Monday, June 27, 2011

Sundays Have Changed for Me

In my pre-western move to California from New York City and Westchester County, Sundays were filled with the traditional attendance in church followed by families gathering for a fairly filling meal. My Mother was a great cook. Her recipes have gone to the grave with her. With her passing, the traditional Sunday gatherings have gone by the way side too. It is not surprising that her absence changed the dynamics of our clan gatherings, for my children and I were trying to "make it" in America.  I’m certain that many people find their families scattered to the four corners of the world and like me find an inflexible schedule requiring weekday commuting and busy weekends to catch up on chores, children's games, and other activities. What’s missing today is the connection among the different generations and a tolerance and appreciation of what each generation has to offer everyone in the family.
I am a product of a very different kind of upbringing from my children and indeed from my cousins. First, I was an only child. My mother, I assume for the fact that I was sent to boarding schools when I was still at toddler, spoiled me later in life and would do everything for me. It could be she did not feel as connected to me since I learned to love the nuns who cared for me. Furthermore, I was bilingual when I started going to boarding schools. I began learning French in the first boarding school I attended in Tarrytown, New York. So on weekends, I mixed up my languages. It was an interesting linguistic stew which I can no longer produce as I did not master French when I moved back to the city for a short while.
For a short time I enjoyed not having to endure the pangs of separation each Sunday as I returned to the boarding school. I was able to go to both public schools and a Catholic School since religion was important to my mother. Her plans for keeping me with her during the week fell through and I was once again asked to go to a boarding school. This time I selected the school based on its name—Sacred Heart Villa. It was closer to the city—Dobbs Ferry, New York was predominately Italian and really a beautiful town. I was exposed to Italian as the sisters used it to converse among themselves. Of course, some words being similar to Spanish gave me clues of what was going on. My choice of schools led to some of my happier school moments, even if Sundays still led to feelings of abandonment or anxiety when I returned to the schools.  After I arrived at the school, the structure for the day and week ahead kept me too busy to cry at not being home with my parents.
Today’s Sundays are empty for me. I have no brothers or sisters so I have no nieces and nephews to love and spoil and my own children are less attached to me than I was to my parents. As an adult I spent Sundays with my Mother or Father. Now they are gone and my three are grown and busy. 
There is a cost, I think, to this lack of contact. For example, it is not easy to know people whom one does not see. Many members of the Rodríguez family are not speaking Spanish nor do they wish to learn it. I understand the reasons they may have, but I’m a bit more proud of Spanish –the language and the myriad of cultures where the language is spoken. Unfortunately, here in the US politics have created loss of pride at being bilingual or of having a residual accent when one speaks English.  

Loss of point of view
Knowing more than one language allows a person to learn and use the myths of the culture which frequently form the short cuts among members of a group and the metaphors that help us shape the meanings we wish to convey. Many of the Latinas who write in English demonstrate much of what I’ve lived and studied. When used a “hybridized” language is both effective and creative. I hope to go back to writing about my creative “Latina Sisters” so I can contribute in some small measure to what has turned out to be a long tradition of submissive subversion a quality found in Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, Rosario Ferre, Ana Lydia Vega, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Leslie Marmon Silko and countless others who stride two or more cultures and rhetorical approaches to writing and history making.

Future blog entries will explore some of my findings which I hope help others interested in code-switching, mixing, or as I say hybridizing. In point of fact, the use of cross cultural strategies in communication is important and should be maintained as peoples of the world continue to communicate. The alternative to having many cultural approaches would be to decrease the numbers of languages so that only English exists. However, the influences of other languages will continue to inform communications for cultural approaches are not so easily erased.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Is Here

My parents died long ago but on special days like Mother's Day and Father's Day, I get a bit reflective. I'm fortunate to see how it is that people live on in others. Each of my children carry forward many of the values, interests, and tendencies that each of my parents had. Of course, I get the credit or the blame too. I am happy that this is a seeming truth.

Later on today many children will honor their fathers with time, attention, and gifts. I wish I could do this too. My Dad was a quiet man. By this I mean, he never complained to me about his problems. I never knew he had any. In a way I would like to have this characteristic because whining never solves anything. He was impatient as a young man and I remember he had a fiery temper but he never harmed people.

One time when we were going on a family outing in our car--the rest of my extended family caravaned behind us. There was a terrible accident. My Dad pulled over and helped the man--a father and his children.  We detoured to get the man to a hospital. Later we went on our way for our outing.

I can't see a caravan of cars filled with loved ones anymore. The family is too splintered in various states of the United States. I do remember how proud I felt to have a man who acted and did the right thing as my Dad.

Ernesto Arroyo Rodriguez, te amo aunque no te puedo abrazar.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why Americans Have to Work Longer Hours and Borrow to the Hilt Just to Keep Afloat | Economy | AlterNet

Why Americans Have to Work Longer Hours and Borrow to the Hilt Just to Keep Afloat | Economy | AlterNet

As a woman who found herself dependent on Social Security, I am familiar with the thesis of the article to which I respond here.
Even at a professional level working conditions as well as payment for work completed have gone down. Interestingly, I do not see the end of these conditions--the decline of pay and working conditions seem to be in our future for a long time.

It is a good thing that I can maintain what is left of my sanity through prayer, meditations, and reading both on-line and books I own. I've not yet hit the library for use of their books. But that time is approaching quickly.

I pray that fewer people have to lose their livelihoods and attendant self-esteem that comes along with employment. As a good friend told me: "I work so I can have some fun from time to time." This friend is in her late 70s and still hard at work.

I hope I maintain the stamina she has. But such is life for many of us in the 21st century.

The "Fancy" in What We See as Ordinariness

Sometimes I feel that there is nothing special about my life because I am not traveling, curing the sick, or doing the great things I thought I would have completed by now. Well that's just me being unrealistic. We are all special. My "specialness" is more than my physical attributes. I'm exceptionally short but think I'm 5' 10". (I only think this usually when I do not wear my glasses and I'm puttering around the house). The floor looks so far away when my glasses are off my face.
However, I've been told I have other attributes that have little to nothing to do with my height--or lack thereof--or with my age, beauty etc. Honestly whatever bloom was part of me has long withered yet I along with most people entering the "sunset" of their lives have something from their essential self that is pleasant. At least I am hoping this is so.

I was raised to consider more than the outer and more obvious things about people.

Back to my lack of great height:
The only time I felt tall was when I visited my family in Puerto Rico, A cousin took me to the Mall of the Americas and everyone was as short or shorter than I except for my wonderful cousin who was 5' 6".

Perception means a lot and now I'm beginning anew to write about myself without the rose colored glasses, and with more kindness. I tend to beat myself up. I think recent readings are helping. I can see that short is not bad. That alone is not necessarily lonely and that I can write what I want in spurts until I get a lot more momentum going.

I'm working on a concept based on talking to those who are part of my life even if they are not alive. I thought that many cultures find ways to keep ancestors with them. I do as I imagine others might do. You think of something to you want to share with a Mother or Father so you say it aloud. I'm not expecting a quick response but as I miss them it soothes me to talk to my dead. I don't do it often but we all need to feel connected beyond today's electronic gadgetry and in fact I rather hope to reboot my memory in these personal practices.

Just today I wondered what my Father would think of my son, James, and his many travels around the country. I know too that my Mother would be pleased, but since my Dad was the quieter of the two, I wonder what he would make of this Grandchild of his who is doing so much work on behalf of family and fatherhood issues. In my conversations, I hear  a proud grandfather.

It turns out that my "ordinary life" has borne fancy fruits for others to enjoy and benefit from.