“Caramba!!” I can still see her scurrying out of her kitchen flinging that word at us!
My grandmother’s long gone now. She was from Spain and we called her Abuela, Spanish for grandmother. I thought it was her name for a long time. Her real name was “Maria de la Concepcion,” or Concha for short. But to me she was just Abuela.
She was small and quick and peppery, with dark little eyes and a pointy nose with a big mole on one side and her hair pulled back in a tight bun. Kind of witchy-looking. My little brother used to be afraid of her and would run when my mom said to kiss her good-bye.
Abuela was always cooking, filling her little house with wonderful smells. Instead of mushy kisses, she gave us yummy croquettas and frijoles. I’m not sure I ever saw her without an apron over her shapeless cotton house dress, and she always had nylon knee-highs rolled down around her ankles. She was not a prissy woman.
Every so often, Abuela would be saddled with a multitude of us grandchildren for the day and she didn’t like it much. She loved us, but she didn’t like babysitting. She wasn’t too good with kids –not a people person– and we didn’t waste any time trying to get her goat. She was our Aunt Polly and we were all little Tom Sawyers.
Invariably, one of us would make some kind of ruckus and she’d come busting out of the kitchen hollering that “Car-r-ramba!” of hers. I can hear it ringing through the air like I’m right there, six years old and full of beans. I was usually a little goody-goody, but my Abuela could make even me feel mutinous.
But underneath all that scolding and fussing, I think she was enjoying herself a little, because I sensed laughter about her, too. Squelched laughter hiding not too far behind those dark little eyes. Maybe that’s how I knew she loved us horrible little brats. That, and the croquettas.