As a Story Terrace writer, Andréa interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below
From the moment I was born, I spent most days with my grandmother, who emigrated from Guatemala to Louisiana in the late 1960s.
“Mama,” I called her.
I thought she was my mother. So much so that when my parents arrived to pick me up in the evenings, I would hide before throwing a tantrum at having to go to the house where I actually lived.
None of that was known to the optometrist testing my 3-year-old eyesight.
When he asked me to identify the animal in the photo, I enthusiastically blurted out what made sense to me — what Mama taught me.
For the image of the bird, my response was “pee-oh, pee-oh!”
The doctor quizzically turned his gaze toward my mother.
“Wow-wow!” I yelled at the picture of the dog.
The optometrist turned his entire body toward my mother.
“She spends her days with my mother while my husband and I are at work. My mother only speaks Spanish,” my own mother explained to the doctor.
She added: “Those are the words we use in Spanish for the noises those animals make.”
He laughed, then my mother asked me to use English words — “bird” and “dog” — to pass the test.
When she recounted the story to my grandmother, my grandmother said the doctor was dumb. And so was his test.
That was her: unapologetic.
Mama, she was a force of nature.
She feared no one and nothing. She spoke her mind and if you didn’t like it, then to hell with you. She laughed as hard as she admonished and had one of the best mariachi shouts I’ve ever heard. She didn’t care if you were embarassed.
And despite her proverbial scars suffered by being witness to the atrocities of the Guatemalan Civil War, she forged a new life in a foreign land without knowing the language or anyone but her family.
Looking back, I know now it wasn’t that Mama was fearless. It’s that she felt the fear and did it anyway.
Mama gave me many gifts, learning animal noises in Spanish among them. But this gift of courage — feeling fear and stepping toward it — has been the most powerful.
There is no growth without fear, no progress without courage. When I feel scared, fearful, uncomfortable, I know the only way is through. Because Mama.