My mother lost me once. To a crowded store in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. I was 3 or 4. I would, in adulthood find out that the store was Lerner’s (now New York & Co). On my part, it was intentional. I was distracted by the pretty fabrics, the garments that hung in such organized harmony all around me. I wanted to enjoy that beauty in solitude, so I found a 4 year old Elly sized area of the store in which I could admire that organized harmony. I which I could allow it to surround me with its beauty.

I sat still and quietly. At peace. In harmony. At one with the rainbow hues surrounding me as I sat cross-legged in the middle of a round rack. So in tune and at peace that I did not hear my mothers cries or notice the clerks frantic search or the managers locking the door. So at peace that I did not notice when the police were called…or when they arrived. So at peace that when I finally came back to myself and heard my mother crying as she fervently expressed concern in how and what she would tell her husband about the loss of his child, I finally peeked out from my hidden spot and said, “acqui estoy, Mama!” (Here I am Mama!).

Years later, I lost my mother. Not to death, but rather to a crowded store in Carolinas, Puerto Rico. This time, I was not alone, i had my 3 or 4 year old brother with me. I was 6 or 7. We were done investigating the stores crevices. My mother was not yet ready to leave. When my brother tried hiding in a rack, i being the responsible older sister explained that that would scare mom and she would cry. When he tried throwing a tantrum, I reminded him that we each had money and could just go to the ice cream store next door. Mom had said we could go when we finished shopping in this store.

So we left. We purchased our cones and sat on the sidewalk until we finished. When we returned to the store we could not find mom, so we decided to do the logical thing and wait for her at the car. After all, we knew were the car was. And were the spare key was. When we heard police sirens…concerned for our mothers safety, we ran back inside to help escort her out. She was not amused. But Later, when I told Abuela she said we were very smart and showed good judgment!

At the age of 8 or 9, we lost Abuela. And this time the police called us, instead of the other way around. And we could not get her back. She couldn’t laugh with us anymore. Or cuddle with us. Or help us plan out our adventures. Or execute our plans.

Saying goodbye to her was hard. But she was such a joyful person that rather than mourn her death, we took JOY from her life. The house was loud like a party, and everywhere I turned people remembered her with stories. And music.

The loss of my great aunt, my mothers aunt, my grandmothers sister…feels like loosing Abuela all over again. Titi Lolita was stricter than Abuela, harder for me to please. But something about her always made me remember Abuela. She would tell me stories about their youth, their growing up years. Reminding me of things long forgotten.

How Abuela would rather read a book than eat. Definitely rather read a book than cook. How she was quick to smile but had a really bad temper. How she was sweet, but sassy! How she would wrap her hair…and paint her nails red! When other women in my family made me feel inadequate or inappropriate for choosing red panties and bras, Titi Lolita would remind me that Abuela choose red nails instead of pink!

Thank you Titi for being a giver of those stories to a girl who felt less than.

I will dance for you. And be “inappropriate” for you because you loved me enough for me to know that it’s okay, you might get mad…but you’d love me anyways!