Yellow light coated the leaves and bark of unnamed trees. It’s like we forgot about the rare ones. The usual clichéd birds were flying with difficulty and tensions that were too high. I missed the cooler temperatures and the bare trees. Everyone loved the warmer weather with obnoxious neon colors and bright flowers. I belonged in fall, where nature is prettier and the flowers aren’t as common. The water is solid, the skies are darker, and treacherous dangers seem to be a theme. It was the first day of spring break and I was ready for the restless nights that were to come. I passed through my small neighborhood that were entirely made of small children and old ladies. It reminded me of the way I used to play with abuela and dance to salsa.
Upon arriving home, I remembered the exact spot where she taught to dance to the tune of Gasolina by Daddy Yankee. My mom was waiting for me inside. I could hear the beat of Suavemente playing from a few feet away.
“Hola, Sophia how are you?” mami said dancing while stirring el gallo pinto.
“Bueno,” I said kissing her cheek. “Mmm, it smells delicious in here.”
“I’m making cosa de orno.” or thing of the oven. I noticed there weren’t the traditional dinner foods. The table was covered with a lot of special meals like Arroz Alabalenciana, Arroz con Gandules, and Arroz Aguado. I smiled wide and proceeded to my room where I started my homework. Seeing my mom happy made me happy no matter what our current situation was.
“Sophia!” my mom yelled for me.
“Yes, mami?” I said while racing towards the kitchen.
“Come on out, it’s Friday, you got a lot of time for homework, mijita. Chepe and Guadi are coming over for a little, they’re bringing Melanie, isn’t she your friend?” Chepe and Guadi are my mom’s cousins. So their daughter, Melanie, was my friend by default.
“Ok, sure, let me get ready.” As soon as I was walking away, la bomba, started playing.
“Oh no, you have to dance this me. Let’s go, sauvesito.” I grabbed her hands and we were dancing, just the two of us. Then I went up to my room to get ready for the “little get-together”. In other words, it’s a party because somehow, everyone else will find out about it.
A few minutes later I heard the door open and loud words in Spanish. Before I knew it, there was a knocking on my door.
“Sophia, come down stairs. Mami wants you to come down and greet our company.” Joaquin, my older brother said while bouncing a ball. I walked out of the room and went into the living room. There was my abuela waiting for me. She had gone to Panama because she was convinced her last days were near. And she wanted to get back to see the beauty of Panama in the flesh. I ran to her and hugged her tight.
“Oye nena, are you trying to break me in half?” she said smiling.
“Oh I missed you so much viejita.” I kissed her cheek before walking her to the table. My grandma raised me while my mom was in school.
“Ay no. Viejita no.”she said staring at me with the most kind hearted snarl I’d ever seen.
“He’ll be here mami, he’s just running late.” My mom said while talking to my dad on the phone.
“Cuando? Una vez que estoy muerto?” abuelita over exaggerated a lot.
“Abuela do you have any stories to tell me from Panama? Anything interesante?” I asked pulling up a chair next to her.
“Do I have stories? Oh, do I have stories? Oh course I do, I may be old, but I go on adventures.” She started with the time she went to the waterfalls.
“It was super clear water, like the pictures they show us on el Wheel of Fortune.” Just then my dad came rushing in. Out of breath he said
“La migra they got Gaudi and Chepe. We have to go. They’re probably on their way for us now. Muevete! Let’s go!” Abuela clutched her chest and screamed.
My parents along with Guadi and Chepe were undocumented. Immigration had taken them and we had to leave before they could take my family.
“Ay dios mio! I saw this coming.” she got on her knees and started praying. “Por favor dios salvar me.” She was asking God to save her from being deported. “Ven aca hijita. No no no. Usted vas a orar con mi.” She was telling me to pray with her.
“Hola señora como estas?”my dad asked abuelita but she ignored him while she rocked back and forth on her knees shouting to God begging him for forgiveness.
“Mama don’t worry.” my mom told her to stay calm as she was stressing over our possible deportation. “It’s going to be okay, mami.” It broke my heart to see my abuela crying.
“Señora we have to go. It’s not safe here they can come at any moment.”
“Hace que la fe en Dios.” she said she has faith in God. We got down on our knees and prayed that afternoon.
I remember the long ride to my Aunt Berta’s house that night. She was the only one who had papers and tried helping us get ours together. Aunt Berta was very energetic and hip. She needed all of the latest fashion and assumed we all needed a makeover.
“Why don’t we just join the witness protection program? I’m sure they’ll take us. And we’ll be safe there.” I suggested.
“Sophia, necesitamos los papeles para hacer eso, mija.” turns out, we needed papers for that too.
In our old neighborhood everyone was like us. Most likely undocumented, hiding from immigration, Latino, and loud. But my aunt lived somewhere else. It was like a whole other world there, one that I didn’t want to get used to.
“Mami I don’t like this place.” I said to my mom.
“We have to live here. Don’t whine baby girl.” my mom answered with worry collected under her eyes.
“Every time I see a gringo I get scared.” my mom laughed and we continued walking inside the house. Tia Berta made us mashed potatoes and fried chicken.
“Que es esto? What is this?” Abuela asked as Aunt Berta served our meal.
“Es comida mama. Its food.” she answered a little agitated.
“Pero what’s in it? I don’t see gandules or arroz.”
“Pollo y puré de patata.”
“Ay que bueno.” she said in the most sarcastic tone she could possibly have. “ But thank you.” we all sat down and my little cousin, Esther, decided to sing her ABC’s while we all sat and stared at her.
“How long are we staying here?” I asked my mom when we went to bed.
“Just a week until the papers come back.” I was happy to hear this but everyone was all so done with each other.
One week later my mom came racing into our house from the mailbox. “Somos Americanos!” I had never felt happier and I couldn’t contain my excitement.
“Thank you God!” I said while the news spread throughout the room.
“Es sólo a causa de Dios. Sin Él no seríamos nada !” Abuelita said while rocking in her little old lady chair.
“You’re right mom, it’s only because of God, without him we are truly nothing.” Esther and Aunt Berta were the first people we called when we got the news. But there was one problem, Abuelita was denied citizenship because of her age.
“No quiero permanecer aquí en este país de todos modos.” she said she didn’t want to live in this country anyways. “I want to go back to Panama and live like a true a Cubano.”