As possibly the only non-Latino writer contributing to Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul, I’ve been repeatedly asked, then told, “You can’t do that! Can you do that?” While I have no misgivings, I have done some “soul searching” to see how I belong. And this I believe, we should all dance and sing and eat a lot. And of course, get along!
Several mothers in Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul teach their children how to dance Salsa. While the beat may be similar, I know that every cultures’ feet (and hips) move in very different ways. I’ve been “accused” of dancing Venezuelan Salsa by Cuban men, which is not surprise, that’s where I finally learned. Now I take cues, and with some I stomp, and others I kick, on that silent fourth beat.
As a child, my mother, brothers and I danced in the living room with great joy. These times created a special bond within my family, as well as a love for music and dance. I can still remember my little brother wearing a red and white cowboy vest with silvers stars, belting out “I’m a Rhinestone Cowboy.” At first it made me laugh. Then it started to drive me nuts.
Later, he and I chose our favorite (not very danceable) songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, I cried Mary Magdeline’s “Don’t’ Know How to Love Him,” while my brother played Judas’ song repeatedly at high decibels, and screamed “…Christ I know you can’t hear me…but I have been saddled with the murder of you!” My poor mother, her children playing a prostitute and the betrayer of God. But we both turned out alright. And we both still sing.
In other Latino Soul stories, a parent or grandparent shares a “secret” recipe or tradition, such as cooking tortillas, or enchiladas, or tamales. I believe anyone in the US will find these stories fascinating, because we crave these foods. Yet every culture or family passes on their own traditions involving food. What Italian mother doesn’t long to pass on the family recipe for meatballs, or a marinara sauce? German grandmothers want to share the secret of keeping spetzl noodles from breaking as you crank them out.
As my name, Heather Kirk, reveals, I’m of Scottish ancestry. Thank God, my family chose not to pass on such food traditions as stuffing blood sausages! Instead we created our own. As a child, at least once a month after church, my father and I cooked brunch together. He, an expert at perfectly golden pancakes, knew exactly how long to stir the batter, and watched for bubbles to break a certain way, indicating when to flip. After brunch, the rest of the family cleaned up, while we read the newspaper, he the main section, and I the funny pages.
I don’t know if my brother is consciously aware of carrying on this tradition, but when his daughter turned four, he pulled a stool alongside the kitchen counter and began teaching her how to make the perfect scrambled egg. (Interesting, that was our mother’s area of expertise.) My young niece often helps cook breakfast, and I’m certain it’s not only the eggs she wants, but that very special time with her father. So in these I believe: dancing, music and food. And family traditions.
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