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For my mother, her fifteenth birthday was not only a mark into womanhood with her quinceañera celebrating the transition, but also the dread of missing her period.
My mother was a June baby, and thus logically her quinceanera planning began in the previous summer when she turned fourteen. The planning created a new found tension within the Castilla household my father claims, as my grandfather a religious man, recognized and valued the sacrament to La Virgen. Above all, he wanted his daughters to remain a virgin until marriage. Preferably, my grandfather would have his daughters become nuns. Yet, three of the four daughters snuck around and often regulated their calendars to have a boyfriend over when abuelo was busy at the church with my abuela alongside him.
My mother was the youngest and dared not violate her fathers’ trust. She often argued with her sisters, who began to nickname her La Virgen, mocking her inability to disobey my grandfather. The quinceañera was a catalyst to more bullying, and in those moments of frustration within a cramped, tortilla scented house filled with shrines of Mary, she would throw a pebble at my dad’s window that aligned with the room she shared with her three older sisters. My father would flick his light twice if there was an opening to sneak her in, once if it was impossible. However, as my dad was in love with my mother since he first saw her tanning on the lawn it was always possible.
When he describes that moment, his eyes drift, not with temptation, but adoration. Unlike her sisters dressed in bikinis my mother presented herself in a modest one piece. And if the one piece would not already leave her strange tan marks as her sisters pointed out, she wore shorts to not leave anything up to chance. Yet, her tanned golden complexion, her wide innocent eyes, and black long hair drew my father's attention less on the game with his brother and spurred his obsession to get to know the girl next door.
My father, while good looking for his puberty stage, still lacked the confidence to walk up to the girls despite his target being close to fully dressed. As an Abaroa, he sensibly followed what his father had taught him: macho, yet respectful. He continued to linger off from his lawn and purposely made comments about his brother's lack of aim. As expected, my uncle retaliated and kicked the ball exceptionally hard and a shriek was heard from the girls. My father in an act of heroism blocked the ball with his chest, bounced it off his foot, and caught it with such refinement that even my mom took her eyes from her book.
While my father and uncle had attended camp in an effort to pacify the energy of teenage boys, they both came back more energized than ever. It was their first week back, and if the sound of the girls chatting did not alert the boys to enjoy the summer day, the sound of Elvis Crespo certainly did. The humidity of Chula Vista hit the girls instantly, and though my aunts’ hair began to frizz, my moms loose curls rained free from the heats grasp. Merengue and infatuation filled the air.
My father now turning toward my mother, was able to tell there was a figure under there somewhere. Yet, it was not my mom’s ascension into puberty that peaked my father’s curiosity. He couldn't describe what made her different from the girls, but there was a quality in the way she carried herself that intrigued him. He called it the Estella effect: tough, irresitible that lit his heart aflame. He was quickly pulled away from his observations.
“Oye pendejo!” my tia shouted, snapping papi back to reality. The profanity used to address the boys made my mom cringe. My dad taking notice, apologized, hiding his annoyance of my aunt’s unexpected interruption.
“Hablas ingles?” my father asked staring directly into my mother’s eyes. Normally, she would have looked away, but she found my father’s question inherently thoughtless.
“Just because we just moved from Honduras, doesn’t mean we don’t speak English,” picking up her things she headed back into the house to help abuelo prepare dinner. My father’s shattered heart was clearly evident as my tia patted his shoulder,
“That one you’ll never get to.” And ironically, in some ways she was right.
My abuelo silently had been watching the interaction through the window and heeded my abuelas warning to leave it alone.
“Solo son ninos,” she convincingly stated.
And for quite some time, my abuelo had placed a tremendous amount of guilt on his heart for not intervening. Whether that led to the heart attack shortly after my birth no one could tell. But, he vocally announced his resentment for not walking through the screen doors and putting an end to it right then and there. He often reminded my father that while if he did warn my dad to stay away from his precious baby girl she might still be alive, but then again I, his treasured granddaughter would never have been born.