My exposure to Spanish came first from the spoken word in my home. In my earliest years I recall hearing it often. My mom came from Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to California in the 1950s. She demonstrated courage and resolve as she gained skills in her second language.
Mami became the domestic goddess extraordinaire. She took care of her two daughters while she cooked and baked. Her knack for producing perfect meringue which graced the lemon pies was not lost on me. To this day lemon meringue is my pie of choice. She sewed, knitted, and embroidered. She painted. She sang. She served as the self-ordained landscaper. Carefully choosing plants and trees to adorn the front and backyard. She did the mowing.
The days she and I spent at the beach were the highlight of my visits. Mami loved the ocean, the seashells she collected. Swimming was not her calling but she appreciated the crashing of the waves and the sea spray. Proving to be much smarter and more cautious then her daughter (who dismissed the importance of protection) she always wore a wide-brimmed straw hat while urging her wayward daughter to do same.
I have lost the one person in my life who understood the lyrics to the song, Las Mañanitas. It is a traditional Spanish song offered at the celebration of a birthday. I would place a phone call to my Mami and when she answered I would regale her with a serenade of the song native to her birthplace.
Mami outlived two of her sisters. Her own mother reached her early eighties. Longevity seemed to favor Mami, with one caveat. In the last few years of her life dementia robbed her of her speech. Phone calls were very difficult to maneuver through. Though I could speak to her in Spanish, it was never quite clear which language she was using. It all sounded like gibberish to me. Sigh.
Mami you have been given release. I will see you again one day.