My Abuelita ( my grandmother) isn’t what you would see in a typical American commercial today….with short gray hair, fair-skinned sitting next to her grandchild on the sofa reading a book or baking cookies. My Abuelita was a petite dark-skinned woman with long black hair that she always combed back in a ponytail or bun. She never read to me. I don’t know how much formal education she had, but I do know she liked to drink her strong black coffee every morning. I don’t know if it was Puerto Rican coffee such as Yaucono, Pilon or Café Bustelo. What I do remember is her kitchen would smell like Starbucks. One whiff of that robust coffee was enough to waken all my senses.
When it was time for supper; my abuelita wouldn’t go out to the local market and pick out a chicken that she wanted to add to her arroz con gandules. (rice with chickpeas) a staple in a Puerto Rican household. My Abuelita….instead would walk to her backyard grab a hold of one of her chickens and slay it. YES! you heard me right. She would slay the chicken with her small bare hands. She would SNAP the chicken neck swiftly. I was told you had to kill the chicken quickly so that the animal wouldn’t suffer. I know….I know… That sounds horrible. I realize that. I couldn’t stomach her doing it when I was a kid. I was just feeding the chicken grass clipping just a few days ago. I would walk into the kitchen when the deed was done, Thank God; but….that is how My Abuelita would start preparing her dinner.
Exercise… My Abuelita didn’t stroll around the block briskly to get fit. She would walk up and down the steep hills of Jayuya mountain streets to the local market to purchase items that she didn’t grow in her backyard. That could be the reason why she was so thin or she was so thin because she was a chain smoker. I remember her yelling down the hill at my mother. “Julié!!! tarjame cigarrillo!!!.” “Julié!!! bring me back cigarettes!!!”
My Abuelita also didn’t have the modern conveniences like washer and dryer, dishwasher, ice maker or even a toilet. I had shared my experience with my Abuelita’s outhouse. If you haven’t read it yet. Check it out the chapter “Abuelita’s House” in my book Como Coco-The Journey, but getting back to my grandmother’s modern conveniences she had none. Hell…she didn’t even have hot water.
I just remember my grandmother being a strong petite woman. She didn’t smile very much. she wasn’t really affectionate either. She raised 4 children by herself. She was a single woman who never got married. Unheard of in those days. When My Abuelita suffered a stroke my mother convinced her to move with us to the States along with my sister, my mom, and I. My Abuelita lived with us for a short while because she was too independent. She said. “She lived all her life by herself and she didn’t need anyone to take care of her now.” My mother didn’t agree with her. My mother wanted to take care of her in time of need, but she respected My Abuelita’s wishes. My Abuelita went back to her home in the mountains of Jayuya, Puerto Rico.