It was June 6, 2003. That day has stuck with me because it was my last day of kindergarten and I remember coming home from school to a house full of boxes. We waited for my dad to get home from work to let him know we were leaving and I remember us four sitting on the bed crying. I was 6 years old and did not really understand what was happening, but I cried because I knew everyone else in the room was hurting.
Before we left, my dad worked all day, so I only ever saw him if I stayed up past 11 p.m. My mom also worked, but only a few days a week and only in the mornings. When both of my parents worked, I was either with my Abuelita or with my Tia Gaby – who would also take care of her three daughters and my older sister, Alma.
Although the day we left did not define the start of women influencing my life, it was the beginning of the next thirteen years. Before we left, my mom, Abuelita, and Tia Gaby were the ones who were raising me. After we left, Alma was thrown into the mix.
My Abuelita lost her husband thirty-eight years ago – leaving her with four daughters and a son that were aged between 6 months and 10 years old. She never re-married and raised all five of her children on her own. She didn’t know it then, but my Abuelita was raising her daughters to be the fierce women that would later help raise me.
Although I didn’t spend as much time with her as I did with my Tia and mom, I am forever thankful to my Abuelita for sitting with me for hours on end to ensure that I could read, speak, and write fluently in Spanish. Because of her, I was given the opportunity to speak two languages before the age of five. She is also the reason for my mom’s strength and ability to raise women on her own. My Abuelita’s influence on my mom was what kept her going and it ensured her that she was capable of providing for us.
I also owe a lot of who I am to my Tia Gaby. I am still not sure how she dealt with me since I was the craziest out of the five girls she cared for. I was also the pickiest when it came to food, and because of that, she constantly had to make a completely different dish for me while the rest of the girls had something else to eat. Because of her, I grew a love for food and cooking. If it wasn’t for my Tia, I wouldn’t have the passion I have today to help in the kitchen every chance I get. To this day, she still cooks for me and continues to inspire me to cook. I thank her for putting up with my unnecessary stubbornness and taking care of me for years while my mom was working in order to provide for me and Alma. My mom, Alma, and I definitely couldn’t have done it without her.
Because my mom, Alma, and I lived on our own for so long, Alma had to help raise me at a very young age. She is four years older than I am, so at ten years old, Alma had to take on the role of a guardian. She literally taught me everything I know. She has always been the fashion guru while I still struggle with dressing myself. Thankfully, she has helped me with putting outfits together and has provided me with clothes for years.
Because neither of our parents went to college, Alma was forced to learn everything she could about the process and teach it to me later on in life. As the eldest child, Alma constantly had to take care of me and teach me anything my mom couldn’t. She has been there for me from the start, and I am glad I will always have someone to call if I need help with clothes or “adult” stuff. I have always and will continue to look up to her and be grateful for having such an amazing role model in my life.
To this day, I am amazed at my mom’s ability to provide for us. She has been raising us since the day Alma was born 24 years ago and has devoted her whole life to us. She has worked tirelessly for twenty-four years to ensure that we have a roof over our heads and food to eat. Although she has never really enjoyed cooking, she has always made sure we had something to eat – whether that be from fast food places, restaurants, or something homemade that she could manage to make.
My mom has taught me how to be independent and that a woman does not need a man to strive in life. She raised me and Alma the best she could with the resources she had, and although we moved many times because of issues with money, I am grateful she scraped every penny she had in order to keep us in decent neighborhoods. I am thankful for my mom for staying strong through all of the hardships we endured in order to make me and Alma happy. Even now that she has someone to help her with my little sister, Victoria, she still continues to work hard to ensure we have everything we need and more. I am still inspired by mom’s work ethic and can only hope to be half the person she is.
I will forever be in debt to the women who raised me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have any of the qualities I now hold. Although being raised by women came from unfortunate circumstances, I am glad they persevered through life’s hardships and shaped me to be the strong person that I am today.