Continuing our Authors Remember Their Grandparents series, today we welcome author and illustrator Yuyi Morales to PaperTigers with a poignant piece about her Grandpa Felix.
Yuyi’s most recent book is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng (Candlewick Press/Walker Books, 2011). It is the story of a little girl Suhaila whose wish that she could know her grandmother is granted one night, when a golden ladder appears with Grandma Annie, ready to take her up to the moon. Read more about the book on Yuyi’s website, and take a look at the first few pages here - gorgeous!
This is not the first time Yuyi has depicted a grandmother by any means – there is her rosy-cheeked Abuelita with hair “the color of salt” in the exuberant My Abuelita written by Tony Johnston, our current Book of the Month on the main PaperTigers website (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009). And there are her own picture books starring Señor Calavera – Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (Chronicle Books, 2003) and Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Alphabet Book (Roaring Brook Press, 2008): we are big fans of both of them in our household and love Señor Calavera’s website.
My white dress of crochet clusters like popcorn, mama made especially for me.
She also made the wings and a halo with antennas, and painted with powder my cheeks, and when I saw myself in the mirror I was a butterfly.
At school I fluttered like I was supposed to do, I ran in a circle and flapped my arms with my wings behind. But nobody looked at me.
Everybody was too busy watching the pretty white girl flap her transparent arms and shake her chamomile washed hair.
Even mama, her swollen eyes straight at me, was looking somewhere else.
Nobody cares to watch the brown that is me.
Just like nobody wants to play with a girl with baby shoes that fit the insole inside and hold my leg right so that some day I can have straight feet.
“Mama, those shoes with the golden buckle and the bow on top are so lovely,” I have been telling her every time we pass by the glass case of the shoe store.
But mama doesn’t say much anymore.
She must be tired of repeating what I already know. That I have to stick with these ugly baby shoes until… when? Until I am a grown up.
Clipity, clap, clipity, clap, went my shoes while we left school.
Pling, plong, pling, plong, went my mama’s eye tears while we walked down the street. To Grandpa Felix’s house.
He is my abuelo because mama told me so. But he doesn’t remember me.
I know it because the other day when our teacher took us to the park, and my grandpa was sitting in a chair outside his door with a red and green blanket around him, and I waved at him thinking, “Now, look, everybody, there is my grandpa waving back to me,” and all the other kids waved too because they didn’t know he was my grandpa Felix – only mine, grandpa kept waving and smiling to all the children, just the same as to me.
He doesn’t remember me, I know.
Mama told me once, that sometimes he doesn’t remember her either, even though she is his child. “How could he?” she explained, “He’s too old to be one hundred and four and remember about so many things.”
Then, that morning, while I was a butterfly, Grandpa Felix stopped remembering no more. In her eyes, my mother’s tears going pling, plong, pling, plong.