Leave it to my friend, Amada, to throw a Quinceñera for her first published book, “My Very Own Room/Mi PropioCuarito.” She’s creative and fun like that.
The book, which teaches a valuable lesson about the strength of family and the importance of dreams, turns 15 in April 2015. Five children’s books later, Amada is still writing and teaching.
Fifteen years. That’s a lengthy publishing career and double long when you consider the years it takes before you’re published.
One must love to write more than anything to persevere as a writer, to endure sore wrists, critiques, missed events, questioning ourselves, and a mound of rejection letters.
That’s why one must celebrate and what better way for a Latina to commemorate 15 years of publication, why a Quinceñera, of course.
There is a myth the traditions of quinceañeras originated in ancient Aztec culture when girls around the age of 15 were placed in the hands of elder women to teach them the duties of a wife.
On the day of marriage, this elder would carry the girl on her back while others lit the path, to the groom’s house. The bride wore a decorated cape, and when the bride and groom united, the two capes were tied together to signify the marriage bond.
Celebrations today vary significantly across Latin American countries, but the theme is the same. La Quinceañera recognizes a girl’s journey from childhood to maturity with a ceremony that highlights God, family, friends, music, a waltz, food, and dance.
En otra palabras, it’s a big ole’ party after the serious ceremony.
It is traditional for the Quinceañera to choose special friends to participate in what is called the Court of Honor. The females are called Damas. I’m excited to be in Amada’s court, especially since I never had a Quince myself. Hopefully, she’s not expecting us to learn the waltz. Knowing her, it would be a Tango, as she loves the dance.
The fun has already begun, with one of the damas posting her Quince dress online. A comment said it reminded her of the Portuguese Man O’War.
I don’t know about that choice, I’m partial to traditional gowns myself. But whatever we wear, I’m just happy to be at the Quince, celebrating friendship, family, and writing. And, of course, the big ole’ party.
She married the love of her life, a short three years ago. He was by her side when she left this world.
My heart holds a special spot for Michele Serros, or as she liked to hear, “Mrs. Antonio Magaña.”
A confusion of feelings surround death.
Why? Why her? Why didn’t prayers work?
I see her smile, lively eyes, texts at odd hours,
her words expressing identity, small towns, and individuality
a literary landmark
stories like my life and unlike my life
resonate with scenes only she could paint
She found love, at a vegan restaurant,
with a Berkeley chicano, a mexican, from her home town,
from her own high school, the same alma mater, so long ago
ecstatic with love, a new family
sharing her life.
That’s the way she was, loving, giving, living
daring to say the unsaid,
with wit and unique style,
inspired to write by Judy Blume.
A Medium Brown girl,
A Taco Belle,
who wrote outside of ‘barrios, borders, and bodegas,’
defining herself and the question of identity
to a mess of other men and women
boys and girls
high schoolers to old schoolers
on what is mexicano, chicano, americano.
A writer of handwritten notes,
handcrafted cards of
glitter and glue,
Michele was the first writer I knew, personally, and from my home town. I attended her readings back in the late 90’s. Her writing inspired me to think that I could be a writer. When I first met her, we clicked. She had that kind of personality-she clicked with everyone.
A giver of advice, affection, and friendship, Michele was a humble person who stayed grounded and a strong woman who was soft on the outside, tough on the inside. A chingona.
She was a long distance member of the writing group to which I belong, sometimes sending us articles to review.
I often felt inadequate, a published author asking me for feedback? But that was the way she was, as real as real can get.
An excerpt from her book, “Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard,” struck me, long ago. Her mother died, from cancer, and Michele wrote the obituary. When she described her mother as an artist, someone questioned it, “it isn’t like she sold anything.”
Definitions always played a big part of my life: a true Mexican versus a fake Mexican…a true artist versus a wannabe. Nonetheless, my mama would have been crushed knowing she left this earth not remembered as an artist. It was her fear and lack of confidence that kept her art stuck on an easel, hidden away in the corner of our family’s garage…it was her death that gave me the courage to finally share some of my own poems and stories. The purpose? to make someone happy, inspired…I just couldn’t bear the thought of questioning what my own obituary would say. 1994
There is no question that Michele was an artist, who made millions of readers happy, who inspired thousands of Latinas, Latinos, and others who rarely read anything that resonated with their lives. Her books are here.
She had been working on a new novel, An Unmarried Mexican, a title she borrowed from one of her favorite books and movie, An Unmarried Woman.
As you could imagine, medical expenses soared, especially for a self employed person. Give Forward has a campaign to assist Michele’s family. The fund is halfway to its goal.
We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.
When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”
The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.
There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.
This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.
How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:
1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.
2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.
3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.
4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.
6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.
7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.
8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.
9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.
10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you.
11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.
12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.
13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.
14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…
15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.
16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.
17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.
18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.
19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.