In the words of my grandmother: Cuídate.

My Spanish Grandmother.

Born in Madrid in 1935, my grandmother lived through the Spanish Civil War. At 14 years old, she had to leave her home and arrived with her three siblings and mother to be reunited with her father in Chihuahua.

At 18 years old, she had this portrait taken somewhere in Mexico. There are a lot of details I do not know about my grandmother’s life. She didn’t talk about the past very much. I know her as my mother’s mother. I called her Tita Pilly. Her name was Pilar Serrano Pacheco.

She gave me gifts.

When I was younger she would hand make crochet dresses for my Barbies. I would only pull them out for special occasions. Particularly, weddings. There were a lot of Barbie weddings so someone always wore them. Her hard work was always on display.

At home, I have one of her well-known blankets. My sister and I used to look at the squares and try and find colors that looked like Disney princesses we both admired. My grandmother was always making things. Her creative labor of love is always with me.

Mí Tita was the one who introduced me to novellas. We used to watch them together. Until my mother would discover our late-night binges, and tell me it was time for bed. I still think of my grandmother every time I hear Alejandro Fernandez’s Niña Amada Mía play on a random curated Spotify playlist every now and then.

In a way, my grandmother gave me the gift of story. Dramatic, binge-worthy, always has a happy ending — story. As a writer, I am so grateful that she exposed me to something that I think I took with me and will continue to look back on as a blend of my creative blood and form of my identity.

She took care of me.

When my little sister was born, mí Tita Pilly came to take care of my brother and me, as well as my mother and my new best friend. I remember after my sister was born, she made us a torta de papa for breakfast. I can taste it.

When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, my Type 2 Diabetic grandmother would tell me don’t forget to live. Make sure you eat the cake. It’s okay. She knew it wasn’t my fault I was Type 1 and she made me feel less alone. No matter how sick, she always wanted to enjoy life through a slice of cake.

Diabetes was something we both shared even though our conditions were different. Having seen her test her sugar often, it made me less scared to do so the first time. I remember her showing me how she did it in the bathroom one night. We did it together.

We had similar identities.

My grandmother was Spanish by blood, papers, and tortas de papa. She was also Mexican. She lived the majority of her life in Chihuahua. The last years of her life, she lived in El Paso. The city where I was born, where our paths met.

I read somewhere that your grandmother carried you before you were born. Biologically, women are born with all their eggs. My mother was one of them and thus I was there too. When my mom and I went to Spain together last year, she told me she wanted to know the place where she was from. I took her to my grandmother’s house in Madrid. I took her picture with a polaroid so she could remember where she came from.

As a first-generation Mexican-American daughter, it has always been hard for me to find where I fit in. For the longest time, I tried fitting into one mold and not the other. Now I know that I can make my own mold and share it with others.

I’m still figuring out where I belong. Not one path from my ancestors on either side has been able to answer everything for me. I continue to gather the pieces. Little by little, I feel I am known. I have found that it’s not where you belong, but where you come from and how you choose to continue the path that brings you closer to the self-awareness and confidence we are all searching for.

Take care of yourself.

I didn’t call my grandmother enough. I didn’t visit her as much as I should have. Not knowing that I could have asked her all these questions I had about myself, I lost the opportunity to talk to her about who I was. But I know I am a part of her. That she is still with me. That throughout the many more years I have in my life, she will show me the way.

It’s a Mexican tradition to put a photo up to remember your relatives who have passed and are no longer living here on this Earth with us. Thanks to Pixar’s Coco I think a lot of us are now able to understand death a little bit better and know that they are always with us. I can’t bring myself to play Remember Me today, nor Crossing The Marigold Bridge by Michael Giacchino but come Día de los Muertos, this photo will be up and I will bring her Marigolds.

Looking at this photo and spending time with family, I am reminded who I am and where I come from. Had my grandmother not left Spain, I would not be here today. I am grateful for her and all the times she said goodbye to me with one word — cuídate. Take care of yourself. Because of those words, I continue my self-love journey and pass along the command to you reading this now — cuídate ♥️ take care of yourself.

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Monica Rodriguez

Monica Rodriguez

I probably have my nose stuck in a book or I’m laughing at my own joke. Always writing. Here, you’ll find reviews & essays. www.loveleemonicaa.com