The Love of a Lifetime

My Mami, my books and me

By Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: July 25, 2012

The Love of a Lifetime

I think it began when I was about three years old. As I waited for my Papi to come home from work, I stood at the window with the best view of the street, my breath condensing on the windowpane.

Of course, I did not know that was what was happening, it just seemed to appear when I got close to the window.

As I practiced the one letter that I knew, "L", of course, I knew my Mami and Tia were sitting on the sofa, reading romance novels. I knew they were bootlegged into the house, although then I did not know the word "bootlegged." I just knew my Papi had a major snit if he found one around the house.

So when I yelled out, "Papi's home!", there was a lot of scurrying and "andale's" behind me. Mami and Tia had jumped up from their lounging positions and were busily stuffing the evidence of their afternoon of fantasy under the couch cushions. (Someday I will tell you how rough it got when my parents got rid of that sofa and went all "Danish Moderne" on us. Those Danes cannot hide a darn thimble in their furniture...)

The jig was up one fine afternoon, the "L" barely visible in the window, when Papi walked in and greeted my Mami and his sister, my Tia. They responded cheerfully and with broad smiles, probably still in the arms of the winner of "Quien es mas macho" in the novela world of theirs. Then, the unimaginable happened. They had stuffed so many cheesy books under the cushions that a huge avalanche of Mami, Tia, cushions and books occurred. Ooops. Ay ay ay.

My Papi, the jefe of the house, just stood there, looking good in his suit. But a telling tidbit of hair showed his true, inner jefe. A lock of his hair fell on his forehead. I think Ricky Ricardo's hair used to do the same thing when he yelled out, "You have some 'splainin' to do!!" Mami and Tia explained, the books were banned yet again, and all was forgotten about that episode in our lives.

Except for me. I remember so clearly my Mami's love of reading that she was willing to incur her husband's wrath over reading the wrong kind of book. I mean, what did he want her to read, "Beowolf?" Perhaps a little depressing Theodore Dreiser with a snippet of Sylvia Plath? To quote a song of the Eighties, "Don't bring me down, --------------!" (Is it Bruce? Juice? Deuce? Whatever...just don't bring me down.)

So when we moved, my Mami found out that at the Atlantic Square they held occasional book sales. Hard cover books, for a nickel or a dime! Bonanza!! By this time, I knew how to read, and all I ever wanted was a book. For my birthday, for Christmas, for any day of the week that ended with "y". (Except for when I tried to convince my husband when we were newly married that Good Friday called for the bestowing of diamond jewelry for the Catholic in the family. That was a no go. I think he gave me a Rosary.)

So my Mami and I, armed and heavy with coinage, commandeered one shopping cart each and went our separate ways. I did not dilly dally, looking through books to find "the good parts." This was serious demolition derby book shopping. This was my stash for the next few months. I tossed everything that had any possibilities into the cart, with the thought of pulling aside for a pit stop to review and re-evaluate my treasures. Because the so/so ones had to go. I did not have that much coinage, my pants would have been at my ankles. (Not a bad idea, in retrospect, maybe I would have gotten a better deal at check out. Oh, well.)

The whole event was quite calm and uneventful. I suppose we readers are a meek lot. There was no grabbing and pulling of book covers, as there is grabbing and pulling of sweater sleeves on the day after Thanksgiving. I remember finally getting together with my Mami, counting out our books and figuring out our financial assets (a classy phrase for "whattawegot?") Then, checking out and putting all our booty (the books, not our asses), into shopping bags and calling a cab.

My Mami, as you know, is a world class learner's permit holder, but never got her license. It's like she got to third base at DMV. ANYWAY, remember how they used to have those black boxes attached to the outer walls of stores so you could just pick up the filthy-staph infected phone and call for a filthy-staph infected cab? Yeah, that was our mode of transport on these special days. On those days, the sun shone more brightly, people greeted each other ("Hello, Neighbor!"), and a rainbow followed my Mami and myself wherever we went.

To this day, I surround myself with books. Real books and e-books. You should see pictures of the room in Acapulco from my honeymoon...well, some of them. My husband and I each have at least ten books piled up on either side of the bed. Somedays, in our bedroom now, we have avalanches of books and my husband yells up, "You okay?" Me: "Yeah, books."

I once called Kindle support and when the person got to my account the first thing she said was, "And what can we do for you today, Ms....OH MY!!" I guess I overloaded one of my two Kindles. (First I had one, then gave one to my Mami, which she promptly returned with a sniffy, "It's too complicated.")

I guess I am my Mami's daughter. I recently commented to my husband, "I am so tired of pressing this darn button to turn the page!"

And to think, it all started with the novels under the cushions. I bet the Danes could fit Kindles anywhere.

Guadalupe Gonzalez (c)

About Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Writer and Los Angeles Attorney

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