Doña Lupe’s Birthday – 100 Posts

Grandma Lupe & Papa Chava

Today would have been my gentle grandmother’s birthday. Maria Guadalupe Gonzales was born on October 16th, 1915 somewhere along the way from Abasolo, Guanajuato to where the family ended up settling in Piru, California. The first record on her on any legal document was a census record from 1920 in Piru, California and she was five years old.

I am trying to imagine my grandmother at five. What was she like? Did she run and play amongst the orange orchards on the rancho where they lived the life of many a Mexican picking fruit and working in the fields? It is hard for me to imagine that child that she must have been. In my memories she was always super knowledgeable, very religious and proper and always very loving.

My grandmother knew just about everything there was to know about herbs. She could tell you the story about every plant, flower and herb in her garden. She loved plants that had religious connotations and so those grew all over and they made her incredibly happy. There were two large pots of maiden hair fern (el cabello de la virgen or the hair of the Virgin Mary) on the front porch near the door. The soft, elegant fronds of fern with their delicate black stems would whisper their blessing against your legs as you walked in the front door. In her hanging wire baskets overflowing with moss, you’d find Job’s tears, Bleeding Hearts, Rosary plant, and others. Passionfruit vine grew along the fence and once she took a flower from it and told me the whole story of the Passion of Christ. Each bit of the flower told another part of the story and it fascinated the child I was. She influenced me and influences me still in so many ways. She and my grandfather were great storytellers and never were too busy not to be able to stop and tell me a story about something.

My happiest times as a child were times spent sitting in her kitchen or in the patio out back where we’d sit and embroider while she told me about living in Piru, or about flowers and plants. We’d talk about Julia Child’s cooking show or my stitches. She was so proud of my stitches, which were tiny and tight. I still embroider on occasion, especially if I am making a new traje de gala (regalia) for my Aztec dance. Every time the needle sinks into the manta (canvas) to make a stitch, I think of her and feel she’s watching over me.

When you stepped into my grandma Lupe’s house, the first thing you noticed was the little light switch covers she had. They were unusual in that they had small little fonts for holy water in them and usually a prayer etched into it. You’d come in, dip your fingers into the holy water and make the sign of the cross, blessing yourself as you entered. I miss that. I’m not religious at all, at all but something about the ritual of blessing myself entering and leaving was comforting. I never went anywhere without the blessing of my grandparents, “Que dios te bendiga, hija.” Not having it these days leaves a certain sense of emptiness when I walk out a door, but some days I can almost hear their voices, especially hers and I smile and walk outside knowing I’m loved and cared for, even though she’s been gone over 20 years.

My grandmother died of complications from a stroke in 1984, just two weeks after my youngest son, Robert Salvador was born. I’d had a bad case of pneumonia after Bobby was born and was hospitalized. I missed her funeral and wasn’t able to make the trip home to Los Angeles until two weeks later. I’ll never, ever get over that, missing my chance to say goodbye or even being able to be with her before she did. In those years, I lived about 400 miles away from home and rarely made the trip back home being too busy raising my young family. I would have loved to have live near my grandma and let my children have her around. As it was, my oldest Albert, did make it into her loving arms and she sang to him this song:

SEÑORA SANTA ANA

-Señora Santa Ana,
¿por qué llora el niño?
-Por una manzana
que se le ha perdido.

-No llore por una,
yo le daré dos;
que vayan por ellas
a San Juan de Dios.

No llore por dos,
yo le daré tres;
que vayan por ellas
hasta San Andrés.

No llore por tres,
yo le daré cuatro;
que vayan por ellas
hasta Guanajuato.

No llore por cuatro,
yo le daré cinco;
que vayan por ellas
hasta San Francisco.

No llore por cinco,
yo le daré seis;
que vayan por ellas
hasta la Merced.

No llore por seis,
yo le daré siete;
que vayan por ellas
hasta San Vicente.

No llore por siete,
yo le daré ocho;
que vayan por ellas
hasta San Antonio.

No llore por ocho,
yo le daré nueve;
que vayan por ellas
hasta Santa Irene.

Si llora por nueve,
yo le daré diez;
que vayan por ellas
hasta Santa Inés.

To listen to a part of the song, click here.

It’s about a woman with a crying child and the orchard keeper asks why the child is crying. She answers that the boy is crying for an apple that he lost and the orchard keeper replies, “Let’s go to the orchard and cut two, one for the boy and one for God. The song goes on to talk about the different places in Mexico and mentions my grandmother’s family home state of Guanajuato, so she must have learned it from her mother. I’ll never forget her singing to him and how she rocked him, holding him close to her chest. It is one of the most beautiful memories of my Grandma that I have, that of her holding my firstborn son.

I have so many memories of my Grandma, all wonderful and far too many for one post. In my culture, we have a belief that our ancestors never leave us, they just move over to el otro lado, the other side. As an Aztec dancer, I believe that she is just on the other side, never forgotten, always remembered and honored, always honored. Happy birthday Grandma, te quiero mucho.

Oh this is my 100th post on Doña Lupe’s and so cool that it landed on her birthday!

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2 thoughts on “Doña Lupe’s Birthday – 100 Posts

  1. How fortunate you were to have such a wonderful woman as your Grandmother. Your story makes me want to meet her and know her too.

    It’s hard not saying the final goodbye. That situation happened to me when my Father died. Truthfully my sister says he’s around so often, and if I’m ever really low I feel him too.

    Thanks for giving me a peek into your family. I am honored.

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