By Emmanuel Padilla
The Calendar had December 28, 2011, but the date was December 28, 2012.
There was a constant battle; Calendar vs. the real date. Stomach vs. Tortillas. Grandma vs. me.
“Here!” my grandma demanded as she dropped a huge spoonful of frijoles onto my plate. “You have to eat!”
I was at my grandma’s, aka Ita’s house; where frijoles are forever on the stove and food is served without invitation. I just so happened to walk in during lunch hours.
My grandpa sat in front of me. He was wearing brown slacks, a white-collared shirt, a Kansas City Royals Jacket, (He has no idea who the Royals are), and his immortal guaraches.
Two bird full bird cages were behind him, a small bowl of salsa in front of him. On his right, the stove, which read “0:35.” To his left, bananas, juice boxes, and napkins from various fast food establishments.
He was in front of the calendar.
“Fix me a quesadilla for when I’m done with my plate,” he told Ita.
I moved out of my Ita’s house when I was three years old, but I grew up there. My elementary and middle schools were located steps away, and I did so many travesura’s at her house that they have become laugh interrupted stories.
“You did a lot of things here that scared me. But the worst was when you and your friend locked yourselves in the bathroom and snuck up on the roof,” Ita recalled. “Pobrecito, what was his name? I think Chris. Que mensito!”
“Who’s Chris?!” my grandpa asked without lifting his head.
“He is Gloria’s son.”
“Oh. I remember Gloria’s dad came here once. Didn’t say a word to anyone. He just walked in, got Gloria and left.”
Ita’s house is where I fine tune my Spanish. Where I am reminded of my roots. Where my tendencies, habits, and confusions are replicated, perfected, and answered.
Ita’s house is where culture is reloaded.
“Gloria’s dad is from Spain. In Mezcala, you would never see that,” My grandma reminisced. “People say hi. There is always something to do. People are active. Walk cows and donkeys from there to Guadalara. It would take them weeks.”
My grandpa doesn’t talk much to others, but when I visit him, his conversations are more like periodless monologues.
Ita chimes in with background info about the characters in my grandpa’s stories. The usual things I get asked by other OG’s from Mexico; Who are the parents? Where are they from? What are they doing now? When is the last time they saw the subject?
She is still up, making delicious tortillas that will go untouched because she has made over 10 for two people.
“Want Coffee? Yea, you want coffee, let me get the leche ready!”
“Make sure to get the cookies. I’ll get them,” my grandpa says. “These cookies are the best. They don’t sell them here, I brought them from Mexico.”
As he walks to his room, his guaraches make a similar sound to walking on old wood, which would be normal if he were not walking on kitchen tile.
My Ita’s house. Calendars outdated. Stoves with broken timers. Birdcages….in the kitchen. Stories that start but never end.
My grandparents were born in Mezcala, Jalisco, Mexico and immigrated to San Francisco in the 60’s. Their lives have been a constant culture adaption; what makes me proud is that they have never assimilated.
Culture cannot be forced. It is not something that can be authentically replicated if it is forced. It is embedded. It is natural.
It is drinking from an old jar before it became a social statement. It is interpersonal and in your face.
Culture is my Ita’s house.
With my café con leche in hand, which is more like leche con café, and my soggy cookie, and I just remain present; I listen.
My grandpa is in front, my ita to my left, and in the distance is an outdated calendar.
Time has no meaning at this instance, and time is the only thing that enhances culture.