An In-Law's Tough Love Gives Way To True Friendship

Victor and Lucille Mascarenas i i

hide captionVictor Mascarenas and his mother, Lucille.

StoryCorps
Victor and Lucille Mascarenas

Victor Mascarenas and his mother, Lucille.

StoryCorps

Lucille Mascarenas moved from the city to her husband's farm when she got married in the 1960s.

Back then, she tells her son, Victor, she knew who made the top 10 on the radio charts and how to do her nails but next to nothing about farming or cooking.

She began spending time with her husband's grandmother, Candelaria, who had raised him and still lived and worked on the family's farm in New Mexico. Candelaria called her grandson "mi alma" — her soul, her sustenance, her everything.

She spoke only Spanish, a language Lucille understood but could not speak.

Their first day together, the two set to work in the garden. Lucille was hoeing, unknowingly uprooting plants instead of weeds, when Candelaria started yelling at her.

"Pretty soon all I heard was 'Camota!' And I kind of got the connotation of that, and it wasn't real happy. And I stopped in my tracks, and she took the hoe away from me," Lucille says.

When Lucille's husband got home, Candelaria started yelling about Lucille, calling her dumb.

"I told him, 'She's just very mean. I apologized but she refused to accept my apology,' " Lucille remembers.

But eventually, Lucille began to appreciate her grandmother-in-law's tough love.

"Now, in retrospect, even as harsh as she was with me, I appreciate her very, very much," Lucille says.

She remembers Candelaria teaching her how to make a quilt, starting with just three small flour sacks.

As they quilted, the older woman told her stories of the early days of her marriage and of her seven children.

By the end of the day, they had finished the quilt and forged the beginning of a true friendship.

"She reached over and she tapped me right on the knee, and I thought, 'She accepted me,' " Lucille says.

She took one of the older woman's gnarled, wrinkled hands in her own and felt the calluses.

"I remember thinking that this was a hand of dignity, that the things that she created, not just in her hard labor, but in her quilt and her children — it said it all," Lucille says.

"And I just thought to myself, 'What a wonderful lady she is. I had learned and she had taught me.' "

Produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo. Recorded in partnership with KRZA.

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