My dad, Mi Apa, was my hero growing up. He embodied the perfect combination of creativity, strength, wisdom, and playfulness. Like mi ama, mi Apa had a very unique and special way he did and said things to show his love for me, my siblings, and his grandkids. On this Father’s Day, I am finding myself reflecting and appreciating some of what I consider to be mi Apa’s greatest actions and sayings. Here they are, in no particular order.
1 – What he calls it any time he builds, fixes, or makes something…
Translation: An Agricultural Invention
What it means: A thing he built, made, or fixed.
My dad is a carpenter by trade. For many years he worked for a lumber company as a master craftsman building beautiful doors and windows. The creations that his skilled and calloused hands made over the years are no doubt hanging in many fancy homes in rich neighborhoods all over Los Angeles. In addition to his door and window skills, he was also a determined self-taught handyman who made it his mission to build or fix anything in our home for the sake of improving it and ensuring there was room for our whole family. The first time I saw a wall being built was because I watched mi Apa do it. The first time I saw how cement was laid out to make a driveway I watched mi Apa do it. The first time I saw a person crawl under our house to fix a plumbing issue I watched mi Apa do it. The first time I saw tile being installed I watched mi Apa do it. He approached every project with a mix of focus, uncertainty, and determination to figure it out no matter how many days and trips to Home Depot it would take. And he always did it by any means necessary. We knew he was gearing up to build or fix something when he’d utter the words, “voy hacer un invento agrícola” (“I am going to make an agricultural invention”).
As the years went on and me and my siblings grew up, moved out, and bought their own homes his “inventos agricolas” spread into our homes. It is clear that my dad’s love language is acts of service for his children via his “inventos agricolas.” When my sister wanted to build a covered patio by her pool – mi Apa built it for her. When my brother wanted to add an extra bathroom to his house – mi Apa built it for him. When my niece wanted her own “casita” (little house) to play in – mi Apa built it for her. And when I want to cheat on any Pinterest project – mi Apa builds it for me. Since I have moved out, each year I have added a new “invento agricola” to my home. I now have a beautiful and curated collection of items that remind me every day of mi Apa and his love for me. The refinished bright yellow thrift store dresser that is now my TV unit, the wood entryway bench that I still haven’t decided what color to paint, the restained dining table where drink my morning coffee, and the new small rolling pantry he just built for me a few weeks ago for my tiny apartment kitchen are all centerpieces in my home. I admire them daily like art pieces in a museum. All made perfect and beautiful with my dad’s skilled and calloused hands. Anytime I see a new idea on Pinterest, all I need to do is call him and utter the magic words, “¿Apa me puede hacer un invento agrícola?” (Dad can you make me an agricultural invention?) and he jumps to my craft/project rescue ready to give me another crafty art piece for my collection.
2 – The thing he says when it’s time to go out…
Translation: “Let’s throw face”
What it means: Let’s go for a walk around the block.
That’s right mi Apa throws face not shade! He and mi Ama have lovingly cared for many of my young nieces and nephews until they were old enough to go to school. After years of doing this, he has become a toddler whisperer. Every morning my young nieces and nephews look forward to him uttering their favorite phrase “Vamos a tirar rostro” (“Let’s go throw face”). When he says it they prepare for their daily morning adventure. They climb into the stroller, or go-cart, or whatever other “invento agricola” my dad has come up with to transport them around the block (like a giant wooden cart lined with cozy carpet with a built-in table that he uses to both transport the kiddos and feed them). Then they literally go out to throw their smiling faces all over the neighborhood. They stop methodically at various checkpoints to wave at neighbors sitting on their porches and greet the different dogs in the neighborhood. Each checkpoint includes elaborate backstories about the people and dogs they see. Where they are from, who named them, how they got here, how they are related to people in the family, etc. All the elaborate details made up by my dad. All told in the same rhythm and with the same words each day until the kiddos can recite them back from memory. All filling my nieces and nephews with delight. In turn, their laughs, smiles, and giggles fill mi Apa with the same.
3 – The thing he told us when he thought we needed to calm down and have some self-control…
Translation: Donkey without a rope
I heard this one a lot as a young 18-20 something who was trying to balance school, a social life, and family obligations. I was in college, making new friends, going out, working different jobs, never home, and never communicating with my parents. I was the youngest and at that point, perhaps mi Apa felt like he was losing me. His baby, as he called me, became an adult from one day to another and it just happened too fast. He’d say “estas como burro sin mecate” (“you’re like a donkey without a rope”) or “no seas burro sin mecate” (“don’t be a donkey without a rope”) all the time. When I’d wake up and leave the house, when I would miss a family gathering, or when I would come home too late from work, school or being out with friends. It was repetitive and filled with worry and love. These words made me roll my eyes at him many times. Yet the message of this funny saying was never lost on me. I felt his words deep in my core. I knew that these words translated to a simple message: I miss you, I am worried about you, and I want you to be safe. But the deeper message, the one that is still with me to this day, is a reminder not to wander around lost in life. To not wander too far and to not get carried away with my own young, invincible, immaturity. It was a message saying calm down, don’t get too crazy, don’t lose yourself in dumb shenanigans, and have some self-control. This phrase was a call to action from mi Apa to stay wise and focused on what was important – my studies, my job, being a good person, being grounded in my values and identity. A donkey with a rope has a job to do, a place to go, and a purpose to fulfill. Mi Apa wanted the same for me. Thanks to him and this phrase, I have never forgotten who I am, where I am going, the work I am supposed to do, and the purpose I am meant to fulfill. Through different chapters in my life, my ideas around these things have grown and evolved, but the wisdom of this phrase and the sage advice he’d give along with it has never left me. I heard it, I took it to heart, and every day I strive to lead a life that emulates the aspiration of being a burra with a purpose.
Hope you all enjoyed celebrating your fathers, father figures, or mothers pulling double duty today. What are your favorite dad/parent expressions? Those things they do or say that seem a bit wacky but convey the love, humor, and wisdom that only a parent could? Send me a note I’d love to know!
Thanks for reading!