Secrets for My Abuelita

For months after my abuelita died, I slept with the covers tucked around my six-year-old face. The breeze that blew in from the Caribbean, cooling along the way as it traveled across the mountains, through the concrete city of Caracas, past the iron bars of my bedroom window, entering my mouth, my nose, my ears, felt like something my grandmother had sent from above, just for me. It scared me.

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The Royalty of Brooklyn

Grandma Helen was my fancy grandmother. Born in 1909, she was the firstborn child of Julius and Mary Nelson’s five children and her tall, blue-eyed father liked to tell her that her birth brought him luck. After Grandma arrived, Julius went from selling newspapers in Harlem to learning the trade in his wife’s family’s coat business. A quick study, he started his own successful women’s coat business using the profits to invest in real estate. Eventually, in 1931, Julius developed one of Manhattan’s first skyscrapers, a 46-story art deco tower designed by architect H. Craig Severance.

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Grammer

Summer bore down hard - distorting the asphalt along with my mood. I damned the weather as it must’ve been close to one hundred degrees. My dogs, trying to cool themselves unfurled their pink tongues and panted. “Almost home,” I said to them. I kneeled down under the shade of a tall flowering tree to stroke their fur, and noticed a familiar looking leaf on the sidewalk. Picking it up I rubbed it between my fingers. The smells of burnt charcoal, fruit rotting on hot asphalt, aromas of Double Delight and Mister Lincoln roses, twirling sprinklers watering yellowing lawns were nauseatingly intoxicating, and brought me right back to my grandmother’s house.

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Season of the Grandmother

A few years ago, I broke the top on my flour canister. Today, I compounded the error while making bread, having split the sugar canister’s lid as well. This may seem trivial, but the containers are pewter-colored metal and large enough to hold more than regular-sized containers each—the kind you can’t run to Home Goods or Belk and replace. More importantly, they belonged to my grandmother.

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I Became A Mother, But Not the Way I Hoped

I’m a mother. And yet, I’m not. 

My dream, years in the making, has and yet hasn’t come true. And even if I could ignore this and live as if my life is the way I want it to be, there are daily reminders everywhere I go that women the world over keep getting my dream for themselves while I am still left grasping for it.

Every pregnancy announcement I see on social media makes me sob.

Every pregnant belly I see, makes me sob.

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An Almanac of All the Ways to Sit on a Sidewalk and Cry

Your hands are shaking. When you squint at the street sign, your vision blurs. You stop in front of a subway station, interrupting the current of pedestrians moving downstream, into the underground. They divide around you with disgruntled murmurs. So many people—too many, you are biting your lip to keep your anxiety choked down. You tell yourself that instead of being caught in the swell of the subway, you will walk fifty-eight blocks and four avenues—distance seems less daunting than having to crush your body into a metal car, fitting into other people’s vacancies. 

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Dear Kaeli

Dear child, 

It was never your fault.

When your mom left, you were a forgotten consequence but never the cause. She chose drugs because of her own weakness, not your self-described inadequacies. You were a toddler who lived every moment with a full heart and a pocket full of hope, but she was too far gone to bask in that light.

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Dear Scarlett

Dear Scarlett,

I want to tell you not to go to the bar that night. I want to say, just stay in with a good book. But I know you, if I tell you not to you'll only be more determined to do it. So get dolled up, go to the bar, listen to the band and dance your heart out. But listen. Listen when your best friend tells you to stay away from him (they work together and there have been rumors).

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