I ran across this image a couple of hours ago of my nephew Fabian. He’s a sassy pre-teen now, but in this photo, he was momentarily a pensive toddler. He’s looking out of his bis-abuelita Pera’s living room window, staring at the plants or cars passing by.
In the instant that I saw this photo on my laptop screen, it took me back to my childhood and the many windows I can recall glimpsing out of. I can close my eyes and go back to those moments as if it had just happened.
There are windows that feel so far away such as that time I sat up inside apa’s red Chevy Silverado. A confused 7-year-old trying not to cry after waking up in an empty truck that had just been rocking past pot holes and bumpy dirt roads. We had arrived in San Bartolo (the ejido my family is from in Durango) and although we took yearly summer trips to visit the Suarez and Fabela clans, I was too shy to just jump out of the vehicle in search of my parents. I sat there for what felt like hours, worried my family had forgotten about me. I remember my great-aunt Tomasa catching my gaze as she came out of the kitchen with a basket full of fresh queso she had prepared herself.
Years later, I was in my early twenties and apa, abuelo, and I had taken a week-long trip back to the rancho. It was a few days after abuelo’s sister, Lupe, had passed from diabetes complications. This time, I sat in the back seat of a green Taurus and it was pitch dark as we pulled up to the home my grandfather and his parent’s had called home in the 1920’s. It was past midnight when we arrived at the house. To our surprise, there were a dozen relatives who had stayed up with my great-aunt Tomasa. Her eyes caught mine as we parked and I felt a sense of familiarity in an instant. It must’ve been about ten years since I had last seen her.
That night, I slept in a small room inside the family’s old adobe house, uneasy with so many thoughts of my ancestors who had slept on the same bed I lay my head on. The windows were kept open, something I wasn’t accustomed to because of the South Texas heat back home. The cool breeze and swaying trees made me imagine hearing spirits and the stories of my great-grandmother Antonia kept creeping up on me.
Toña would tell me that ventanas are not just what you can see. It is what you can hear. What you can imagine. What your spirit sees and warns you about with the tingles that run through your arms and shoulders. Because of that ventana she opened in my memory, I spent a sleepless night in a home that now I wish I had spent more time exploring.
Memories are the ventanas I can use to share my memories of my ties to San Bartolo, Durango with my nieces and nephews. Abuelo’s generation all gone now. He was our connection to the rancho of his youth and the stories of our gente.