Friday, July 27, 2012

The Last Dama in the Colcha Circle

It’s hard to acknowledge that mom has grown old. When did it happen? It seems as though she went directly from independent woman and having to leave her old neighborhood to someone who needs daily help. I was gone for years, so I didn’t see the gradual changes. I didn’t see fear creeping in through the cracks in her skin, until it clouded her eyes and her mind. I still looked at her through the eyes of a three year old, viewing her as the beautiful fearless mother posing for the family portrait in 1958.

Just a few years ago she still lived in Buela’s old house, next door to Doña Antonia’s. The old houses are still there, even the little house where the comadres gathered to quilt is still standing. The houses, though in need of repairs and paint, have weathered far better than the ladies who lived there. Doña Antonia, Maria, Emma, Kikita and Tía Mary, are all gone. Amelia and Ester, moved to the big city. Chelo, my mother is the only one left in town.

As I sit visiting with mom, I remember arriving one day, calling my mother’s name as I went from room to room. By the time I got to the back porch, I worried, “Something’s happened to mom.” Then I heard conversation coming from the back casita next door. When I poked my head through the door, there I found mom quilting. This circle is where she found her sense of place, her sense of belonging after leaving her home and her husband of thirty years.

As the threads of her life start to unravel, she reminds me of a much loved faded quilt. Like a cover whose lost its luster and been discarded, she too will be make her exit one day. Where will I find warmth, when the last dama in the colcha circle is no longer here…

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Finding Myself In San Antonio

Finding Myself in San Antonio

I believe there are no accidents and no coincidences in life; I came to this city named San Antonio after the patron saint of lost things because it is part of my life journey.

We are all born with the knowledge of knowing our true selves. As children we speak the truth and live our lives in tune with our intuition, but as we acquire our formal educations and start building our careers we start to lose our natural abilities to live a peaceful and fulfilling life according to our life’s purpose.

I lost my natural way very young; it started in kindergarten at the age of three. At that age I lost my innocence and became a people pleaser. My parents like so many other parents were busy, not trying to accomplish any life goals, but just trying to survive. One of the best ways to get attention from my parents, my teachers and my schoolmates was to do well in school and collect shiny little stars for every one to see, I had value, and my life had worth.

My formal education years continued on the people pleaser track and then spilled over to my professional life and career. I tried countless times to break out of pack, just to lose my nerve and get back to the same way of life. I’d follow along for a few years and then tried to escape again and again. My social life was no different, I’d give and give, until I was empty and then go on to the next relationship starting the cycle all over again.

I lived in San Antonio from 1990 until I left for greener pastures in 1996, just to find out the cycle was the same, it had just been a change of scenery. The journey has taken years, with some very tough choices along the way, but the time came when I could no longer live with myself; I had to make some changes. I was totally spent, burned out. By the time I got through being what my family and my community needed me to be, I had no energy left for me.

My way back to my authentic self was through San Antonio. When I returned, on my first walk through the San Antonio Riverwalk in front of San Fernando Cathedral, I found this inscription:


These words touched by heart and so begun my journey back to self discovery. Now I carry my residence me. Where ever I am, I’m home; I belong because I am comfortable in my own skin.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hoping for Ghosts in the Builders Exchange Building

Growing up in Freer an oil boomtown in South Texas where there were very few old houses or buildings when I was growing up, gave me a real appreciation for old buildings.
In Corpus Christi, I once lived in an old luxury hotel turned into apartments a block from the waterfront. Later in San Antonio, I lived in a building on North New Braunfels in Alamo Heights, which had beautiful wooden floors, but the toilet was so close to the tub you had to put your feet on the bathtub to go to the bathroom. One day I asked Lupe the maintenance supervisor why the bathroom was so small, he told me the apartments had been built during World War II and there had been a shortage of building supplies. After the explanation, I was more forgiving about the placement of my feet while sitting on the toilet.
When I moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, I looked for an apartment in the heart of the city and came upon the Marott, a 1920s luxury hotel turned into an apartment building. It was the apartment with the most character I have ever lived in. My apartment was on the tenth floor and the bay widows looked out to Fall Creek. Looking out my windows, I experienced the changing of the four seasons for the first time in my life.
When my husband and I moved to St. Louis, we leased an apartment, which took up the second and third floors of the front of an 1880s storefront in the LaSalle neighborhood. The floor length windows on the second floor were great for viewing the fireworks in front of the arch and at the old Busch baseball stadium. Not only did the apartment show us great views of downtown, it was haunted. Yes, at night I would hear heavy footsteps over our bed, which was next to a bricked up chimney going from the first to the third floor. If the footsteps did not wake me the dragging of a heavy chain would make me sit up in bed at three in the morning! The sounds were so real; I kept expecting a man to drop through the ceiling and into our bedroom on the third floor. I solved the mystery when I talked to the archivist at the Missouri Historical Society. In the 1800s, a chimneysweeper would climb up to the roof with a heavy chain with large brushes attached. The sweeper would then drop the chain in the chimney and rattle it back and forth so the soot was knocked off the chimney walls. Once I knew the sounds were from the chimneysweeper just coming back night after night to finish the job, I slept through the night.
When we moved to our historic home in the Benton Park Neighborhood, we must have brought the ghosts with us. For the first six months, once we turned off the lights, my dog and I heard footsteps going up and down the stairs between the first and second floors. The dog would bark, I would tell myself, “it’s just the ghosts checking out our new place and getting acquainted with the other ghosts who were already there,” and I would go to sleep.
When we moved to San Antonio and into our studio/loft apartment at the Builders Exchange Building, built in 1925 image my disappointment, no ghosts here! I guess our St. Louis ghosts did not want to come to Texas. Our apartment building, which started out as office space, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Lots of character, but no residents from the past at the Builders Exchange Building; however, we have a killer view of the Riverwalk. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sanitary Tortilla Company-San Antonio, Texas

Every time I see a delivery truck or advertisement for Sanitary Torillas I wonder to myself, "Aren't all tortillas being sold sanitary?" According to an ad in the San Antonio Light, which ran on September 11, 1925, not all tortillas were created equal. The ad reads, "Pure and wholesome tortillas made without the touch of human hands by the Sanitary Tortillas Mfg. Co." The bottom of the ad read, "Important Notice: Many of you have been eating thick tortillas, badly cooked, running the risk of infection. Now you have a REAL MEXICAN Tortilla, uniformly cooked, and made in a sanitary way." Since they have been around for 87 years, the tortillas are not only sanitary, they taste good! The recipe probably has not changed much, but the prices have had to go up with the times. In 1925 the factory prices at 108 Laredo Street were, 5 cents for a bag of 8 tortillas, 20 cents for a bag of 40, and $1.00 for a bag of 240. If you wanted the tortillas in a box, it would cost 2 cents extra. They also provided delivery services within a two-mile radius at higher prices. Congratulations to Sanitary Tortilla Manufacturing Company for making a quality food product and providing jobs in San Antonio for 87 years. We look forward to celebrating your 100th anniversary.

The Dallas Morning News "Tortilla factory sticks to tradition"