Photo: From left to right, me, Carlos, Grandma, Josh (top), Angelo (top), Ojay (bottom, right next to Grandma), Next Door Neighbor?, Navi III(farthest right), Rich (closest to camera).
Grandma Next Door was born on May 28th, 1927. Or at least that’s the closest that we can come to an actual date of birth since records in Mexico are hopeless. This is for you Grandma.
“Aaaaa, Yosiah! Chancla-Time!”
That was Grandma Next Door’s favorite thing to say to us grandkids. Whenever we got too loud, Chancla-Time. Whenever we said something smart-mouthed, Chancla-Time. Whenever we left a soda can in the living room or on the kitchen table instead of adding it to the recycle-pile outside like we were supposed to, Chancla-Time! She never hit us hard, if she hit us at all. Chancla-Time was basically an empty threat, especially when we all got to a certain size, but none of us wanted to push our luck.
For one of my Grandma’s birthdays, the family decided to make a video satirizing Chancla-Time. A bunch of us grandkids were filmed panicking in sheer terror in my grandparents hallway, fearing the approach of the mighty Chancla. As the camera got closer to us our horror intensified. Of course, we also set this nonsense to the theme music from the movie “Jaws.” My family is a bit melodramatic.
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Tío Isaac and Tía Eugenia were a bit melodramatic as well. They fought every single day. Every single day without fail. What did they fight about? Who knows? Their arguments were so pointless that Grandpa Next Door cannot remember a single one. Nabor and Emilia longed for the quiet hotel room that they were pulled away from by these well-meaning relatives.
Nabor’s job loading scrap at the train yard had ended, but he was able to find work at a mill loading trucks with wheat. And since no one had charged them rent, Nabor and Emilia were able to save a little money. As if the constant fighting wasn’t enough of an incentive to get out of there, Emilia kept getting stuck with endless amounts of laundry since no one bothered to help her out. As soon as they could afford to rent a place of their own, Nabor and Emilia took off.
“Hey Huacho, are you almost done?” the foreman yelled at Nabor. They called him huacho at the mill which was slang for soldier because that’s what northerners called the southerners that were looking for work. It was not a term of endearment. It meant that they were illiterate, less-than, bumpkins. The northerners obviously didn’t appreciate the flood of people stealing the few jobs that were available. Nabor was grateful for the job, but it still left his neck, shoulders, and ears cut up. And it wasn’t as if he had any kind of job security to speak of because when the harvest was over, he knew that his job was also over. Two months later, that’s exactly what happened; the wheat harvest ended, the last truck was packed, and Nabor was once again without a job. He wasn’t too worried as he began to walk home because their savings would buy him a little time to find another job.
“Hey, Huacho!” Nabor heard the foreman yelling out just before he was out of earshot.
This time Nabor didn’t mind being called names because they had another job to offer him. A much better job in an ice factory that was owned by the same man who owned the mill. Apparently they needed him to take over for a man who was killing himself by working in the ice factory during the day and then working in the mill at night. Nabor accepted and began what ended up being a 17 year career as an employee of the ice factory in Magdalena (they weren’t big on brand names back in the day. So we’ll just call it Chancla-Time Ice Factory, Inc!)