My grandma was born in 1922. Her parents named her Rita. I told her once that every time I took an order for a Margarita, I wrote her name down on my pad because that was the abbreviation. She thought that was the funniest thing. "Yeah," I told her. "Sometimes I write down your name ten or eleven times in one day." She loved that story. My Mamo is one cool lady. I never knew her to have a job but I know that she did have her own dress shop sometime in the 50's. There is a picture of her leaning against the sign. She's gorgeous in it. Her hair is dark and wavy and she is shielding her eyes from the sun. The sign simply says "Rita's Dress Shop." I always thought it was so cool that she had a store. I always wanted to know more about it but of all the times I talked to her, that was one of the things that never came up. Mamo Rita died yesterday and my chance to hear about her dress shop went with her.
I have a lot of food memories with Mamo. Her and my Papo used to take me and my brothers to Kips Big Boy every time we went to see them. It's funny that I don't remember what I ever ate, but I remember how excited we were to go there. When we would get out of the car the first thing we would do would be to run over to the Kips Big Boy Statue that was in front of the restaurant. We always had our picture taken in front of it and damned if I know where one single copy of any of those pictures are now. When I was at her house, it was like my own little Mexican restaurant. She would custom make whatever I wanted and I always wanted the same thing: tortillas. I would sit in the kitchen and marvel at how quickly she could make them from scratch. She would roll them out into a perfect circle and throw them on the skillet. She never used tongs to flip them; just her hands. She would reach into the pan and grab the edge of the tortilla and flip it and when it was done take it again and toss it onto a plate covered with a used piece of aluminum foil that she had pulled from her drawer. Sometimes she would make refried beans for them or a scrambled egg or maybe I would just eat them with butter and sugar. "Aye, mijo, how can you eat so many tortillas?" she would wonder. I could eat as many as she could make. "Aye, mijo, you put too much salt on your eggs, your blood pressure is going to go up. No salt. No salt." I loved salt and I would add more to my eggs just because it was funny to see her get so exasperated over a few sprinkles. She tried to teach me how to make them once when I was about 19. Of course she didn't have any measurements so it was all "about this much" and "about that much" and when I tried to make them on my own, they were a colossal failure. I couldn't even get them to be round. It's sad to think of all the things that we lose when someone dies. We don't just lose the person, but we lose the future with them too. No more tortillas in Mamo's kitchen when I go to Texas. When I ate the last one over 12 moths ago, did I relish it enough? I doubt it.
Another food memory I have with Mamo is how she always had ice cream sandwiches in her freezer. When I would stay with her, I would love to swim in the pool of her apartment complex and then come into the air conditioning and watch cartoons while laying on a towel in the living room. And eating ice cream sandwiches. "Can I have another one, Mamo?" "If you want another one you go right ahead," she'd say. "But aren't you cold? How can you be all wet and eat ice cream?" I'd run to the freezer and grab another and plop down on my stomach and rest my head on my elbows. "Aye, mijo, don't eat like that. You can't digest your food if you're on your belly. Rollover." I'd roll my eyes. And then roll over.
I'm sad that she's gone. But grateful that she had 88 years here. Someone I know is dealing with the immanent loss of her six year old grandson who is sick. My loss is sad, but her loss is tragic. It really keeps it in perspective. 88 years of a good life. A long happy marriage, kids, grand kids, travel and for years she got a new car every year because my Grandpa treated her like a Queen. No one loved Mamo more than Papo did. I am left with memories. The next few days will be sad, as I travel to Texas for her funeral. But when I pass Dairy Treet, I will probably stop and get a burger in her honor since it was her favorite. And every time I went home, I'd stop there and pick up two of them and go to her place and we would have lunch together. Hell, maybe I will still get two and just eat them both.
Is your grandma still alive? Call her. Tell her hello. Ask her a question that only she will have the answer to. I talked to Mamo Rita all the time. I could tell her anything at all and she would tell me things too. I didn't want to hear about her sex life after my Papo died, but she told me anyway. We would talk about Survivor and American Idol and the weather. Every new year's eve I would call her at midnight because she loved that moment of time when we all look to the future filled with hope. I didn't get to do it last December 31st because she was too sick. I will miss talking to her. And why is it now, one day too late, that I think of all the things I want to ask her? What was your wedding like? What was it like to live through the Great Depression? Why did you always name your Chihuahuas "Peanut?" But if I had one more question to ask it would be this one: can you please tell me anything and everything about Rita's Dress Shop? I really wanna know.
I will be away for a few days. I will try to post but maybe a break is order. Thanks.
The Bitchy Waiter
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