There’s been one constant in my life; one undeniable and certain truth. Whenever I was feeling blue, happy or plain homesick there was one place in the world I could count on to remain the same: Grandma’s.
It was 1960something…
Layo and Delia settle on a one story, 1000 sq ft, cement and rebar beauty in a new development next to the main highway in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Facing true north, the balcón provided gorgeous views of the sunset skyline and of the aircraft lining up to land at SJU. The backyard, huge for city standards, was a blank canvas; a mango tree sapling in the corner of the lot showed promise.
I can imagine my middle aged grandfather, a few years older than myself, beaming after his first home purchase. My exited grandmother calling her sisters in New York to share the newly assigned landline number from the comfort of brand new living room furniture. Teenaged mom, uncle and aunt posed for the camera, with big smiles and even bigger bellbottoms, secretly plotting which room to call their own.
It’s a shame that the original open balcony had to be enclosed for safety reasons; ornate wrought-iron gates were added to prevent break-ins as the city grew around the ‘burbs. Even the A/C in the bedrooms had bars to protect them from being stolen! (And those bars are still there, 50+ years later.) Block by block, granpa expanded the kitchen another 100 sq feet to fit in a formal dining table and a prep counter. He also moved the door to la maquesina to fit in more cabinets and give grandma more room to cook and store sundries.
Ingenuity at its finest!
I’m pretty sure my grandparents knew that this modest abode would house multiple generations of Colón Riveras; that my mother, aunt and uncle would always have a place to turn to when the going got tough. My eyes tear up when I recall how tíos room was transformed into my grandpa’s study/mancave, and after his passing, my aunt’s office and his oldest daughter’s deathbed. Love and joy emanate from the walls in ways I cannot describe.
The emotional attachment I have to that building is the stuff of legends. I took my first steps and said my first words in the spacious living room. I rode my first bike, climbed the mango tree, and hung a swing from one of its branches. Countless hours were spent doing homework while watching TV as the Atlantic breeze did its best to lull me to sleep on the now cool terrazo floor.
As my aunt goes through the hoops to settle the inheritance and secure the home’s title, it is not lost on me that I now (temporarily) own a piece of my childhood thanks to generational wealth growth and management. Grandpa, grandma, and then mom, sacrificed and saved so my sister and I would have more assets than obligations/debt after their death. I’m grateful they ensured my success, and theirs, rather than leaving me to fend for myself against angry creditors and greedy banks. I plan to pass the blessings along to my nephews and nieces, and to support my sister as they would’ve; to build upon the family legacy so that the “descendencia” will always have a home, a place of respite from a world that can seem cruel and unforgiving.
*Adjusts crown and gets back to work…*