Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Too Soon to *Have* to Write Another One, but Here it Goes

This is for H.A.T.

Uncle, I wasn't expecting to write another one of these so soon (having written one last year for my grandfather), but here it is - my fondest memories of you. And since I feel like I'm now the official storyteller, the family wordsmith, I think this will be an appropriate way to remember you, with stories I want to share.

In the morning when I'm getting my coffee fix, I will think of you, since I know you enjoy your morning cup of java as much as, if not more than, the next guy. We've even had discussions about coffee, and how perhaps Oma's was good because it was Oma's coffee in Oma's kitchen, but it was not as strong as you and I were accustomed to drinking in our respective homes, or in our offices . . .wherever it was that we drank our cup(s) of joe. Oma's coffee, though, went well with her huevos con chorizo, or even her pecan pancakes. And it went well with the company we kept back in the day on Mountain Walk Drive.

I sent you a coffee mug with a special photo on it - one of you and Baby Olivia while she was still a little thing, a gummy smile on her face before her teeth started coming in. You appreciated it and said it was one of your favorite mugs (if not THE favorite one). I sent it to you because of your coffee habit, and because it was a great photo of a great-uncle and his great-niece.
It is such a great photo of the two of you at Oma's house - it's a good pic to look at - to think of you with big smiles.

I love imagining the story about the "Scare in the Moonlight on Blue Ridge." You know the story. Long ago in El Paso, you and a buddy were hiding in the bushes in the moonlight when my mother got home from her nursing shift at the hospital. You thought you'd startle her and that it would be funny, right? But when she let out a scream, it scared you more than you expected; you'd planned on startling her . . . and then my grandparents came running out, scaring you even more. Not what you expected, was it?! Sure, my grandparents were very upset with you, especially Oma. As a matter of fact, you were not allowed to go back to your buddy's house to spend the night, she was so angry.

Yet, this is one story that makes Oma laugh hysterically - after so many years, she thinks of how you were so scared, your face was pale in the moonlight; while she was mad at you then, the memory of your face in the moonlight has become hysterically funny to her. She laughs so hard recalling this story, it makes me laugh uncontrollably. When I last asked you to retell the story to me yet again, you simply said, "Let's not discuss it anymore," with a sly smile on your face.

I know you said let's not discuss it anymore, but I will tell this story to Livie one day. It's good to keep the family stories going forward.  I know you would agree with me, even though this is one story you want hush-hush. And I will have to tell Marissa, too.

Maybe a day in the future, I'll have Olivia and Marissa with me, and I'll tell them about you, something especially funny. Like the time we were at my parents' house on Casady Drive. You were on the treadmill in the den. I was in there watching TV. You were running, deciding to take off your sweatshirt. But you didn't stop the treadmill. It didn't stop, but your feet MUST have - just for a moment as you took the sweatshirt over your head. Suddenly, whoosh . . . boom! You've been thrown against the back wall. We look at each other. With a sheepish grin, you say "Oops!" and give a laugh.

THAT is funny stuff that can't be made up. I know you think it's funny now. We laughed about it recently. It's stuff for me to remember to tell your great-nieces. Hopefully it will be as funny to them as it was to the two of us.

Speaking of laughing, remember the time when you and I were in El Paso at the same time and we watched an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with Sir Rafa? It was Junior - the one where the Governator's character becomes pregnant and gives birth to a healthy baby. Remember that? Sir Rafa laughed so much, it made the movie that much more fun to watch. Especially when he loved that line the Governator says - something to the effect of "It's my body, my choice." Fun times.

Then there was that time we rented Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos . . . we were expecting to see that classic Brazilian movie in its original form, but little did we know it was dubbed in English. Remember how the voice of Flor didn't match her character? A good flick, but not quite so good in English as in its original Brazilian Portuguese. And then we were worried that Oma would come in - though it is a definite classic from the mid-'70s, it wasn't exactly along the lines of an appropriate "Oma" movie.

We've got so many memories from El Paso, don't we Uncle? Remember the time we were there for Thanksgiving, and Christine was with us, too? We had an awesome, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with Oma's famous stuffing. To complete the whole turkey day experience, you, Christine, and I went to the Thanksgiving Day parade in the rain. Remember that? I know Christine does. She and I talked about it recently, trying to keep these awesome memories fresh.

That same weekend, the three of us headed to Juarez on the Border Jumper Trolley from downtown El Paso. We had fun being "tourists" that day and ate lunch at some Froggy chain restaurant. Christine recently asked me if I remembered the strength of the margaritas, to which I responded, "Oh, you mean the margarita-flavored tequila?" ;)

Again, that was another rainy day in El Paso over that same Thanksgiving weekend. I remember driving back to Oma's house in her little tan car, in the rain, with water rolling down the street. Oma was worried, but glad that I'd driven; she actually trusted my driving.

And since we're remembering a story including tequila, I have to admit: I think "Cin cin, Uncle," when I have a margarita or enjoy a shot of Patron Silver. It's good stuff and I know you enjoyed it.

Or the next time I open a bottle of my New Mexico wine - I'll do a "Cin cin for The Uncle." Andrew and I have already done a few toasts "For the Uncle," so it's already started. And with coffee, too.

So . . . on to more memories: I was looking through my address book the other day and was looking under the Ts. I saw your familiar handwriting, with your name, address, e-mail, and cell info written down. I stopped and smiled, realizing I had something written in your own hand in my possession.

In my cell phone, as I scrolled through the saved phone numbers, I saw the one labeled HAT. That number will never again be in service, but I can't seem to erase it out of my phone.

It'll remind me of you when I scroll through my phone. I will think of more stories when I see those initials.

Like the times we'd discuss Tony Hillerman's books, set in the southwest, our wonderful, beloved, bronze, dusty, turquoise-filled Southwest. And how Joe Leaphorn, the Legendary Lieutenant, didn't believe in coincidences. How there are no such things as coincidence.

I will think of one of the last communications we shared on Facebook. I'd told you I'd picked up Anne Hillerman's book Tony Hillerman's Landscape and how Tony himself had written the intro before he passed away. And you figured I'd already finished zipping through the book, signing off with your usual "UH".

Or the time I sent you an article about Tony, and you said it was a fine piece, and asked if it inspired me to write more? Yes, that's your way of telling me I am the storyteller. I have a lot of stories to tell. I will write them.

I'm just glad that over our final visit together in December, I was able to talk to you about The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea. You knew just what I meant, when I felt like I was actually a part of that story, I was IN the story, I was experiencing it firsthand. The tortillas, the huevos con chorizo, the scents, sights, sounds, the feelings. I was enveloped in that story, and it was like home. And you knew just what I meant when I explained how I was swallowed whole by that story. Now that is what a story is supposed to do. What I also feel about all those Hillerman novels I've read and loved . . . like I've met the Legendary Lieutenant, or Jim Chee, the Navajo Tribal Police Officer who is also a shaman-in-training.

And I will think of you when I write my own stories of the Southwest and aim to evoke those same feelings into a new set of readers - that they may feel a part of my stories, as though I'm writing their own personal stories, through their own eyes. I'm sure I'll have stories set in other locations; I have lived in so many other places. But like the state motto says, I was definitely enchanted by "The Land of Enchantment." I will write something about New Mexico, my home for a mere year, and your home for decades, the place that captured me with beautiful landscapes, the way it did for Tony Hillerman so long ago.

The Southwest as a whole, including El Paso, Tucson, Vegas . . . I love it all. I will have to find a way to include it all.The places I love, as well as the family we must remember and keep close.

I will be The Storyteller, Uncle. I will. Not to worry about that. I have lots of words in my little gray cells, and I love using them, lots of them - words, that is. And little gray cells, too.

Ate logou, Tio.

6 comments:

nbleser@yahoo.es said...

Sonya, I don't know what to say.
Your words are so moving and they express what so many of us felt about your uncle.
He inspired us so much.
He's the one who enabled me to be in touch with Anaya to whom I dedicate a dissertation that has been sleeping in my 'drawers', well in my laptop's files too long, and the tragic loss of Hector was the terrible blow that made me need to go back to your Southwest.
I have to finish this diss in your uncle's honor, that will be my personal tribute and way to say thank you.
And please, do go on writing, he's our inspiration, and I'm sure that he's proud of you right now.
May I cut and paste part of this beautiful text of yours as a tribute I'd like to share on my Facebook wall?
Ánimo en estos momentos tan dolorosos, ten por seguro que Granada recuerda con inmenso cariño a tu tío Héctor.
Nathalie

deunaorillaaotra said...

Sonya, I don't know what to say.
Your words are so moving and they express what so many of us felt about your uncle.
He inspired us so much.
He's the one who enabled me to be in touch with Anaya to whom I dedicate a dissertation that has been sleeping in my 'drawers', well in my laptop's files too long, and the tragic loss of Hector was the terrible blow that made me need to go back to your Southwest.
I have to finish this diss in your uncle's honor, that will be my personal tribute and way to say thank you.
And please, do go on writing, he's our inspiration, and I'm sure that he's proud of you right now.
May I cut and paste part of this beautiful text of yours as a tribute I'd like to share on my Facebook wall?
Ánimo en estos momentos tan dolorosos, ten por seguro que Granada recuerda con inmenso cariño a tu tío Héctor.
Nathalie

Sonya said...

Nathalie, thank you for your kind words. More importantly, I am glad to hear from a friend of my uncle's.

I am glad to see you will finish your dissertation - my uncle the wordsmith would be very pleased at this news. And I would have to agree with him. For you to finish writing it is important.

Please feel free to share any of my memories on your Facebook wall. To keep his memory alive, we must *share* the memories we hold of him.

Un abrazo,
Sonya

Andrew said...

Hector would like for you to be the family storyteller. You are good at it, at telling stories. You have a love for it, and it shows in the words you choose.

I'll remember that morning he and I wanted eggs, bacon, hash browns, and lots of coffee, when we took Alex to the airport. You'll have to add that story to your collection, okay?

Livie and Marissa will like hearing that one.

patriciamia said...

Sonya, I love hearing the different versions of the treadmill. That was one of the first things he ever told me. We laughed so much every time we went to the gym. He never did go near the treadmill. Just weights.

Sonya said...

Yes, the treadmill story is great. I always laugh when I picture it in my mind.

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