Poem transcribed as performed.
When I was younger my favorite movie was beauty and the beast. As a kid I had an unhealthy obsession with Disney movies, french bread, and my spider man blanket. Every time I went to a sleepover at grandmas house, blanket in hand, grandma would pop in the CD when bedtime came and we would try to finish it before one of us fell asleep. And even though I asked many times what we would be watching I always knew it would be the same film because we never could stay up long enough to see the ending.
Mima would joke that she was the beauty to grandpa’s beast and I would fawn over belle’s dress and tell grandma how much I wished I could be like belle. But during this time none of the Disney princesses I saw looked like me. She would sigh and push my hair away from my face as she said You can be belle if you want, mija, you can be anything.
Like Belle, I was obsessed with books at a young age, from puzzles to extended monologues. Every CVS visit ended with a new crossword puzzle.I would try to solve it on long car trips and weekend getaways and even though I never wanted to, I came to grandma when I couldn’t seem to finish.
I used to think If I couldn’t find the word then no one else could but when I passed grandma the book she would find the word in seconds. She would laugh at the look of frustration I gave her, always watching over my shoulder as I circled letters in hopes of bringing things together the same way grandma did for years. Kind-hearted yet headstrong and she opened her arms to anyone that ever needed a comfortable place to land even when they broke her heart trying to get more than she could give.
I remember in 7th grade, I auditioned for Wizard of Oz i told grandma about the play at school after we had just watched the movie at home. She was more excited about it then I was. After the call list went up she was one of the first people I told when I got the role of Dorothy. During rehearsals, I expected there to be hot air balloons and plaid dresses
What I didn’t expect was for people to be angry, I was bullied for being a colored girl playing the iconic role that belonged to a Caucasian woman. Most of the time I wished that my ruby slippers really could take me home. As the weeks passed I wanted to quit but I thought of grandma and her favorite movie. And when I told her what was going on at school she said I told you there would be witches.
The night of my performance when I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow she cried and when I asked why she said because she was proud of me and that I looked beautiful on stage. Almost like a princess.
Eventually, my obsession with books grew and every book she finished she would lend to me.We both loved books and we both loved arguing over how we thought a book really should’ve ended. In each story, I became a different person and every year I grew older but to her, I always remained the same.
Grandma was the one that told me I would never grow old
That I could never outgrow her even when I was two feet taller than her
Knew that I was not older than I looked, to her I was still the little girl that asked for peanut butter jelly sandwiches with the crusts removed. A picky eater with a big appetite but an even bigger heart.
She was The Syfy queen that reigned her kingdom with her direct TV remote and silenced you with just a look when you talked during her afternoon show. Only seen as merciless when you accidentally deleted her recordings or spoke too loud when she was watching NCIS. Trying to solve a crime from an episode she had already watched many times before.
As I grew up I spent most of my time at grandmas looking for food. I scavenged her cabinets after long school days and extracurriculars. A kiss for grandma and then she would ask me if I was hungry and even when I Wasn’t she would feed me just in case. Raising a brow as she asked if my hair had gotten bigger. Eventually, I learned that she was trilingual in English, Spanish and talking trash. I admired the way she so easily smacked down the people around her with only a couple of words.
When I passed Spanish 1 she started speaking to me only in Spanish even though I basically only learned how to count to ten in Espanol. After years of being left out of conversations, I finally understood what she said on late nights during tv reruns. She told me stories of her childhood and the things I couldn’t remember about my own. She moved her hands around as if she was painting a picture of the person I would become.
Grandma cuddled beside me and told me of how she watched me grow up and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. She treated her granddaughter’s lives like they were the greatest show she had ever watched, the recaps, the bloopers, and everything she saw behind the scenes.
Right now it doesn’t feel like there will be a happily ever after. Right now this ache feels like a dark ball gown hanging from my body in its gloom. I feel that I will always be wishing we had finished all the adventures we started and the chapters we never completed. It feels like there won’t be a rainbow after this storm, that the brightness that came with her smiles has diminished.
Sadly I was so wrapped up in our story I never seemed to notice that while I was growing older so were you. I thought birthday celebrations would last forever and every goodbye would be met with another hello. I thought that every time I called you, you would always be at the other end.
I know how your story ended, smiling as you told me you loved me and couldn’t wait to see me graduate from high school. Then a few days later surrounded by the ones you loved as you passed away peacefully in your sleep. You were always too worried about everyone else to think about the yourself but when the time came your little makeshift family was with you until the very end. You said goodbye to your family, the ones of blood and the ones of history while the people gone from us came to take you home.
And even after the end, you brought people back together.
It may feel like my heart is broken but the memory of you will repair my wounds and I know one day I will read the books you never finished without it hurting so bad.
I will be the woman you dreamed I could become.I will live everyday for you and never lose touch of the gentle hand that helped raise my spirit. I will be the princess, the bookworm, the actress, the movie enthusiast, the gentle giant and sometimes the lost girl searching for home. I know I will see you again and hopefully this time we can stay up long enough to see the credits roll. Even though you won’t be beside me to see the way my story finishes I know it will have a fairy tale ending because I had you.