Blissful memories

Shan (Mama) and Uric (Papa)  

My paternal grandparents are no longer alive. They’ve been gone for so long that I don’t remember when they left us. Everyone knew Papa’s name – Uric, but my grandmother’s remained a mystery. Papa called her Shan. We knew that was not her real name but it didn’t matter because she was our Mama.

Papa was a character. He loved alchohol and cigarettes. He was forced to leave his job in the oil fields after he lost his hand (below the wrist) in a sawmill accident. That was years before I was born and while my brother and I were fascinated with it, we were equally comfortable. After all, that’s how we’d always known him. He didn’t let this stop him from playing the cuatro (the small four-stringed instrument, in the photo) for his Parang group.He used a rubber band to tie the pick to his stump and played a mean background while they sang Parang songs during the Christmas season.

Mama was born in Venezuela – from Spanish and Amerindian heritage. She never forgot her native tongue and little by little, taught me to say the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. Mama was very meticulous about keeping her hair neat and her home clean and organized. She was a darling of a grandmother – gentle, soft-spoken, loved to laugh and tell jokes and stories.

 These are my favourite memories of my grandparents:

(1) Early on December 31st, my parents would pack up the car with necessities and gifts and and drive some 64 miles to Siparia, to ring in the New Year with my aunts, uncles and cousins at my grandparents house (grand central). Papa and a couple of my uncles used to head to the forest to hunt and bring home the bounty of wild meat for Mama to cook. That was part of our tradition. At midnight, Papa would run outside and fire two rounds from his shotgun into the air, after which, the children would race outside to search for them and play our favourite games, before the adults called us inside to eat. Then we’d talk, laugh, tell stores and play indoors until we fell asleep somewhere around 5am.

(2) Sometime during the Christmas season, Papa and his Parang group would travel to the homes of relatives and friends to serenade them with their repertoire of Parang songs and music. My brother and I looked forward to the 3am visit. When we heard them, we’d rush to wake up my parents with, “Papa’s here. Papa’s here!” My mother would clear a space in the living room for us to dance while they serenaded us.

(3) Mama used to have my brother and I in stitches with her jokes and quaking in our pyjamas with her nighttime ghost tales. Of course our parents weren’t too happy with that because when we were too scared to sleep, we’d scurry to their room and dive into their bed.

(4)  It seemed to me that Mama was always in the kitchen cooking and there was always a pot of coffee brewing on the stove. It was at her house I had my first taste of coffee and fell in love with it. Every morning when I brew my own, in the modern-day percolater and the aroma fills my kitchen, I remember her, her kitchen and the precious time we spent there. Her home nurtured my love of the Spanish country cottage style, which I am still creating and tweaking bit-by-bit, in my own home.

Those were the good old days – blissful memories of my grandparents. I hope I am also creating blissful memories for my grandchildren.

Gabriel laughing while I sing a silly song for him

Gabriel is 2 1/2 months, so he won’t begin collecting memories just yet but I’m waiting until he is old enough to remember stuff.

While painting my bedroom, Sian plays with my collection of straw hats.

At 2 years and 6 months, I hope the memories I’ve created for and with Sian will stay with her throughout her life.


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