Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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Not According to Plan
I got through high school without any problems. I started college. I graduated from college. I still went to Mass. I still spoke Spanish. After graduation I went to work at a Catholic Worker House. She was proud of me and was always very vocal about it.
I had taken a pretty different path from most of my cousins and she was happy about it. Most of my cousins graduated from high school, some went on to college, most left the Church. Children and marriage did not follow any particular order.
I think what makes La Lupe proudest of me, though, is that I am still Catholic and faithful. She can talk to me about homilies she heard and about La Virgencita. She can’t do this with many people in my family. They either don’t listen or tell her that she shouldn’t worship Mary. We’re able to connect on a deeper faith level.
Up to this point our relationship had carried on without any hiccups. I never worried about telling her anything and I never felt like I needed to hide anything from her.
Then I started dating Brandon. We had been friends for years during which La Lupe had met him several times but I don’t think she really took much notice of him. Then we started dating and everyone knew it was serious. I don’t think La Lupe and I talked about it. We both avoided the topic. I wasn’t exactly sure how she was going to react to me dating a white guy but I didn’t want to find out.
This is the first time I shied away from a subject with La Lupe. It was the first time I had veered off of her course.
Then later, Brandon and I got engaged. I sat in the car with Brandon excitedly calling his family members to tell them the good news. I stared at La Lupe’s number on my phone. Hello, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I closed my eyes and hit send.
“Hola, mi muñeca.” (Hi, my doll.)
“Hola, grandma. I wanted to tell you some news. We’re engaged!” I held my breath.
“Ay, mija. You have your whole life to be married,” she said with disappointment.
Ok, I was prepared for this. I tried to sound upbeat but, man, did I feel deflated.
Fast forward to a few months after we got married. We were pregnant and very excited. Again, the feeling in my stomach returned as I dialed La Lupe’s number.
“Hola, mi muñeca.”
“Hola, grandma. I wanted to tell you some news. We’re pregnant!” I held my breath.
“Ay, mija. But you’re sooo young.” (I was 24 at the time.)
Ugh, if I thought hearing this after being engaged was bad, imagine being half-queasy before even making the call. I tried to make a joke about her being younger than me when she had her first kid. She immediately shot back that my life and her life are very different. I knew I shouldn’t have said that.
It’s interesting the things that La Lupe wants for me that are “American” and the things that she wants for me that are “Mexican”. She envisioned a more free “American” kind of life for me. One where I travel and get married and have kids much later in life. Instead I chose to follow (or rather God had planned) a more traditional “Mexican” life of getting married younger and having a lot of kids.
It is funny that I am following in her footsteps (in a way) and she doesn’t like it. She wants a different life for me from what she had. She forgets that I’m a pretty good mix. I have gone away to college and I have traveled to other countries and even after that, I still want this life. I like being married. I like having a kid. I like being a homebody. I like being like La Lupe.
Of course after her initial disappointment to these news breaks, she never expressed it again. She wants to let us know what she thinks is best for us but she only has to speak her piece once and then she is on board and happy. She was very helpful in offering advice for the wedding. She is over the moon every time she sees Olivia. She’s a good abuela. I just have to grit my teeth through her first impression of the situation.
Even if my life is not going according to her plan, she knows it’s a good plan nonetheless. We still connect through our faith and she knows this faith helps guide me to the decisions I make.
God only knows how she is going to respond when we tell her we’re pregnant again. I haven’t made that call yet.