"Those were my favorite shorts. Blue with a white stripe down the side"
When I was a little girl, my grandparents' house was like a castle. It was a Victorian style home with oddly shaped rooms. I loved the oval and rectangular shapes of the rooms in that house. Because my parents worked, they would send me to my grandmother's house every summer. I spent most of my time either reading or playing in the backyard.
The massive yard had big weeping willows and wildflowers that grew abundantly. It was my magical kingdom. My older female cousins hated getting dirty; so, I had the yard to myself. I would sit on the ground and play with the ladybugs, frogs and even worms. On hot days, I'd run through the sprinkler, and then collapse on the ground, letting the sun beat down on my drenched body.
After a while, I would reluctantly go back into the house covered in dirt.
Nighttime was the only time my cousins and I played together. We would play hide and seek, truth or dare, anything we were not supposed to do. As soon as my grandmother went to bed, we would sneak outside and play.
My grandmother was not as strict as my parents were. Her main restriction was on laziness. She was from an old-fashioned Cuban family who firmly believed that idle hands were the devil's playground. She also believed in spanking. Laziness was a trait she would not tolerate and was reason enough for a swat across the legs.
In her eyes, children had no reason to be bored – ever. If she caught us lying around, she would find something for us to do. There were dishes to wash, rooms to clean or books to read. We were extra careful not let her catch us watching television when there were chores to be done. All the grandchildren knew she would beat our butts in a heartbeat. That was another good reason for me to stay outside. We all knew not to fool with her.
Physically, my grandmother was a very attractive woman. People who met her could not believe she had twelve children and sixteen grandchildren. She had a youthful glow about her even with her massive size and height. She had jet-black hair that contrasted with her fair, almost white skin. Despite her size, managing gentleness was effortless. Her dark eyes lit up when she told her famous stories. She'd talk to me for hours while I braided her thick black hair. Most of my relatives either lived close or visited often. The house was never empty. Food was always on the stove with grandmother standing over it. She didn't drink but everyone else in the house did. Liquor was a constant in my family. The adults could always count on getting a drink, a meal and good conversation. There were many nights that I'd sneak out of bed, sit at the top of the stairs and listen to the grown-ups telling stories about the old days in Cuba. I loved listening to their loud voices debating, arguing and making fun of one another, often drowning out both the television and stereo. At times, I found it difficult to determine whether they were arguing or joking.
One of my favorite people in that house was Uncle Tony. He was different from my other relatives. I could talk to him. No matter what the question, he would answer it honestly. My other relatives, especially my grandmother, believed children should be seen and not heard, but he wasn't like that. I thought my uncle knew everything; he'd been to many places I'd never even heard of.
He and my aunt Angelica lived with my grandmother off and on for many years. He was in the military, and when my aunt became pregnant, he was overseas. She didn't want to leave the family, so she moved in with grandma. He would send us pictures and gifts from wherever he lived. In almost all of his pictures there were exotic women flocked around him. His pictures portrayed a confident young man, tall and muscular with a smooth dark complexion and dark curly hair. I guess he would have been considered attractive in his day, but for as long as I can remember, he'd been old and wrinkled. The only remnant of the young man in the pictures was the mischievous twinkle that never left his eyes.
I was seven years old the first time he fondled me. It was summer. He called me in his room. We'd often play checkers or dominoes, which we played to the death. He never let me win; he said it was not good for children, especially women, to get special treatment. I raced up the stairs as I always did. When I got in the room, the board was not in its usual place. I asked him where it was, and he told me it was under the bed. I remember getting down on all fours looking for the game. Suddenly, I felt his fingers frantically tugging at my shorts. They were my favorite shorts. I turned around, and looked at him as he pulled me toward him and clamped his hand over my mouth. He was having a hard time getting his fingers in. Frozen in terror, I didn't know what was happening, but I knew it was wrong, and I wanted to get away.
He kept saying, "Shh," in that raspy voice of his. He was almost smiling. One of his hands stayed on my mouth while he penetrated me with the other. I could smell the liquor on his breath. I thought the smell would suffocate me. After it was over, I went back downstairs. I did not tell my parents or anyone else.