We were laughing at them, my husband's sisters, the whole room was full of joy.
One of those scenes you can replay in your head, like a movie, like it happened yesterday.
I can still smell the kitchen. The chilies. The meat. I can still feel the hard surface of the table and the chair, supporting me. The ceiling fan and the flicker of the lights from the spinning of the blades. The TV, loud in the other room. The radio, a mix of holiday jingles. The kids, screaming and playing over all of it.
My feet were crossed. I was nervous. I hadn't done this before. I didn't know what to expect. It was one of the first holidays with my husband's family and I wanted to be good enough, I wanted to be accepted.
I sat across from her, from Adriana. My mother-in-law stood at the kitchen sink. And my other sister-in-law sat next to me. We set up the assembly line, and we had been going for a couple of hours. Despite my nervousness, I was at ease. I was having a lot of fun. The room was filled with joy as we sat there, spreading the masa, filling the tamales, tying the corn husks, laughing.
"Have you heard that song yet? The one about the boy and buying his mama's shoes?" Adriana asks.
"No." I shake my head.
"Oh, we heard it on the way here, it's a terrible Christmas song." says my brother-in-law, Adriana's husband. He chuckles, and rolls his eyes.
"It was just the little boy....and the...shoes..." says my other sister-in-law shaking her head in agreement.
Adriana and her sister look at one another. And as if on cue, both begin to well up with tears.
The room stops.
I hear my husband, with comedic timing blessed by movies (this one thanks to Sleepless in Seattle), screaming from the couch, "and then they....and then he says....and oh my goodness" and he fakes a good cry.
There was a moment of complete silence, only to be followed by roaring laughter.
It's one of my favorite memories of tamale-making-days.
So, you can imagine my surprise as I am driving to my mom's this week, having recruited my white-girl family members, I am determined and unwavering to make homemade tamales for Christmas day, and guess what song is played on the radio, a song I've maybe only heard one other time?
And, I bet you can guess what I did. I cried my eyes out. And then I laughed.
Adriana and all of her love and acceptance is still surrounding us. You see, my nerves that day, so long ago, at being the white girl who sat down to make tamales with my husband's family, my worries about being accepted, about our different cultures, were all put at such ease by Adriana's love, by her laugh, and by her cry. This is the first year I have made tamales since her passing. And as much as my heart aches at not having her here with us, I know her love, her guidance, and her laugh, are still embracing every moment.
Adriana's passing plays a pivotal role in the foundation of Embracing This Moment, you may want to read the full story. She is a remarkable soul.
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