Gender & Identity, Life

I sketch my Abuelita Juanita’s calla lillies

My cucumber plant sprouted the day my great-grandma died.

My cucumber plant sprouted the day my great-grandma died.

The first day of last month, my mother got a call at five in the morning. The moment I heard my mother’s frantic voice, I knew at once that that my abuelita was gone. My great-grandmother, Juana — Abuelita Juanita, as I had grown up calling her – had a heart attack in her sleep. At ninety eight years old, she left the world.

My Abuelita Juanita was your traditional Mexican grandmother. She would cook divine dishes that we would eagerly devour in an instant. Her gorditas were legendary, and she knew the best tea recipes for when you had an upset stomach. No matter how many times you declined it, she never failed to continue to offer you more food. (Okay, many times we did ended up saying yes to her offer.)

At the age of six, I remember my abuelita showing me her paintings and drawings of flowers. Inspired, I began to try to imitate her artwork myself, and would grow frustrated when I couldn’t match her attention to detail. To be fair, she had some 80 years of experience over me.

I didn’t know it then, but her artwork would later pull me toward Frida Kahlo’s work, simply because Kahlo’s flowers remind me of my abuelita’s. I now found myself doodling calla lilies on any blank paper I get my hands on. The years of practice have paid off, at least, and they look quite nice.

With a few minutes of work, my Abuelita Juanita could transform a living room. Her colorful doilies could make bland couches vibrant, and she sewed detailed floral designs onto table covers. Admittedly, I found them to be tacky when I was younger but was impressed every single time I would see her make them.

Now, I wish I had asked her to make those designs, too.

Her interests were simple, but they gave me a deep love for Mexican artwork and culture.

It’s surreal that someone who was such a prominent figure in all my twenty years of life is just suddenly gone. I didn’t notice it until she had passed, but all of her attributes and hobbies shaped my Mexican background. I don’t think she herself knew how much of an influence in my life she was.

My cucumber plant grows still, as does the appreciation for my great-grandma’s influence.

karla rendonKarla Rendon is a junior journalism major at University of La Verne and news editor for the school paper, Campus Times. When she’s not freaking out about the next concert she’s going to she can be found scrapbooking and writing album reviews. Karla is passionate about feminism, immigrant rights and collecting pens shaped like dogs.