Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lisayun Grandma #1: My Grandmother's Mother

This week I will be writing daily lisayus in honor of my grandmother. She was not Catholic and neither am I, so these are meant to be expressions of my love for her and gratitude that I got to know her and learn from her. 

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Fine'nina na Lisayu for Elizabeth De Leon Flores Lujan
December 15, 2013

You cannot understand who my grandmother was without knowing her mother. So many of the stories that I was told by my grandmother came from this woman, my great-grandmother Rita Pangelinan De Leon who married Guillermo Sablan Flores. My grandmother’s eyes would sparkle when she would share the stories of her mother’s life. For years she would narrate the story of her mother like it was a daily soap opera. The stories usually began with my great-great-great grandfather who was in charge of the kitchen in the Spanish Governor’s palace. 

After those in the palace had been fed leftovers would be scraped from huge metal pots onto plates, wrapped and placed into baskets and taken around Hagatna as gifts to family friends and relatives. My great-grandmother was the eldest of the grandchildren and raised by her grandparents, Jose and Lauriana in relative luxury compared to the rest of her siblings. She wore nice dresses from the Philippines and Spain. She had Spanish jewelry and even a chest of Spanish coins meant to be her dowry. All of this before she was even 10 years old.

In adulthood, I learned about the suitors she had. The drama with her siblings. The deals she made in World War II to protect her children. The crisis of faith she had that led her and her husband to change their religion twice over the course of their lives. The fights between Protestants and Catholics, that sometimes came to blows. She had collected so many stories of her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. As she grew older she felt compelled to pass on her stories, the sum of the complicated life that she had lived, and grandma was willing to listen and to remember.

My great-grandmother died the same month that I was born. One day while grandma was talking to me, telling me more stories of our family, she asked me why I liked listening to her. I said, I just liked listening and collecting stories. She smiled and told me that sometimes she felt like part of her mother’s spirit had gone into me.


1 comment:

Adacaosky said...

What a wonderful, personal story honoring your family history. It was heart warming and a privilege to read. Makes me think back of my grandmother and her stories, which I need to record for posterity. Stories of yesteryear are truly an island legacy we all need to preserve.

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