sometimes instead of a pieced quilt she would make an appliqued one. I remember one she made appliqueing fan shaped forms to each block. Another one had the little sunshine girl with a sunbonnet applique. She also made one with pansy appliques.