Por Mi Hijo
Le digo a mi hijo que lo amo al menos cien veces al dia. Sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in English, but always with my whole heart. I love my son with every ounce of my being and every bone in my body, and I choose to love him in the oldest of ways. Unlike me, my child will never have to question whether or not he is wanted, or if he belongs. Mijo will always belong, if nowhere else then in my heart.
My son, Kai, was born unto a mother that truly knows his worth.I grew up in Snook, Texas. A community that never really wanted anything to do with who I was. My entire familial identity on my father’s side was reduced to being one of the first groups of Mexicans to take up residence in an otherwise completely Czech, German, and Black town. And even though my mother was a white woman, she came from a very poor family. It is no secret that poor white families and families of color rub elbows more so amongst themselves than with the upper white class. My two families were no exception. Growing up in Snook, you’re taught that it’s okay to cheer for Black and Brown people at sporting events, but not to date them. Anyone that broke that largely unspoken rule of mixing races treated differently. Through no small effort of my white family and peers, it was shown to me that I was going to be seen as a Mexican no matter how I chose to see myself, so it was better if I made my peace with it early on.
However, when I sought to see parts of myself in other little girls, I was never able to find my mirror. Mi tía always tried her best to diverge my attention away from the major side-eye and dirty looks that the other little ones and their mothers would cast in my direction when the dinner bell for everyone else was “Bien todos, vamos a comer!” but for me, it was most often “did your mom feed you before you came?” I never blamed them. The strongest weapon of their mestizaje is the family dynamic and acceptance of their darker skin. How could they love themselves without resenting my privilege? Sometimes it was all they had, and I admire them for it. I was half white and had freckles, but I felt severely unwelcome and out of place amongst the other white kids. My Mexican primos saw me as different, but still very much a part of the family and never hesitated to feed into my sense of belonging, whereas my white cousins made it very clear that I would never be one of them, often making me recite words in Spanish or speaking in tongues to poke fun at the fact that I was bilingual.
It never hurt as much as it probably should have, because to me it always seemed that they were regurgitating things they had heard said between their parents and they actually didn’t have any real opinions of their own. Everything about that small-town mentality made me question who I was, and things only worsened as time went on. I was excelling at my schoolwork and maintained an impressive reading and writing level throughout grade school, even in comparison to the rich white kids that could afford to buy more than one book at the book fair. I was a very curious and inquisitive child (quite like my son), by the time I was in the second grade I was reading at a high school student’s reading level, and by the time I got to sixth grade I was helping my mother with her essays while she attempted to finish community college. But while I flourished academically, emotionally and mentally I was a train wreck. My body had matured much quicker than any of the other girls in my class, and because of this, many of the parents saw me as a threat to the virginity and innocence of their precious little boys, as well as the overall piety of my classmates. In their minds, everything that I touched, I tainted. A young girl with an ass like a cantaloupe and a smart mouth couldn’t amount to anything other than trouble. Even the women in my own family would belittle me and sexualize my body, constantly telling my mother that I would end up pregnant if she continued to let my abuela raise me. In an effort to prove my worth, I threw myself into every extracurricular activity I could. Once I started receiving college acceptance letters, I decided that I didn’t want to have children right away and that I would devote myself to my studies.
I was two days into my first semester when I started to feel sick. I would often pass out or throw up on my way to class, and after a while the morning sickness got so bad that I would skip class altogether, never telling my professors why for fear of judgment. It took me five months to take a pregnancy test. I kept telling myself that there was no way that it could happen to me, not right now. Not at the most crucial point in my life. I had worked so hard to get into college, I was the very first one to attend a four-year university, let alone a prestigious one. I worked three jobs to pay my first semester’s tuition, and I busted my ass to earn those college scholarships because nobody from my hometown was willing to give me one. When I found out I was pregnant, I felt like I had reaffirmed all those stereotypes and predispositions that had been cast down on me from the time I was born. After spending so much time and effort overcoming the odds and obstacles, I felt defeated. But then I realized that maybe this was exactly what I needed. I now have the opportunity to be who I needed when I was younger, and be there for my child in ways that I remember so desperately craving.
Throughout my first trimester, I was at odds with almost everyone in my family, my friends were nowhere to be found and I was grieving the fresh loss of my great-grandmother Memo, one of the women who had helped raise me, and kept me out of trouble. One night as I lay in my tiny twin bed of the college dorm I was renting, half asleep, my stomach did this...flippy thing. “...Memo, eres tu?” Don’t ask me how movement in my stomach somehow translated to feeling the presence of my dead great-grandmother, I mean, after all, somos los descendantes de las personas mas espirituales de todo el mundo and it wasn’t the weirdest thing to ever happen to me. At any rate, for the first time in over a year, I finally felt that I had restored the severed connection that was a result of my bisabuela’s passing, and to me this was monumental. I realize that at the time Kai was only the size of a garbanzo bean, but the fluttering was enough to make me realize that I was never going to feel alone ever again. I no longer had to seek love or acceptance from the unwilling because I had taken all the best parts of myself and manifested them into somebody that would always remind me of who I was, and where I came from.
They say that our children are our ancestors reincarnated and I believe that to be true with every ounce of my being. My child is too intuitive, too insightful and well-rounded for this to be his first spin around the block. Although he reflects shadows of his father, he is my identical twin, and upon making certain facial features I see my father, my Memo, and other members of the family that I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, but have thumbed through several photographs of. We all share the same iron-clad expression that tends to intimidate whoever it is that our face is pointed at. Each of us exhibits great strength through our eyes and carry a deep self-awareness that most people have never had the pleasure of knowing.
We have Mama Grande to thank for that. It is a beautiful thing to bring new life into this world. It feels even more significant as a Mexicana because I can’t help but feel like I’m giving something back to Madre Tierra. As a Mexican woman I see myself as one of her many channels to restore balance to her essence of self, and with every child that I bore or will bear I am living up to her great expectation. Perhaps we are all part of one person that had a mad love affair with the world that they knew, and so loved were they that our family was given the privilege to be reincarnated to provide comfort to our children in despair. Perhaps this is why my words flow like water, my father’s boom like thunder and Memo was able to maintain a lush garden for 90 years. Every single piece of who I am was first someone else, and this keeps my spirit alive. I hope to pass these thoughts and feelings of spiritual connection to our ancestors along to my son in place of machismo. My family has always had what we’ve needed because we’ve always been one love. My son will always feel at home because my arms were not only made for him, but by him. If he belongs nowhere else then he belongs in my heart, along with the rest of our family. Tu lucha es mi lucha, and when you fall to the floor too weak to shoulder the world, I will be there to shoulder it for you.
Savanah Ramirez is a full-time mother to her one and only child Kai Vega, full-time worker, and a member of her local Socialist organization. She was adopted by her paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. Savanah is trilingual with the ability to speak English, slight Spanish, and slight Italian. She is a first-generation college student attending Texas A&M University about to obtain a BA in Communications with a minor in Latino/Mexican American Studies, and a certificate in Communication, Social Justice, and Diversity. Savannah is also a prospective graduate student as well as an advocate for prisoner’s rights and has volunteered with Bridges to Life Prison Ministry, with Family Promise of the Brazos Valley, and is a longtime admirer of Selena Quintanilla. She is also currently working to set up a Community Fridge in effort to relieve food insecurity as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.