Sunday, March 14, 2010
In case some of you were still wondering why I am so drawn to Spanish-speaking cultures, I have an answer for you: I was conceived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have no Spanish or Latin American blood, as far as I am aware of, but many people who know me say, “You seem more “latina” than North American. For what it’s worth, I like to use the story of my parents’ trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico in June of 1969 as the reason for who I am today.
It is actually true that I was conceived on the island of Boriquen. I only learned this piece of information after my mother had passed away when I found a letter she had written to my dad’s mother. In the letter, she asked grandma to say a prayer for her because she was going to San Juan to see if she could get pregnant with my dad. I looked at the date on the letter, did the math, and yes, it worked out that I would have been conceived right around the time they took that trip.
It struck me as funny that my parents would have to take a trip to San Juan to make a baby. Couldn’t they just get frisky in Chicopee, Massachusetts? I do understand the reason for the trip though. My mom told me that after she lost her first child in April of 1968, she had a hard time getting pregnant, hence the trip to a warm tropical climate in the Caribbean to make a baby.
I love San Juan. I couldn’t explain to you why I felt so at home there when I took my first trip in February 2006, but it makes sense to me now. That trip altered my views on how other cultures approach life and death. I was there at the time that Ray Barretto passed away and I had the chance to witness a full-day musical celebration of his life in Old San Juan. Before that experience, I had only seen the somber side: the wake, funeral, and the farewell visit to the grave. Being present for Ray’s tribute allowed me to entertain the idea that death isn’t just about grieving and loss. It is also about the celebration of one’s life.
Why all these thoughts on my birthday? Well, I am thinking a lot about my mom today. For some reason, I am experiencing the feelings she must have had when I was born. That’s a pretty amazing feeling to have about myself. I don’t tend to think about myself that way. My view of me is from my own critical perspective the majority of the time. Not how someone else feels about me. You see, my mom was 42 years old when she had me. I am pretty certain that she was thinking that I was her last chance at having a child. She was also nervous throughout her entire pregnancy after having lost Michelle, my older sister. There had to have been joy and tears when Jennifer Ann was born a healthy 9 pound baby.
In the absence of my mom today, feeling her joy about my birth fills the void a bit. It also makes me appreciate this life I have been given.
Thank you my dear mom for this life of mine. Thank you for the unconditional love I feel around me today and always.