06 August 2011
I remember being nine years old and staying the weekend with Mamita (a term of endearment in Spanish meaning "little mommy"), my grandmother on my father's side, along with my little sister, Tamika. That Friday, my father took us on the crowded "D" train to 125th Street and then jumped on the "C" train to 96th Street. Mamita was waiting on the other side of the turnstile so my dad didn't have to pay for a return fare. Mamita is an interesting looking woman. She sometimes wears multi-colored rollers in her hair with a floral scarf. Her outfits are just as vibrant often in the hot pinks and bright yellows.
Mamita greeted us with a big smile and a kiss, smearing her bright red lipstick on our cheeks. She bear hugged us with a force so great that we would see stars. As we walked along Central Park West towards her building, the sounds of the city engulfed me. I loved Manhattan which I found to be synonymous with Mamita. She would take us on these long walks to visit family members, collect money from people that borrowed from her and always to the sand park in Central Park.
Her apartment was small but airy. It was a two bedroom with a tiny kitchen and large living room. When you walk in, there is a quaint, little dining area with a heavily worn table with three chairs and a vase filled with fake flowers. Off the dining area is the living room with a gallery of photos on the walls and side tables. There is a picture of me, age three, smiling and sitting on her lap. There is also a picture of my Uncle Robert who died in the Vietnam War. He is dressed in his army uniform, looking young, fresh and serious. I never knew him as he passed away shortly after I was born. Other photos are of my great grandmother, grand aunts and cousins.
The second bedroom is simply adorned with a full size bed and a dresser topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary, a candle and a weird looking flower inside of a bowl with pennies in it. If anyone is familiar with Catholicism and Latinos, these are typical fixtures found in our homes. They can be bought at a Botanica, which is something like a cross between an apothecary and witchdoctor (Santeria). It kind of scared me as a kid but eventually I got used to these items and no longer got the heeby jeebies.
To me Mamita represents the fast pace of the people, the blaring taxi cabs, and the overwhelming vibrant energy of the city. And even though I haven't seen you in quite some time, understand that I have always and will always love you Mamita!
All images taken from Wikimedia Commons.