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Childhood memories are vivid, almost indescribable in their detail, and impossible to forget. A Christmas memory I have is that of a black velvet dress  a family friend gave to me for my seventh Christmas.
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Somebody Hand Me a Mortero

Submitted by on October 16, 2009 – 6:19 am2 Comments

Ailenby Ailen Arreaza

My husband, Tony, was busy last weekend organizing and executing the local Latin American Festival, a magnificent cultural extravaganza that attracted more than 25,000 people on Sunday.

I had the equally burdensome task of taking our 3-month-old, Lucas, to the event BY MYSELF.

While Tony juggled food vendors, musical performers, dozens of sponsors, and hundreds of volunteers, I had to figure out how to eat an empanada while holding Lucas in his Baby Bjorn without spilling hot grease on his head. Clearly, my husband and I were both under similar levels of stress. Thank God, I ran into some friends who held the baby while I scarfed down deliciousness.

The rest of the day was spent walking around trying to keep complete strangers from touching my son. Yes, I realize I was having another “oh my God, I am turning into my mother” moment (they seem to come with increasing frequency these days) but, before you judge, hear me out.

I don’t mind when our friends and relatives hold and play with the baby; heck, if they want to take him for a long weekend to Vegas that is OK with me (as long as he doesn’t come back married to a stripper). However, if I don’t know you and my baby doesn’t know you, then you have no business putting your hands on him.

The cheek pinching wasn’t even the worst part. It was the grabbing, and touching, and caressing of his hands —  the same hands he now constantly sucks on. Lucas used to be addicted to the boob, but now speeds through feedings just so that he can free up his mouth and suck on his hands. Yeap, his fists are his drug of choice.

Just as he was enjoying the taste of both hands at the same time, one of his many festival admirers said to me: “Oh wow, he is definitely teething!” Now, I already knew that the hand sucking and the drooling meant teeth are imminent, but in that moment, I understood what it really implies. Perhaps it was the wonderful smell of Latin food permeating the air that triggered my realization:  Teething, as in, Lucas is going to start getting teeth with which he will be able to eat regular people food.

This is not good, and not just because I don’t like to share my empanadas. You see, so far, I have been able to provide my son his favorite snack without any real effort on my part — making breastmilk doesn’t require any culinary talent. But once those teeth bust through his gums, I’ll have to start cooking his food, and I can’t even fry an egg without setting off the smoke detector.

The thing is, I desperately want to be the kind of mom whose kids would rather eat at home than anywhere else. Plus, there is no better way to teach Lucas about his Latino heritage than through piping hot bowls of frijoles negros, crispy tostones, and tangy yuca con mojo. When I found out I was pregnant, I put “learn to cook” on my “To Do” list, but nada – just like “exercise daily” and “clean out the closets.”

As I stood at the festival, nibbling on a shredded beef arepa, and facing the challenge of completely learning my way around a kitchen in the next few months, keeping strangers at bay suddenly seemed like the least of my problems.

Ailen Arreaza documents the bilingual adventures of her Cuban/Venezuelan/American family at everybodylovesbaby. She was born in Havana and has lived in the U.S. since 1992. She currently resides in North Carolina.

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  • Catherine says:

    Haha! Mortero, classic.

    And I totally understand the reservations towards having strangers getting touchy touchy with kids, even if it means that you are turning into your mother… Touching strangers kids is completely creepy.

  • Ailen says:

    Yea, my Cuban parents wont touch a garlic press with a ten foot pole! And yes having strangers touch baby is creepy, but so is my mother’s obsession with washing everything with boiled water…including my boobs!

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