The White Butterfly

Boya with her nietas.

Editor’s Note: This is the third of five essays celebrating Abuela’s during Mother’s Day week 2011 on the Tiki Tiki. To read the other essays, visit the intro essay.

jennifer ramon doverBy Jennifer Ramón-Dover

I was lucky: I got to take the afternoon city bus home from high school. Since both my parents worked and my mom’s job was closer to my sister’s grade school, they decided that I would take the public bus home from school every day.

The bus stop was smack dab right in front of my private, Catholic high school, so all my affluent classmates could see us “bus riders” waiting for our slow transportation home.

At around 2:45 every afternoon, the bus came by and picked up the waiting ragtag group. The ride was usually a fun one, filled with lots of teen-age chatter and gossiping. As the bus dropped off each of my bus mates, I hoped the smelly homeless man or the crazy lady with the big hat wouldn’t take the empty seat next to me. Otherwise, it would mean holding my breath or pretending to read one of my homework assignments for the rest of the ride to my stop.

I would reach up to ring the bus bell, letting the driver know my stop was coming, and the big smoggy monster of a bus would pass in front of my house and lurch its way to the bus stop that was only a half-block from my front doorstep.

As soon as the bus passed my house, I would always see the small figure of my grandmother, my Boya — as all her grandchildren called her instead of the traditional, Abuela –, already standing at the steps leading from our front yard to the sidewalk.

My grandmother had lived with us since I was about 7-years-old, which had been great until I started feeling smothered and annoyed by what I had previously treasured as my beloved grandmother’s attention and coddling.

When I would see her already waiting for me on the steps, I would automatically roll my eyes, frustrated that my 70-something-year-old Mexican grandmother still treated me – a mature 15-year old young woman — like a little kid who needed to be watched like a hawk. Ridiculous, I thought.

After giving her a hug and a kiss, I would tell her, in Spanish, “Boya, you don’t have to wait out here for me, you know. It’s only half a block. Nothing is going to happen to me. I can take care of myself.”

She would shake her head and say, “You never know. There are lots of crazy people out there. Somebody might kidnap you.”

I was always in awe at how paranoid she was. At my young age, I never imagined how someone could be that distrustful of everything. I just rolled my eyes (making sure she didn’t see it for fear of getting the chancla thrown at me) and followed her into the house, hoping she had made one of my favorite dishes for dinner.

Some days, the bus would pass by, and I wouldn’t see her in the front yard. I would get excited thinking that maybe she had got caught up watching her favorite telenovela and lost track of time, or maybe she had finally realized I was not a kid anymore and had given up babysitting me. As I jumped off the bus onto the sidewalk, I would happily start my short path home.

Before I could even take one step, there she would be, like clockwork, standing down the block, her small body somehow looking bigger on the sidewalk in front of my house – the sergeant standing guard. All I could do was give one of my big, annoyed teen-age sighs, roll my eyes and shake my head as I slowly made my way down that “dangerous” half a block.

Over the next seven years, my grandmother stood watch as my sister and I grew up and graduated from high school, then moved out of the house to go to college. She even saw me graduate from college — the first woman in our family to do so.

One month after my college graduation, my beautiful, tough, amazing Boya lost her short battle against pancreatic cancer. Seeing her succumb to such a horrible illness was both heartbreaking and overwhelming.

As my family tried to heal the tremendous hole that her death left in all of us, I began thinking back to my bus trips home from school and her constant vigil over me.

Every time I visited my parents on the weekends, I would think of my Boya as I drove up to their house, always expecting to see her come down the steps to welcome me home. Of course, my guardian was no longer there, and I could only dream of those days of walking half a block to her smile, her hugs or even to her lectures.

One day, my cousin Wendy, and I were leaving a restaurant, and I suddenly heard her say “Hi, Boya.” When I gave her a puzzled look, Wendy pointed to the white butterfly that was fluttering around us. “That’s Boya,” Wendy said. “Haven’t you ever noticed that the white butterfly is always around, especially when you’re thinking about her?”

I had not. Yet after that day, I began seeing the white butterfly almost on a daily basis. No matter where I was – at work, at home, out shopping or running errands – the white butterfly was always nearby and would always make me stop and smile. I was comforted knowing that my Boya had never left me – I just had not recognized her presence.

Even today, more than 15 years after her death, the white butterfly still follows me where I wander. I see her everywhere I go, fluttering near me, watching over me as I continue my journey, making sure I always reach home safe and sound.

Gracias, Boya.

Jennifer lives in a multi-hyphenated world. She is a Mexican-Peruvian-American marketing executive living in Los Angeles who has worked in the entertainment industry for over 15 years. Juggling it all is a challenge but she is thankful every day for the support of her loving husband, her beautiful daughter Julia, and her amazing parents and sister.

Share, por favor!

By Contributor on May 5, 2011 · Posted in the habla habla

15 Comments | Post Comment

Honoring Las Abuelas says:

[...] school. Jennifer used to roll her eyes at the over-protectiveness. Now, she misses it. Her essay, The White Butterfly.Friday: Lydia P. Harris writes Searching for Abuelita in the Kitchen, an essay on her desire to [...]

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Alexandra says:

Oh, beautiful, and yes.

I remember my uberprotective Abuelita, saying, always, “they might grab you.”

I do remember, and how I now miss the care and attention to me.

This was/is beautiful.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Sunday Best – Love in the Chaos

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Jennifer Ramon-Dover says:

Thank you, Tiki Tiki for posting this essay about my Boya. It brings so much joy to my family to tell others how much our Boya meant to us. It also helps us teach our kids who never got to meet her about what a wonderful and strong woman she was. I love it when my daughter can spot a white butterfly now and tell me, “Look, Mommy, Boya’s here!”

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Carrie says:

Jennifer, I am so grateful to you for entrusting us with your story and with your grandmother’s story.

I love this essay and look forward to more from you.

Gracias, Boya! for sure.

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Monica says:

Ay! This make me cry and brings such strong memories. I love your beautiful story. It reminds me of my own ‘Buelita, whom I miss terribly to this day. Like you, she lived with us until she died when I was 12. And she loved me with her whole heart and being. And I love and miss her so much.

Now I am sitting here a blubbery mess. We are so blessed to have had such wonderful ‘Buelitas/Boyas!

Thank you!

Monica´s last [fabulousness] ..A Día de los Niños Giveaway- Ladder to the Moon

Posted on May 5th, 2011

Abuelita says:

On behalf of all the abuelas thank you so much for such a beautiful story,I am sure your Boya is very proud of you.

Posted on May 6th, 2011

Olga E. Azor says:

Jennifer, thank you for sharing that beautiful essay with those of us who can definitely relate to you and your Boya. My grandmother Olga was so awesome, she always felt like a second mom to me. That’s why I called her “Lalotra mami”. She also appears as a beautiful butterfly sometimes. It always brings happy tears to my eyes.

Posted on May 7th, 2011

Roxana A. Soto says:

I am so happy I decided to make the time to read this both heart-wrenching and uplifting essay. Not everybody’s lucky enough to have a grandmother like that. The love I’ve felt and continue to feel from my grandmother is like no other. I really don’t think anyone has ever loved me the way she has.

Less than a year ago, she fell and broke her hip. Apparently she slipped on the hard-wood floor in her bedroom when she woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I’ll never forget when I got the call. It was late, of course. I thought the worst. At 95 (96, really) I couldn’t deny what a fall like this could mean. I’m not going to lie, I thought she’d leave at us more than once. But she didn’t.

I just spent my 38th birthday with her in February, and the best gift I got was seeing her walk down three sets of stairs to accompany me — and the rest of my big family — to go have lunch together. I love my Abuelita to no end and one of the things I hate the most about having moved here close to 25 years ago has been being robbed of her loving care in a daily basis.

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story and I hope that when the time comes, she also comes back to visit, like yours does.
Roxana A. Soto´s last [fabulousness] ..When Cultures Collide- Not-So-Happy Mother´s Day

Posted on May 8th, 2011

Jennifer Ramon-Dover says:

Thank you, Alexandra!

Posted on May 13th, 2011

Jennifer Ramon-Dover says:

Thank you so much for the kind message, Olga! Abuelas like ours are such a blessing. Seeing my daughter’s relationship with my own mom grow over the past almost 4 years has been amazing and I’m so glad they have each other to keep that wonderful bond going between abuela and nieta.

Posted on May 13th, 2011

Jennifer Ramon-Dover says:

Yay for amazing abuelas like ours! Thank you so much for your message, Monica. :)

Posted on May 13th, 2011

Jennifer Ramon-Dover says:

Thank YOU from grateful nietas like me!

Posted on May 13th, 2011

Jennifer Ramon-Dover says:

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and for the kind words, Roxana. When you do see your grandmother, give her plenty of abrazos…that’s one of the things I miss most about my Boya. She could give some good hugs! :)

Posted on May 13th, 2011

For the Love of Fernando (Valenzuela) says:

[...] beautiful daughter Julia, and her amazing parents and sister. Her last essay for the Tiki Tiki was The White Butterfly. Share and Enjoy, Por [...]

Posted on July 12th, 2011

LLK says:

Such a well-written, tender essay. There’s so much color in it. It certainly makes you think of loved ones, and to appreciate them each and every day. Thank you for sharing.

Posted on July 19th, 2011