By Alejandro Vidales
When I got here, we lived in San Diego, CA, right next to the ocean. I remember going to the beach, listening to the seagulls, feeling the breeze on my face, looking at the waves drifting to the shore, feeling the last sun rays hitting my skin. It was magic. Every Saturday, my grandmother and I walked along the shore, picking up sand dollars and sea shells. She helped me build sand castles. "No, hoy, no. Primero tienes que hacer tu figura." I would laugh and hug her. She wasn't only my grandmother; she was my friend.
I didn't like school because I didn't understand anybody. At the time, I didn't speak English. When I got home, my abuelita became my school. She taught me how to read and write in Spanish. And while learning Spanish, I was able to pick up English.
I liked studying with my abuelita because after we finished, she would cook dinner. Man, could she cook! I remember her wrinkled hands grinding the corn, then chopping fresh tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, and chiles. Every cut exact, just how she wanted. She made the best salsa. Sometimes my friends would come to my house for dinner. But most of the time, it would only be the two of us having dinner together because my uncles were never home and my mom was too busy working.
I never met my grandfather or father, so my abuelita took the responsibility of guiding me. She taught me how to clean, sweep, mop, cook, and even wash and iron my own clothes. She also taught me how to be independent, respectful, responsible, and how to treat women.