Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tortillas mean love

Tortillas......hot right off the griddle, smothered in butter. My happy place.

When I'm sad, it's what I crave. I mean really sad, black hole sad. Not ice cream or pizza or my normal go to junk.....hot tortillas.

But not just any tortilla from a plastic bag. I want my 'Buela's (pronounced: WEH LAH) tortillas. And I don't want beans or cheese or anything to cover their flavor and texture....just tortilla and butter.

During my childhood we always lived a 2 hour drive away from family. When we'd come to visit we had a list of stops that had to be made. My aunts house, my uncles house and my great grandmothers apartment. I remember the stops at my great grandmothers house clearly. It's always the same scene.

My 'Buela and her 4'11" frame would be in the kitchen rolling out tortillas, the stack beside her steaming hot from the comal. The television was always on a spanish channel, for background noise. Her hair was always pinned back with a long gray curl down her back. She always wore the same style dresses, practical shoes. You got the feeling that if you had arrived 20 years earlier she would be doing exactly the same thing...with less wrinkles. As soon as we would walk in the door, she'd head to the kitchen and heat up tortillas. Always.

My 'Buela did not speak clear English. But before the hand full of racist friends or followers I have start to pass judgement, let me clear something up. My great grandmother was born in Texas. My family can be traced back to that same land before it had a name in the English language, before the Alamo. She never swam the Rio Grande or snuck across a border in the night. She was native and her stories of her mother and her childhood told the history of the people of this land. But to stand next to my 'Buela in the grocery store, to see the way people would treat her for her lack of English. It was as if they were telling her "go back home". She always was home....there was no where for her to go. She may not have spoken clear English, but the one phrase she said clearly was all that mattered "I love you". And as I type it I'm crying, because I can hear her voice.

My 'Buela would make quilts for extra money. She would bargain shop for fabrics in crazy prints anything she could find, she'd use. She was not a great seamstress. In each quilt you can see crooked stitches and uneven seams. But it just made them more special. It was proof that someone had spent long hours at a sewing machine. Her quilts were heavy and each one unique. I still have all of mine. I think I have the largest collection of anyone. Funny enough I have four...one for each of my children and myself. It wasn't planned that way...just destiny I guess.

To say my dad thought she hung the moon is not accurate. To my dad she was the moon and the stars. She was the only real love he knew as a child. His father was an alcoholic, his mother wasn't there. But my 'Buela was always the constant. So when she got cancer...it broke him. At the end of her life she was delirious and didn't recognize us. It is not the final memory you hope for. For me there was no loving goodbye or moments of peace.

When I get very sad I crave tortillas...her tortillas. Last night I was very sad. It's been a rough couple of weeks and last night I just felt beaten. The kids were all in bed, Micah was working in the shop...I had too much time to myself to think. So I warmed up a tortilla, smothered it with butter and ate it. It wasn't the same and didn't fill the hole. I sat staring at the t.v. thinking about her. What would she think of my life? How she would love my little white babies. Would she even like my big red?

Food is not supposed to be an emotion. But I know that her tortillas meant love. What I wouldn't give for one right now.