Finding the Way Home

“I can always find my way home from here…”

This has always been how I see my sister Nancy. She is a strong willed and independent person. No matter what life throws at her she will always find h-e-r way. My mother and father have always mistaken her uniqueness & independence for misbehaviour & rebellion. I never saw Nancy that way.

One day, back in Ecuador, Nancy took my mother’s shearing scissors and cut up a dress my mother had just finished making. Nancy was only maybe 3-4 yrs old but my mother was very upset and only saw this as her being rebellious. But the part that I don’t think my mother understood was that Nancy was just playing the role of a seamstress.

Also what I saw was that Nancy is crying out for attention. My mother is very focused and driven to excel. She works her fingers to the bone & in doing that, she does not have time to dwell on silly sentiments and childish needs.

Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying my mother was mean or neglected us, but she did the best she could in raising 5 kids. She earned our daily bread, putting clothes on our backs & providing a new life for us. It is just that she sacrificed her own in doing that for us.

She sacrificed her feelings, her needs and desires – all for us to have ours fulfilled.

So the other day Nancy played hooky from school. She took off to Coney Island with a couple of her older friends. Mom was worried for her because she did not arrive at the usual time. She was so upset – no mad! – so mad that she needed to teach Nancy a lesson. Teach her a lesson & scare the rebelliousness right out of her!

Standing at The 41st Precinct police station over on Longwood Ave, we are waiting to see the Sargent. Mom has arranged with a police friend of hers, to have Nancy held in an interrogation room. The police office interrogated her “where did you go? why did you play hooky?” Nancy was scared and very disoriented. Even frightened when the officer told her that she may be put in jail for what she did.

A few hours later she was released to the custody of my mother with the acknowledgement that she will never play hooky again. The trick worked, worked too well, because after this day Nancy changed. She seemed different somehow.

To me, Nancy was always a soul searching for herself. Searching outside of herself for a definition of who she can become. I know Nancy will find herself & I know she will one day realize that it has always been within her to find her way home.

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Good Friday Feast For Everyone

Fanesca- I woke up late today. Being Good Friday, I did not have to go to school.

Everyone is involved in the preparation of the traditional Ecuadorian Easter meal of Fanesa (Lenten chowder) for our Good Friday feast. Mom started by soaking the ‘bacalao‘ (Salt Cod) late yesterday and the house now has a strong fishy smell. I did not want any part of the preparations.

This soup is made with squash, Lima beans, fava beans, green beans, anyway 7 beans galore! If that wasn’t enough, mom also adds cabbage, milk, heavy cream, cream cheese, and then even more cheese. Oh I forgot – cheese empanada as a side dish!

Ugh! I’m not a fan of this dish!

My sisters and neighbors help my mother in the preparation of this feast. This is a day long event and I am not crazy for this ritual nor for the smell. Just thinking about this has me feeling overstuffed & out of place. Food to me is just to fill my stomach, nothing to spend so much time, effort & rituals over.

So I sneak out and go for a bike ride.

“Don’t go too far!” mom yells out. “I need you back in time for the feast!”

I ride off to check out the other side of the “hill.” All my friends talk about going to the “hill” on our bikes, but no one dares! They say that on the other side lies the Arthur Kill – the deadliest waterway in Jersey.

It is said that nothing lives in these waters. Nothing can! It is the filthiest body of water in Jersey. So bad that if a sailor falls off a tanker, they just leave him there. He is better off! since the acid in the water will eat you alive and the oil slick will choke you to death before they can even get to you.

Anyway, that is what they say – but I don’t believe them.

None of my friends are around and we’ve been talking about it for so long, that I decide to go by myself. The stories must be exaggerated! it can’t be that bad.

I ride off thru the abandoned, desolate grounds for about 1 mile and what I found on the other side was worse then even the roumors said. This area in loaded with homeless people; bon fires out of 50-gallon drums just to stay warm; a smell of dead fish; and plenty of black grime on the shores of the river.

flickr - pedrosimoes7 - homelessI ride down the back edge of the hill and ride alongside the baroness of the riverfront. Faces that seemed like they haven’t eaten in a long while, stare back at me as if to say “What are you doing here kid?”

I stopped in front of this old man. He had his hand stretched out. I didn’t even dare climb off my bike & dragged myself over to him. I put in his hands the snack & water that I had brought with me.

“Happy Easter kid! May God bless you.” he said.

I rode back to my house, no longer complaining and ready to partake of the feast. Even if I didn’t like the smell of it, I feel fortunate to have a home, a family & a safe haven where I can grow up a normal life.

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