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The Things You Did for Love
“At night when the stars light up my room, I sit by myself, talking to the moon.”
To me, my mom and dad are the perfect couple. They’re like a princess with prince charming. Whenever I see them together, I give thanks to God for having them in my life. They’re just perfect when they’re together. Their names are Maria and Jorge. My mom has honey-like eyes that lights up her face whenever she goes in front of the brightening sun. It’s like she’s an angel from the sky. Her hair is like silk whenever you touch her beautiful curls. She always has them in a ponytail but when she lets her hair go, it’s lovely under the sun. She always has a emerald amulet that she says brings her good luck.
You can always trust my dad. Had ebony hair when he was younger that my mom would go crazy for. His beautiful locks also shine when he goes into the light. You’ll always see a scar that he has on his left hand. My mom used to brush his hair before he left to work. I have a skinny fellow as a father with huge hands. My mom and dad lived happily in a little peach apricot-colored house on Lemoyne Street, that had an orange tree in front at a narrow street in Echo Park, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California.
They had 3 amazing children: Gabriela, Elvira, and Jorge Jr, known as Jorgito. Elvira was 4 years old. She was named after my dad’s mom, Elvira Armero. She loved to learn new and extraordinary things at school. She went to Elysian Heights Elementary that had leaves all over the school yard. She was a little girl who loved to play with little kids just like her. She had long and wavy hair. She always had her hair in either a ponytail or in two little braids. She loved going to school. When I found out that she loved going to school, I said to myself, “No wonder she always gets good grades. Besides, she’s good at writing.”
Jorgito, was a 4 year old little kid that was very original. He enjoyed to go to the park with my dad. He adored to play with his toys with Elvira. Jorgito wasn’t technically going to school. He just went to pre-kindergarten. He loved going to school everyday. He always showed up to school extremely happily and brave thinking that no one was going to stop him going to school. My parents still weren’t thinking about having me yet.
My other sister, Gabriela, lived in El Salvador with my grandma and grandpa. Gabriela was 7 years old. She had curly hair just like my mom did. Sometimes, my grandma made her wear beautiful dresses that she made. She had to stay in El Salvador when my mom and dad moved to the US because she did not have her papers to come to the United States.. She was 7 years old when my mom planned to bring her here to the United States. While my grandpa was sick, Gabriela was right there next to him. She saw how my grandpa was coughing out blood. She still remembers the smell of it. When I was reading this, I just felt really sad. I was thinking, “Wow, poor Gabriela. I didn’t know she would be seeing that.”
She felt how the poor man’s back was aching and how his back didn’t have any skin. She didn’t know what was wrong with him but she just felt like if her back getting scraped against a big stone, ripping her skin away.
My grandma used to tell her, “No mires mamá, no mires.” (Don’t look sweetie, don’t look.)
That same night, she had nightmares and she couldn’t sleep worrying about my grandpa. My grandma decided to bring Gabriela here as my grandpa’s sickness started to eat up his life. My mom heard the news that her father was sick. She felt devastated and heart-broken. She knew that Gabriela would always be with my grandma. She knew Gabriela would be watching the horror of my grandpa and his sickness. Therefore, my mom decided to go to El Salvador to pick her up.
“Where is Mommy going?” Elvira asked.
“Your mommy is going to take a vacation. Just wait for her to come back,” my dad, Jorge responded.
“But why is she going to take a vacation without us?” Jorgito asked with his big brown eyes filling up with tears.
“She’s bringing you a surprise. Just wait,” my dad replied.
Afterwards, my grandpa died in the month of August having to suffer for a whole month. My mom traveled to El Salvador in September. My dad had to take care of my brother and sister that day. He started to look for someone to take care of them, but he couldn’t find anyone. He didn’t go to work that day. The next day, he called my aunt Estella and she said that she would take care of them while he went to work. He brought them to her house and she had four children who were five years older than my siblings. Steve, Juan Carlos, and the twins, Laura and Vanessa were there. While they were having fun with Laura and Vanessa, Juan Carlos used to make fun of Jorgito then he would start crying.
“Stop picking on me! I’m waiting for my dad to come!” Jorgito cried.
Jorgito would wait for my dad. My dad was working until midnight. My aunt could not take care of my siblings anymore, so my dad had to skip his work to pick up his kids. My dad barely made enough to pay for food for our family. My mom didn’t come back for 5 months because she didn’t have her passport ready to go back to Los Angeles. When my mom departed, my dad made a promise to my brother and sister that he would never leave them alone. For that reason, he would take care of them and always have money to feed them.
Bam! On January 17, 1994, the Northridge earthquake struck the Los Angeles Area. That woke my dad up in the middle of the night. My siblings got scared and they panicked.
“Tengan cuidado niños! No se me vayan a caer! (Be careful kids, don’t fall!). My dad said panicking.
My dad picked my siblings up and ran out of the building. He headed to his car and they stayed in the car until the earthquake stopped. 2 minutes later, the earthquake ended and my dad felt relieved. But, my dad realized that he skipped Elvira’s birthday, which was on the 7th of January. He had a little bit of money to buy her a present. He got out of the car and left to buy a doll to my sister. My siblings were asleep and didn’t know where my dad went. Obviously, he left my siblings in the car so they can be safe.
“Where’s dad? I don’t see him anywhere,” Elvira complained.
“Maybe he went to check our house,” Jorgito responded.
“We’ll just wait for him here. I’m a little worried though,” Elvira answered.
Jorgito and Elvira went to sleep for ten minutes. Later, Elvira and Jorgito woke up and Elvira found a present in a bag. She opened the bag and she found the doll that my dad gave her. The doll had curly hair, brown skin and freckles. With the doll, there was a little note.
Looking back, it said, “Feliz cumpleaños Elvira. Te quiero mucho.” (Happy Birthday Elvira, I love you.) My dad would always try to fill in my mom’s shoes. He tried so hard.
Elvira started to get tears in her eyes. One tear dropped on the doll as she got out of the car. She saw my dad coming to her. She ran to him and cried on his shoulders saying,
“Gracias papi. Te quiero mucho. (Thanks Daddy. I love you.)
Everything was okay. My dad had to take his kids to my aunt’s house again because he had to go back to work. My aunt accepted them but on one condition: My dad had to pay for the food and the milk. My dad didn’t have enough money to buy food for himself; he gave it all up for my siblings. In the month of February, my mom came back with my sister Gabriela. Jorgito and Elvira were very excited and happy that they would have another sister with them.
I think it wasn’t hard for them to love each other. They still do. Finally, everyone was happy that my mom came back. All my dad did during those 5 months was pray and pray that my mom would come back. She did. You always have to appreciate the things that you have in life. You should always thank someone for giving something to you. I always say I love you to my mom and dad. They even get annoyed by me saying it but I always have to remind them that I do, for being strong to make us a happy family.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Even though you hear me say this often, everyday, I love you. You may not know just how much, but I do. I tell you every ten minutes, and I hug you, because I’m grateful that I have you in my life. I even love it when you tell me every night, “Valeria! Andá bañáte!” (Valeria, go take a shower!)
I remember when Elvira wrote an essay in 10th grade about what happened to you guys when she was a 4 year old. I found this essay somewhere, and I couldn’t stop reading because I didn’t know any of this had happened. Once I found out what you went through, I just broke down. Dad, you are such a hardworking man and you’re so sweet. I didn’t know that someone so nice would have to go through something like that. While I started to read the essay, my sister asked me violently, “Valeria! Why did you go through my stuff!?!”
“I got interested in your work. Plus, I found it on the couch.” I said as my eyes filled up with tears.
To be honest Dad, it’s shocking to think of you not having enough money because you’ve always taken care of us and given us what we needed. Mom, you brought us together. You say that your kids are your life, and I know it was hard for you to be separated from my dad and your kids for a long time.
It started to be hard for both of you. Fortunately, my dad started praying and begging God for you to come back. I appreciate what you did for all of us. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be together. I’m so lucky to have parents like you two. No one will ever have any parents so loving and caring and I am thankful for that. I love you both for who you are and how you joined together as one. Without you, I wouldn’t be living here today. For that, I thank you, Mamí y Papí. Los quiero mucho y no los quiero perder. Ustedes son los unicos que tengo. (I love you, Mommy and Daddy! I never want to lose you! You’re the only ones I have.)