This afternoon, as I went through the motions of putting a small mountain of beans on my kitchen counters so I could sort them out, rinse them off, and finally put the beans in my Crockpot to cook, I couldn't help think of Amá (my grandmother), and how she did this every day.  She would let me help her sort the beans and rinse them.  I remember feeling really grown-up and special as I helped her cook.
Amá never cooked her beans in a Crockpot, maybe because they weren't made big enough for the massive amounts of food she would make at every meal.  Did I mention how she and Apá had 17 children?  I guess they had 17 children total, but only 14 survived.  Pretty amazing, huh?  That certainly deserves its own post sometime this month!

Anyway, Ma always cooked her beans on her stove top.  And I mean a huge the ones used to make tamales!  It looked something like this:

(Via Google)

Since my mom was always working, Amá was the one that took care of me most all of the time.  I think I must have been pretty well-behaved because, well, I don't have any memories of being in trouble.  That could only mean that I was well-behaved, right?  Sounds good, so we'll just leave it at that. (:

I loved spending time with Amá.  She was the epitome of a mother and grandmother, and I was blessed beyond measure at having her in my life.  I think I am the only one of all of my cousins that had that special bond with her.  And for that I am so grateful.  All of my cousins were blessed to have both parents and I was the only one that was being raised by a single parent, so that may have been why I was always raised around my awesome grandparents.  Whatever the reason, I was blessed and I wouldn't change a thing about my childhood.

Amá only spoke Spanish, so that was my first language.  
I used to sing in Spanish as a small child because I would hear Amá singing and I would learn the songs.  I loved hearing her sing and she had a beautiful voice. She was awesome.  I don't have one memory of her being mad or even upset about anything.

 She was always in a good mood and it was so contagious.  You just couldn't help feeling warm and secure in her presence.  When I was little, we lived on a farm in Fort Morgan and I would help her after school or on school breaks as she cooked to feed her large family, and at every meal, without fail, there was always a mountain of her delicious flour tortillas.
I would sit at the table talking to her as she made her little balls of dough:

(Via Google)

and she would join in, and even if I bored her with my childish conversations, she never let on.  She always made me feel important.
In hindsight, I feel a little guilty because she would start rolling those tortillas out and as soon as she would put a hot-off-the-comal tortilla on the table to start her "mountain"...well, I would immediately grab it and start spreading butter on it and eat it as quickly as the butter would melt. This went on for at least the first three...or four.  Sometimes even five (!) tortillas.   I always managed to hinder her "mountain" from even starting up because they were just so good and I just couldn't resist.  And she never complained.  Her huge stack of tortillas didn't ever start up until I was full (:
(via Google)
Amá's stack of tortillas was always about 3 times this size and they would always be gone at the end of each meal.  I don't know how she did it.  She was simply amazing.  I really think that I got my love of cooking from growing up watching her cook.  And I love that.  Something else that I do not think is a coincidence is the fact that I am unable to cook small portions of food.  I always cook in huge pots too, just like Amá did.

You know how I mentioned that she only spoke Spanish?  Well, I clearly remember sitting at her feet while we watched "The Young and the Restless" together every weekday.  And she never asked me to interpret for her!  Maybe she understood English, but just never let on?  Haha...You think?  

This picture is of my beautiful Amá and me:
I actually remember the day this was taken.  We lived in Alliance, Nebraska, and we had gone to a grocery store that was right by the overpass.  We walked in and I told her "Look Amá, they're taking pictures!, Can we take ours?"
So we did.  

I treasure this picture.  Especially because I have such a vivid memory of this day.  I remember skipping alongside her as I held her hand.  You can tell by my bedhead that I was not ready for pictures.  But I didn't care.  I loved Amá and she loved me.
Can you see that mark on my cheek?  My uncle Jr., his wife, Cruz, and their then bratty kids (haha) had visited from Texas not too long before that, and during that visit, their son, Mark, bit me on my face!  I remember having a life-sized stuffed doll with a plastic face that I loved and cousin Mark bit the doll's face on the cheek and then proceeded to bite my face.  I remember crying so much.  I wasn't used to anyone hurting me, so I was very upset. He got into big trouble for that...not that it made much difference to me at the time.
My cheek eventually healed up.  My poor doll's didn't.  I remember being so upset for months because my doll's beautiful plastic face was distorted from her cheek being all twisted up.  I thought it was the end of the world.

One thing I have always remembered Amá telling me, and I've actually taught my own daughter was this:
When I was about maybe 4 or 5, I had just had a bath and I was putting lotion on my face as you can imagine a child doing it...pretty sloppy and all over the place.  Amá sweetly told me to never rub down on my face because I would grow up having wrinkles on my face.  And to this day, I always remember her saying this and I never, ever pull down on my face.  Isn't it funny how such little things in life end up being such important things?
Amá passed when I was 12.  And I miss her so, So much.  I really wish my kids could have known her.  Their lives would be so much richer had they had this beautiful lady in their lives.

Amá, you were the best grandmother ever.
Rest in peace.

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