causing or ending in or approaching death
But as is often the case with
terminal illnesses, broken families put themselves back together, and I began to find my way back to my father, although the journey—like the one I took across the U.S.-Mexico border—was not at all easy.
cause to be unpretentious
Cancer had taken so much from him already. It had
humbled him in a way I never imagined him being
expel from a country
"And you three better do well in your classes, because if you don’t, I won’t wait for la migra to
deport you. I’ll send you back to Mexico myself!”
benefit resulting from some event or action
I brought you to this country to get an education and to take
advantage of all the opportunities this country has to offer.
much greater in number or influence
Our new home in the U.S. was in Highland Park, a
predominantly Latino neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles.
the right to make use of or take advantage of something
Finally, we had unrestricted
access to television, yet strangely enough, sometimes I would miss the radio and the fairy tales I’d liked to listen to.
unusual largeness in size or extent or number
When we arrived at the beach, Carlos, Mago, and I took off running to the shore and stared at the endless ocean before us. The few pictures I had seen in books or magazines couldn’t capture its
immensity. Miles and miles of water glittering under the summer sun.
remove soil or rock
“Don’t let go of me,” I said to Papi as I clutched his hand, my toes digging into the sand
eroding from under me.
using or knowing two languages
I hoped that one day I would be like her, fluently
bilingual and a U.S. citizen.
fearful expectation or anticipation
But early the next day, when Mago, Carlos, and I stopped at the corner to say goodbye, my
overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli
I peeked inside the main doors, and I was
overwhelmed by all the doors, the hallway that seemed to never end. I felt as if I were looking at a repeating image in a distorted mirror. My school in Mexico didn’t have hallways. It didn’t have so many doors.
a list of names
"Me llamo Reyna Grande Rodriguez,” I said.
He glanced at his
roster and then looked at me. “Here in this country, we only use one last name. See here,” he said, showing me the
roster. "You’re enrolled as Reyna Grande.”
the action of achieving something
I felt as if I owed him something, as if there was a debt that needed to be repaid. The way I could pay it back was to make him proud of my
accomplishments, because they would be his
rendering in another language with the same meaning
But I didn’t have the words to tell this to Mrs. Giuliano, and I was afraid their meaning would get lost in the
translation, no matter how similar Italian and Spanish were.
unhappy about being away and longing for familiar things
The smell made me even more
nostalgic for Iguala.
draw in, as air
inhale Mexico through my nostrils. While at the supermarket with Mila, picking out vegetables and herbs, crushing cilantro leaves with my fingers, bringing a bunch of epazote up to my nose, I’d think of meals in Mexico, of a pot of beans boiling, of my grandmother adding epazote leaves for flavor.
an unstated doubt that prevents you from accepting something
I no longer had any
reservations about putting on the costume of that girl named Rainbow Brite. Whoever she was, all I cared about was getting my free candy.
acknowledge faults or shortcomings or failing
I wanted him to say he was sorry, but we’d lived there long enough to know that Papi never
apologized for anything. He still hadn’t said he was sorry for leaving us in Mexico for eight years.
adapt or conform oneself to new or different conditions
“I know what your father did was wrong, but try to understand him. It’s been a long time since he has had to be a father. Give him time to
the property of a more than adequate quantity or supply
By the time we returned home, it was past nine and our bags were bursting with candy. We had to carry them in our arms because the plastic handles had long broken from all the weight, from the
abundance only found in El Otro Lado.
an unpleasant or difficult situation
Now that I’m a mother, I can understand the
predicament she found herself in back then—leaving her own children, only to have to raise another woman’s offspring.
someone who betrays his country by committing treason
“That’s what you get for being a
traitor,” Mago said when I told her what I’d done. "She’s right. She’s not our mom. Why are you always trying to find mothers everywhere you go?”
cause to be interested or curious
But Mago and I were
intrigued by Mila, the woman who, in part, was responsible for breaking up my parents’ twelve-year marriage.
have confidence or faith in
But beside her pretty looks and taste in clothes, Mila had other advantages Mami did not. Mila spoke English, which meant that Papi
relied on her for nearly everything because he spoke only Spanish.
give what is desired or needed
cater to his every whim as women in Mexico are taught to do, as Mami had done while living with him.
not feeling or showing gratitude
"Well, Mila made this meal for you and now you’re going to have to eat it. I won’t have you being
draw someone's attention away from something
Mago said she would
distract the owner while Carlos and I took whatever we thought would make good gifts.
enter unlawfully on someone's property
We rushed up Avenue 50 as fast as we could, our hearts beating faster than when we
trespassed into El Cuervo’s mango grove. If we got caught, we wouldn’t be shot at. We would get deported by Papi.
any customary observance or practice
There were many words I didn’t yet understand, and I had to keep looking them up in the dictionary. My favorite was "
rite of passage.” It sounded important.
moving in a twisting or snake-like or wormlike fashion
He came barging into the house, and without asking for an explanation, he took off his belt and gave my sister the biggest lashing any of us had gotten thus far, right there on the couch where she had been
writhing in pain all day.
the prevention of illness and maintenance of health
Mrs. Anderson announced that the school nurse would be coming in shortly to check the students for
hygiene problems. I was surprised at that. Everyone around me looked clean and healthy. All the students had nice clothes on, shoes that were practically new. Nobody was barefoot. No one looked as if they hadn't bathed in days.
impose something unpleasant
My father, the one who
inflicted pain with his belt or his words, the one who had shown little tenderness toward us, who had hands hardened and callused from so many years of hard manual labor, was very gentle when delousing my hair.
give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause
For the first time since I’d been in this country, Papi
devoted a full two hours to me.
preventing realization or attainment of a desire
Mago would say his backward thinking was very
frustrating. "This is the United States,” she would say, “not Mexico."
assume a bearing as for artistic purposes
There were pictures of us wearing our new clothes from Kmart, of Carlos riding the used bicycle Papi bought him, of us playing baseball in the yard. We would take pictures of us
posing on Papi’s red Mustang, of us celebrating holidays like Halloween and Christmas. Always in the pictures, we were smiling, as if life was more than we could ever have hoped for in this perfect place.
an open or empty space in or between things
While my siblings and I had been struggling to overcome the
gap that was created between us and our father when he’d left us behind, Elida had been doing the same thing with her mother.
value measured by what must be done to obtain something
Immigration took a
toll on us all.
stupefied or excited by a chemical substance
As soon as we opened the door, I became
intoxicated with the smells of incense, melted wax, and flowers.
confined on all sides
We took a seat in the back pew and listened to mass while
surrounded by the saints and Christ, wondering if Abuelita Chinta was at church in Iguala at that very minute, looking up at the face of Jesus, as we were doing now.
the process of absorbing one cultural group into another
She also claimed that her teachers had trouble saying her real name, Magloria, and her history teacher had started calling her Maggie. So now she was known as Maggie everywhere but at home. But there was more to the story than that. It was the beginning of her