This was one of my first creative stories I ever wrote during my Journalism program at Columbia. It was also published on Latina Voices. I'm glad I wrote it about my mother.
By: Luz Garcia
" Cuando yo tenía tu edad..."
That's how my mom begins her lectures in the morning when I decide to skip morning chores and sleep in. She quickly reminds me of all the things she did when she was my age and how sleeping-in was, if anything, a luxury. Among many other luxuries she did not have, education was one of them.
According to a recent report by the National Women's Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 41 percent of Latinas do not graduate from high school in four years.
However my mom defied the odds. She is the example that it is never too late to get an education.
My mom was born and raised in Durango, Mexico. Her family, like most families in Mexico was poor but happy. I always
enjoy the stories my mom tells me about her childhood. I am always amazed by how simple life was and how she and her sisters took pleasure in the littlest things, like when mi abuelita would buy an orange, cut it in four equal pieces and give a piece to each girl, "Nos encantaban!" my mother remembers with a smile on her face.
My mother, Rosa, or as everyone calls her, Rosita, is the eldest of four daughters. Because she was the eldest she was responsible for helping my grandparents both at home and out in the farm. Mi abuelita taught my mom how to cook and clean at a very young age so that food would be ready when she and mi abuelito came back from the fields. However, as soon as mom was old enough, she had to go with mi abuelito to the fields while mi abuelita would take care of the house and her sisters.
Mom sometimes sits on my bed and observes me while I am getting ready to go out to a party and it makes me feel like she sees a part of herself in me. She begins reminiscing about her teenage days and recalls that back in her day, while all of the girls were getting ready to go to el baile, she was barely getting home from the farm with mi abuelito, dirty and tired. And if by a strike of luck mi abuelito would let her go to the dance too, he would make sure to wake her up earlier than usual the next morning. To mi abuelito, mom was like the son he didn't have and much more. The day she got married, mi abuelito said with tears in his eyes "Hoy, se me casa una hija y un hijo."
Because my mother grew up poor, mis abuelitos could not afford to enroll her in la secundaria, the equivalent of high school, which means that my mother only had a 6th grade education when she got married to my father at 17. Soon after, they moved to Chicago. When my siblings and I were old enough, my mother, determined to learn English began going to a church where they offered English classes and there she met Enriquetta, a teacher who told her about the GED courses that the church was also offering and of course soon, con las ganas de superarse y aprender, my mom enrolled herself to take them. Eventually, she got her GED and even earned a scholarship to go to college. For the following three years, while I was in high school, my mother attended St. Agustine College in Chicago, and often showed me up because never did she once come home with a grade lower than a B.
I have always been very impressed. Here was a woman, who only had a sixth grade education, who didn't quite understand spoken English, going to college, taking classes in English and doing calculus. And then, here I am, born and raised in America with the ability to speak both languages and all the resources I may need available to me, coming coming home with grades as low as a C. I remember my mother getting home from school late at night, sitting in the dining room with what seemed to be a million books and notebooks scattered all over the table, periodically checking up on my brothers and I, making sure we had dinner and getting us to bed. Nowadays, you still see what seems to be a million books on the dining room table, but the person you would find sitting there is not my mother, it is me. Today my mother has a degree in liberal arts and I am currently in college. The struggles I saw her go through, being a mother, wife, and a model student, motivate me daily.
Strength, intelligence, optimism, beauty and grace are all characteristics that the most important woman in my life possesses, and the list could go on and on. Rosa Garcia, my mother, the person I look up to, is the epitome of what I aspire to be like one day. She has taught me everything I know, but most importantly she had taught me that with determination anything is achievable and when she sees me in low spirits, she lifts them up with a single question,
"¿Quien dice que no se puede?"