he "Holiday's" are coming to an end, but today is my favorite holiday of the year. It's not one of the common commercialized events that most call a holiday. It is the day when members of my family get together and make Tamale's.
I am sure that this was done long before I can remember but, this day started for me when I was 12. I drove from La Puente, California to Santa Barbara, California with my grandmother, Estella my great-grandmother, Manuela and my Great-Aunt Lucille. It was a long drive and I had know idea why we were making this little road trip (I was a little annoyed), but told we were going to have home made tamales. The women in the car were jovial, speaking quickly to each other in what I like to call Spanglish (a chopped combination of Spanish and English). I was quiet and solemn (that was my favorite mood).
I am not sure how but we left the world and culture I was familiar with and entered a culture I was unfamiliar with. It was a very cool summer day when we pulled up to a small, pink stucco house. On the inside it was warm, people were laughing, talking and it smelled of tamales being steamed, it was a wonderful smell. When the Matriarch's of my world entered this one they were welcomed with hugs, some tears, undeniable love. I was introduced to I believe my 16th cousin (it didn't matter how many times removed – he was a part of my family). A beautiful woman with long dark auburn hair approached my Great-Grandmother and they embraced for a prolonged period of time. I was latter told that the woman's name was Bernarda, after many years of struggling she had just arrived in America, from Mexico – she and my Great-Grandmother were sisters.
The men gathered in the living room, drinking beer and on occasion peaking their head's into the kitchen where the tamales were still being prepared, and now being steamed. All but one of the burners on the stove top had large clanking pots on them. A warm drink of some kind of cereal and strawberry's was given to me. To this day I have not had its match. Bernarda and Manuela sat in a corner talking, I assume reminiscing. They did not speak the Spanglish I was familiar with. They spoke the language that was their given, Spanish. I did not understand what they were saying only that in that moment they were happy.
It was to be my first tamale day, and it truly was an all day event. Despite all the food being prepared little was around to "munch" on and I was hungry. My Great-grandmother walked to the stove and heated a corn tortilla over an open flame, she rubbed butter on it and gave me one, I smiled and thanked her. Soon after it was announced the tamales were done.
As daylight diminished, my family sat, ate the delicious tamales, drank, talked, and laughed, I was no longer solemn, I was at home in this far away place, I was with my family.