evoke or suggest a strong meaning or belief
My story may
resonate in ways that many of you will relate to. You may feel the way I felt. The challenges I have faced—including material poverty, chronic illness, struggling to learn English, and being raised by a single mom—are not uncommon.
the term during which some position is held
A young student once asked me: “Given that there are only nine Supreme Court Justices, each with life
tenure, can anyone realistically aspire to such a goal? How do we hold on to dreams that statistically are almost impossible?”
in a hasty and foolhardy manner
Watching water boil would try the patience of any child, but I was physically restless as I was mentally and had well earned the family nickname Aji—“hot pepper”—for my eagerness to jump
headlong into any mischief impelled by equal parts curiosity and rambunctiousness.
a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence
speculation about whether Mami’s own mother had died of this terrible affliction and talk of a special herb that might cure it.
a cause of great suffering and distress
There was speculation about whether Mami’s own mother had died of this terrible
affliction and talk of a special herb that might cure it.
injurious to physical or mental health
Abuelita knew all about healing with herbs. The least sniffle or stomachache had her brewing
noxious potions that would leave me with a lifelong aversion to tea of any sort.
a feeling of intense dislike
Abuelita knew all about healing with herbs. The least sniffle or stomachache had her brewing noxious potions that would leave me with a lifelong
aversion to tea of any sort.
capacity to produce strong physiological or chemical effects
She would tell him where to find the plant, which he was to pick at dawn before boarding a flight from San Juan the same day so she could prepare it at the peak of
relating to or based on direct observation of patients
But even more than the
clinical procedures, it was my absence from school for so long that set off my inner alarm.
a surgical knife with a pointed double-edged blade
My very last day at the hospital started again at eight o’clock with the big needle and the
a run-down apartment house barely meeting minimal standards
My mother saw the projects as a safer, cleaner, brighter alternative to the decaying
tenement where we had lived.
without knowledge or intention
My sense of security depended on what information I could glean, any clue dropped
inadvertently when they didn’t realize a child was paying attention.
I was determined to grow up to be just like her, to age with the same ungraying,
wrangle, as over a price or terms of an agreement
She would always
haggle, and though she made it sound as if she were complaining about the quality and how expensive everything was, by the end she’d be laughing with the vendedor. All these years later, an open market still stirs in me the urge to
haggle the way I learned from Abuelita.
small shop selling groceries, especially in a Hispanic area
With Abuelita, our shopping trip would conclude with a final stop to pick up bread and milk at the
bodega a few doors down from her place. The
bodega, a tiny grocery store, is the heart of every Hispanic neighborhood and a lifeline in areas with no supermarkets in walking distance.
add details to
Sometimes one of them would read the Daily News and explain to the others in Spanish what it said. I could tell when he was improvising or
embellishing the story; I knew what news sounded like in English.
equipment consisting of miscellaneous articles
But in the projects, the elevator was more than a convenience: Junior and I were absolutely forbidden to take the stairs, where my mother had once been mugged and where addicts regularly shot up, littering the scene with needles and other
in a manner that is difficult to discern
Even in the midst of the wildest mayhem that Nelson and I could concoct, even sinking my teeth into Abuelita’s irresistible crispy chicken, even when everyone else was lost in music and laughter, I would be watching my father from the corner of my eye. It would start almost
imperceptibly. His fingers would slowly curl up into claws.
shaped into alternating parallel grooves and ridges
I watched the afternoon rains pour down like a curtain enclosing the balcony, rutting the street below with muddy streams, pounding on the
corrugated roofs and wooden walls...
so thin as to transmit light
At night, I slept with Abuelita in a room crowded with sisters and cousins, and the mosquito nets transformed our bed into a cozy hideaway among
skillful performance or ability without difficulty
I knew the price of every item, and I knew how to make change—I was discovering that I had a
facility with numbers, which I inherited from Papi—and Titi Elisa would let me work the cash register when my uncle wasn’t around.
very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
He was a handsome man but
gaunt. His arms were just sticks poking from the sleeves of the hospital gown.
hold someone's attention
This was all so strange that I was scared but also
riveted as I watched to see what would happen next.
express or state clearly
articulate exactly what I feared, but I knew I should stay close by and keep an eye on things.
comfort offered to one who is disappointed or miserable
solace and only distraction that summer was reading. I discovered the pleasure of chapter books and devoured a big stack of them. The Parkchester Library was my haven.
an outward appearance that is deliberately misleading
Those baseball games, with some good shouting for a change, were such a rare
semblance of normal family life that on those nights I would fall asleep with a smile that wouldn’t go away.
act between parties with a view to reconciling differences
If Papi had slowly poisoned himself to death, then of course it must be Mami’s fault (as had long been the theory), or maybe Abuelita now blamed herself and the failure of her spirit powers. Titi Carmen, too, might have faulted herself for not
in a manner suggesting something bad will happen
Of course Junior and I still found plenty of reasons to yell at each other, provoking my mother’s familiar warning call—her la la la la that rose
ominously in tone, step by step, until we got the message that we had gone too far and that justice would be swift if we didn’t immediately make ourselves scarce.
completely neat and clean
The apartment was always
immaculate, but it was no longer my doing.
caused by an irrational motive for repetitive actions
I quit my
compulsive cleaning and left it to my mother, who cared about the place now.
capable of molding or fashioning
It just wasn’t in my mother’s nature at that time to show affection, give you a hug, or get down on the floor to engage with a kid. She had been deprived of the
formative security that nurtures such impulses.
limited in size or scope
My mother always dressed with effortless style, which seemed almost magical given her
There was always some fault in my appearance that was glaring to her and invisible to me, and she
badgered me constantly for being sloppy.
an interruption in the intensity or amount of something
My fourth-grade teacher, Sister Maria Rosalie, made an effort to be kinder, and I enjoyed an unofficial
respite from reprimand from April, when Papi died, until summer vacation.
an act or expression of criticism and censure
My fourth-grade teacher, Sister Maria Rosalie, made an effort to be kinder, and I enjoyed an unofficial respite from
reprimand from April, when Papi died, until summer vacation.
My mother’s English was accented and sometimes
faltering, though she could manage well enough at the hospital, even working an occasional weekend shift on the telephone switchboard.
characterized by a firm belief in your opinions
After the first As began appearing on my report card, I made a
solemn vow that from then on, every report card would have at least one more A than the last one.
in a clearly expressed manner
Study skills were not something that our teachers at Blessed Sacrament had ever addressed
make known to the public information previously kept secret
I decided to approach one of the smartest girls in the class and ask her how to study. Donna Renella looked surprised, maybe even flattered. In any case, she generously
divulged her technique: how, while she was reading, she underlined important facts and took notes to condense information into smaller bits that were easier to remember; how, the night before a test, she would reread the relevant chapter.
a right reserved exclusively by a person or group
It’s true that I called him stupid, but that was a big sister’s
prerogative, and I knew that he wasn’t really.