It was as if I woke up then and started screaming

Alice Jones @ F-Stop Magazine

Darlene Pagán recounts her first, bloody encounter with her Puerto Rican grandmother @ Memoir (and). The first time I met my grandmother, when she traveled from Puerto Rico to the mainland for the first time in her life, she terrified me. Heavy set and hulking in a green house dress, her skin hung like walnut flesh at her eyes and mouth. She spoke a clipped and speedy Spanish and swatted the air as if every word and phrase spoken on our soil annoyed her. Unlike my American-born grandmother, she did not bring gifts, did not cuddle us or tell stories, and except for the moment our eyes met when my mother introduced us, she had little to do with us kids. After two weeks, I assumed the fear would abate but the worst was still to come.We couldn’t even speak to one another. My father never exactly forbade us from speaking Spanish but he did not talk to us in his native tongue and often laughed at our attempts to speak to him. Because my mother spoke little Spanish, what I learned was an English tinged with strange pronunciations and words like bolleyball for volleyball and Mira! instead of Look! At family gatherings, we learned to say Hola, Mucho gusto, or Que Guapo to an uncle. We could ask for the bathroom and food and our mother.During the two-week visit, my mother stayed rooted to the sink, arguing with stacks of dishes, huffing and hissing as if the act of drying and putting them away might magically make her mother-in-law disappear. My grandmother spent most of her time on the front porch talking to my father, drinking coffee. His hand rarely came untangled from hers as if they were praying together in thanks now that the miles between them had closed. They rolled cigarettes and patted one another’s hands and back and arms, sighing in unison about la more