My relationship with tamales has been a long and delicious one. I am sure that I began eating them long before I was even able to say the word properly. They are practically their own food group in my family, and on the first day of each new year, they are the centerpiece of and the most coveted item on our table.
My mom used to make tamales from scratch. If I close my eyes, I can see her working away, preparing the masa and cooking the meat. In her later years, instead of corn husks, she would sometimes use aluminum foil, which I’ve always thought was ingenious and funny. While the tamales steamed, the whole house was filled with the pungent aroma of the chili powder, cumin, and other rich spices that she had used. When I was old enough to help, I became a part of an eager assembly line of siblings who had various jobs that helped see the tamales from start to completion. Of course, my favorite job was taste tester, and I was always happy to volunteer my services.
At noon on the first day of the new year, we would fill our plates with all those edible symbols of good luck and prosperity: tamales, black-eyed peas, collard greens, ham, and cornbread. Before we ate, we’d always bow our heads and give thanks for this first meal of the new year. As we ate, we’d talk about how we’d rung in the new year, how little we had all slept, and what our hopes and wishes and goals for the new year were. This has been my family’s tradition for longer than I can remember. What the new year always brings is a great reason for everyone to come together, to share a meal, and to bask in the glow of the love that we have for each other before we return to our busy lives after the holidays.
This year, out of curiosity, I looked up New Year’s traditions. Of course, eating specific foods that symbolize wealth and health is universal, but something that I’d never heard of was the tradition of eating twelve grapes. This is supposed to bring good luck for the whole year, so figuring that a little more luck couldn’t hurt, when I went to Lowe’s, I picked up a bag of grapes and picked out exactly twelve for everyone who would be partaking in our New Year’s meal. Because most of what we eat is savory, the sweetness of the grapes was a welcomed addition. I am pretty sure that they will be making a return appearance next year.
As my family gathered to eat our first meal of the new year, I couldn’t help but think about my mom. She was an excellent cook, so I often find myself trying to mimic the way she did things in the hopes that my food will come out as delicious as hers did. When she passed away, I worried that we had lost the glue that held us together, but what I’ve learned is that love compels my family to keep doing what we’ve always done. We know that it is important to come together and celebrate as a family, not only because it is what my mom would have wanted, but because it’s what we all want, as well. What I have learned is that, no matter whether it is an old tradition or a new one, what is most important is the people who are celebrating those traditions with you.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 1/5/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
“New Year, New You.” This phrase seems to be everywhere at this time of year, and it compels us to believe that we have to change everything about ourselves at the start of the new year. New Year’s resolutions abound, and we are inundated with advertisements for gym memberships and diet foods. I don’t know about you, but I’ve often felt extremely overwhelmed, wanting to change everything, but knowing that most resolutions have a lifespan of just a few days or weeks.
This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach. Instead of believing that I have change everything, I’ve decided to make a list of things that are truly important and focus more on those things. For instance, I am very active with my church, so my plan is to simply continue. My question then is, is there any area where I can give more or help more? I, also, love working in my yard, but I often have a hard time finding the time to do so, so my question is, is there an hour or two that I am not using wisely (i.e. watching too much TV) that I could spend improving my yard?
This same rule applies with the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association. Our goal every year is to improve and grow, so we are constantly asking questions like, are we doing the best we can? Where can we improve? Once those weak areas have been detected, we work to make them better.
The beginning of a new year is always a great time to take stock of everything and think about the goals that you would like to accomplish. The difficulty, of course, comes with being hard on yourself for falling short of those goals. I’d like to remind you to be easy on yourself. Start small. Start gently. And be kind to yourself. Ask yourself questions throughout the year. Whenever there seems to be a lull in progress or if something seems to have reached a plateau, it might be time to reexamine and see if changes need to be made. I think slow, steady changes resonate and stick much better than a complete overhaul, especially if what is needed is just a slight readjustment as opposed to a complete makeover. And you can start a new goal at any time of the year.
I hope this coming year brings with it happiness, health, and prosperity for you and your family. Enjoy your holiday. Happy New Year!
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 12/29/16 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This year has been full of discoveries for me. One of the best has been the enjoyment that has come from researching my family’s history and finding out more about the people that I descended from.
For many years, I have been interested in finding out about the people who came before my grandparents, who were the oldest relatives that I knew growing up, but I felt that my ability to find out more was stagnant, and after their deaths, so many questions went unanswered. I was intimidated because I didn’t think I had the time, money, or know-how to research my genealogy. It seemed like such a daunting task.
Of course, growing older has given me the confidence to finally begin my search, and growing older has a lot to do with the urgency of my interest. My curiosity has turned into an obsession to find out as much as possible about the people who are responsible for my existence. The first major discovery occurred by happenstance. For years, I’ve collected obituaries, and while I was going through my grandfather’s, I discovered the name of my paternal great-grandmother. I’ve had this obituary since 1991 but had never realized that this information was right there, just waiting to be read. After finding this out, I remembered other important conversations that my mom and I had had about family members that had passed long before I was born. This little piece of information, along with my mom’s knowledge, was the spark that lit the fire that now fuels my renewed interest. My involvement with the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association also plays a big part in my interest in my and our collective history. As a member and a president, it is our duty to preserve the legacy of the Seminole Negro Scouts and their descendants.
I believe it is crucial to find out as much about one’s past as possible. Once you begin searching, you’ll find out so much that sometimes it’s overwhelming, but it is truly a worthwhile endeavor. The wonderful thing is that technology has been very helpful. While there are many resources available locally, there are many resources that can be found online. There are also many groups that you can join that give great tips and encouragement.
So I would like to encourage you to begin your own search, if you haven’t already. Who knows what amazing information you might find? Just waiting to be discovered could be an ancestor who played an important role in history, or a brave ancestor who has an unbelievable story to tell. You might find out where or how your family name came to be or that you are named after someone who lived a century or more ago.
Be thankful to your ancestors for their lives. Some of them faced seemingly insurmountable odds just to make it through the day, let alone life. No matter what you find out, be proud of where you came from.
Merry Christmas from the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association!
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 12/22/16 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This past week was a very busy one for many Brackettville residents, myself included. Just about every day, there were events that gave everyone a chance to get out of their homes and get into the Christmas spirit. Even as the temperature dropped, it was hard not to look forward to all of the joy and happiness that comes with this time of year.
On Friday, I attended the Fort Clark Historical Society’s Christmas Open House. The Palisado building was beautifully decorated, and a table full of food was the centerpiece, and of course, the food was excellent. Aside from all of this, it was nice to see so many of my dear friends gathered in one place. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and festive.
The next day, my women’s group met at the First Baptist Church for our ugly sweater party and white elephant exchange. Again, amid the backdrop of a beautifully decorated room, more of my dear friends and I were able to gather and enjoy each other’s company. Along with the aroma of the wonderful food, laughter filled the room.
Following these events, I’ve been on a high. Although I’ve been listening to Christmas music since early November, it’s good to know that I am not alone in anticipating all of the events that have been taking place because I have seen that many of my friends and relatives put up their trees before our first cold front. This time of year brings out the kid in many of us. We become filled with the spirit of giving. We know that we are at our best when we are kind and helpful. It seems that everyone is giving away free hugs and smiles.
This all reminds me of my childhood. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. Most of the time, we really only had each other. My parents always worked hard to provide for me and my siblings. Even though we knew that they couldn’t afford the most expensive toys, we knew that the holiday season was a time for us to focus on our love for each other. We were able to slow down a little and take stock of how lucky we were to be together.
At this time of year, I, especially, miss my mom. She passed away on December 23, 2011. She was looking forward to Christmas right before she died. Christmas 2011 was very difficult. Everyone missed her so much, but we knew that she wouldn’t have wanted for us to mourn for too long, so the next year, we made sure to honor her memory by celebrating Christmas, even though we missed, and continue to miss, her so much.
What makes this time so special for me is that it is filled with all of the memories that I have gathered during my time on this earth. While I do have some sad moments, like the loss of my mother, those are outnumbered by the happy moments that I’ve collected. This time of year brings with it love, hope, joy, magic, and miracles.
Note: This blog was published as an article in the 12/16/16 edition of the Kinney County Post.
The Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association had a booth at the Kinney County Frontier Christmas Celebration. We were situated in a great location that allowed us to see everything that was going on, and everyone had to walk by our booth as they entered the Civic Center. From this vantage point, I was able to witness something that truly warmed my heart. I was able to witness unity in real time.
The night before, I went to the Christmas caroling and town lighting ceremony held at the court house, and that was where I got my first inkling of how powerfully and readily this community comes together. Everyone who was there was there to celebrate the beginning of this magical season, so there was no time to let the cold or rainy weather slow anyone down, and I don’t believe that I heard one person complain about the change of plans because of the weather. Instead, everyone simply went along with the change without complaint because they wanted to be a part of something that was meaningful and memorable.
When I got home on Friday, I was full of excitement because I couldn’t wait to see what Saturday would bring. On Saturday morning, there were so many people that I was overwhelmed for a bit. And these people showed up with huge smiles on their faces. They were armed with hugs and kinds words.
As the day continued, I had many pleasant conversations and interactions. When there was a lull, I played the observer and watched as families walked about. Young children seemed to rule the day as they excitedly dragged their parents from one booth to another. And this day truly was a celebration of the children and young adults of this community and their innocence and spirits.
The drama club did an amazing job. Their performance emboldened everyone who witnessed their talents and reminded us of why we had gathered in the first place. This group brought the house down.
Before the toy giveaway, we were told that last Wednesday, only twenty-four toys had been received, so those responsible for the toy drive got on their phones and worked very hard to make sure that they pulled this off for the children of our community.
As the kids received their toys, their faces were filled with gratitude and pure delight. There is nothing more heart-warming than that, and their happiness had the effect of spreading to the adults who were watching them as they received their gifts. Like the children, I saw many adults who were in awe at and grateful for the gifts their children received.
I’ve said this many times, but I think it always bears repeating. I am so proud to live in a community where we can come together to celebrate and support each other. Our local vendors were able to display their abundant talent and hard work. The children were able to see how important they are to everyone here, and I was able to witness, once again, how connected and unified we all are.
Note: This blog was published as an article in the 12/08/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.