RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Time again for StoryCorps, the project collecting stories across the country. Today, we'll hear one from New Mexico.
The Mascarenas family has farmed there for five generations. Lucille Mascarenas married into that family in the 1960s. She recently sat down with her son, Victor, to tell him about what happened when she moved from the city to her husband's family farm.
Ms. LUCILLE MASCARENAS: Your dad was raised with his grandparents. His grandmother called him mi alma, which is like her soul, her sustenance. Everything that she was she poured into this little child. And she only spoke Spanish. And I understood Spanish but I didn't speak it.
I remember one of the first experiences that I had alone with her, your dad told me, well, you're going to help her out in the garden today. And I thought, well, how fabulous. So I started hoeing away. Well, I was uprooting plants and 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. And when your dad got home, she was telling him, esta camota something or other, Americana, Americana, she would say, and she would hit the cupboard. She's been acting like that all day, I told him. And she's just very mean. And I apologized but she simply refuses to accept my apology and I left the room.
Mr. VICTOR MASCARENAS: You know, I think she looked at you and felt that you really need to be straightened up.
Ms. MASCARENAS: To know something, definitely, which I didn't. I knew the top 10 on the radio and I could do my nails but I didn't even know how to cook. I used to make tortillas and I'd cut them out with a plate, so they would be perfect.
Now, in retrospect, even as harsh as she was with me, I appreciate her very, very much. I remember one day she told me (Spanish spoken), to make a quilt. And she had three small flower sacks, and she told me that we were begin with those. And as we were doing it, she'd tell me these stories about when she was first married and her children and every burying children.
And then by the end of the day we had our quilt done. And then she, like, reached over and she tapped me, like right on my knee. And I thought she accepted me with, like, an acceptance almost. And I remember looking at her hands and they were gnarled and they were old and they were wrinkled. And I took her hand in my hand and I could feel the calluses.
And I turned them over and I rubbed them and I remember thinking that this was a hand of dignity, that the things that she created, not just in her hard labor but in that quilt and her children, it said it all. And I just thought to myself, what a wonderful lady she is. I had learned and she had taught me.
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MONTAGNE: Lucille Mascarenas with her son Victor in Taos, New Mexico. Their conversation is part of StoryCorps Historias, a collection of stories from Latinos. It will also be archived at the Library of Congress. Sign up for the project's podcast at NPR.org.
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