My Nana passed away a little more than 8 years ago. She lived in a small two-bedroom house that my Tata built in Winterhaven, CA. In the past year, I’ve been having more dreams about her. In my last dream, she was about to pass away. I was sitting at her bedside, and she turns to me and asks,”JD, will you go get me a Mr. G’s bean and cheese burrito.” We laughed together in the dream. I’m so grateful that I spent my summer months with her as a kid.
The house was on the border of the Quechan reservation, California, Arizona, Mexico, and the Colorado River. My family loved to tell stories about how much she loved to dance and her escapades. Apparently, she was quite lovely at wrestling matches in the 40s and 50s. In one of the events, my Tata had to intervene and carried her out because her loud, threatening voice was berating what she called fake wrestlers. She continued to taunt them, and argue that she could work them over. The event caused a small ruckus. I never knew that side of her, just the side where she made Saturday breakfast, made sure all the men were served and ate before the women, and turned the bedroom wall a/c on the coolest setting before we came to visit.
As a kid, our family always stayed with her. Outside of the guest bedroom, her house was always warm in the summer and a little colder than normal in the winter. I would sleep on the daybed right in front of the wall a/c and roll myself into a multilayered burrito of blankets. To be that cold and that warm at the same time, gave me some of the best sleep of my life. There wasn’t much to play with in her house. She had a couch full of taco bell chihuahua dogs that were for only observation and an old black and white tv that only played novellas. I often went around back of the house to play in the dirt or build fires in her old stove. The backyard was mostly barren with soft dirt that was as pliable as beach sand with a little water. Your feet would sink a little with each footstep. I would crawl through and jump on the old broken down car and dirt bike my Uncle left from his high school days; pretending I was cruising around town. Every year, I looked forward to those few weeks and months of hot summer days beneath the sun sweating in vehicles and building dirt castles for my hot wheels cars.
I continued to visit her through high school and eventually through my college years. When the opportunity to do my student teaching on my rez was presented, I didn’t hesitate to ask my Nana if I could live with her for four months. It was some of the most memorable times I had. Not because we went on a lot of adventures, but just because I never spent so much time talking and in silence with someone. I loved to ask questions about our family. I asked her what it was like as a kid in the great depression. I wondered why she could speak Spanish and English so well. I asked her why she didn’t remarry. And then we would watch novellas, and she would tell me that I don’t speak Spanish correctly. She would gossip with me about anything she could. A girl I was dating at the time stopped by, and she didn’t hesitate to tell me that she didn’t like her family.
But then there were times I would get home from San Pasqual elementary, the school on my rez, and she would be sitting in her chair. I would lay on the love seat with my legs hanging over the arm. As soon as I would plop myself on the couch, a plume of dust would rise and settle over my dress clothes. We would sit in the hot living room with the door open to let the dirt filled breeze cool us down. It would be a few minutes and sometimes hours of silence. And I loved that, and I miss it now when I come back home to my reservation.