Yesterday, during some downtime on set, I called my abuela. She has a surgery coming up, and I wanted to check in and say hello.
After a few rings, I heard her pick up. She has a cell phone now, and so I was greeted with an immediate, “Mamacita!” one of the many nicknames she has for me.
I can’t help but smile when I hear my grandmother’s voice. It’s ingrained in my system, I think. For years, as a small child, she was my world and my protector. Her voice meant extra hugs and kisses while being called, “consentida” (another nickname, which I would later learn didn’t mean “sweetie” like I assumed, but “spoiled,” which was… accurate). Hearing her voice meant I was coming home to egg salad sandwiches with extra egg salad on the side in my favorite little bear bowl and Reading Rainbow would be on the TV. It was the voice that rang after me as she took me on walks to the park so I could run around and play in the grass outside.
So, when I heard her yesterday, I smiled again. I asked how she was, she updated me on her surgery, I told her (in my best, broken Spanish) that I was doing well, waiting around at work, and that I was going to try and see her again in a few weeks for a friend’s wedding.
She paused for a second, then she said in English, “You sound good, mijita linda. You sound like a happy girl.”
I got teary for a second. I knew what she was telling me. She was telling me she had heard about my recent, tumultuous life. She had heard that I had (again) uprooted myself, that I had stepped back from the fire to save my own skin. When she picked up the phone, she had been scared she would hear the sounds of my own failures and regrets weaved into my voice (though, she’d assure me, they were self-perceived since everything is a lesson). She was scared she’d hear the same little girl who cried when she came home from school scared by bullies and boys.
But she didn’t hear that girl.
I confirmed for her that, yes, I was happy. “Todo en mi vida está muy bíen. Tengo mis amigos, mi trabajo está bien, mi familia es tan buena. Sí,” I assured her, saying my life was good, I had my friends, a good job, and a great family, “estoy feliz.”
And I meant it.
It would be easy, yes, to have let myself sink to the bottom of the river. Just as it would have been easy, I know, for my grandmother to have made my life less-joyful as a child. She had struggled to get her family to a stable, safe place in the U.S. We were by no means wealthy, and my grandmother was sacrificing to take care of my brother and me while my parents worked hard at jobs that kept that for long hours, all so that we could have better and more than they did.
She could have let the weight of that sit on her heart, eat at her, and passed it onto me.
Instead, she showered me with a deep, intense love, filled with joy and laughter and walking adventures to the park. Her voice rings through, nourishing and loving. It’s the reminder to enjoy the extra egg salad on the side and laugh at a kids TV show. It’s that love that filters through my childhood memories. It reminds me, that in the end, nunca estoy sola, I’m never alone, because I have a surfeit of love and light.
And I am a happy girl indeed.