An Ode to Las Abuelitas
One of the beauties and flexibilities of the Spanish language – some other languages have such properties, too — is that one can take a simple word, a noun or adjective, and by adding a special ending or suffix, make that noun or adjective convey a sense of affection, tenderness, intimacy or a measure of physical smallness.
For example, a small perro, or a cute dog, could be called un perrito and an even smaller dog, un perritito.
In my childhood in my native Ecuador, during those rare instances when I was not being a “malcriado,” some would call me “Doriancito.” My hermanita, on the other hand, would always be affectionately referred to as “Normita.”
These word modifications are oftentimes referred to as “diminutives” or “terms of endearment.”
Regardless of what they are called, the most beautiful “term of endearment” in the Spanish language must be “abuelita.”
I know I’ll get some pushback on this, but I believe that abuelitas have an extra special place in the hearts of Latino nietos and nietas.
Sandra M. Gonzáles, a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, writes, “In Western culture, women lose status as they age; in traditional Latino culture, women gain status as they age. We rely on our abuelitas and the knowledge they contribute…”
This may be debatable, but I know for sure that I relied on my abuelita a lot as a child.
She was the strong, yet loving matriarch in our family.
She was the one who taught me to pray and to tell right from wrong.
She was the one who would bring me a cup of hot, steaming té de manzanilla when I wasn’t feeling well.
She was the one who cooked my favorite dish when I had been good, but also expected me to clean my plate, or else.
She was the one who would implore me to come off the roof, to stop breaking the roof tiles, and would promise me the world if I did, but would deliver a world of trouble when I did.
She along with my abuelito standing at dockside, would be the lasting, haunting memory of a 10-year-old as the ship that would take our family to far-away lands pulled away from its mooring.
Fortunately, I got to see my abuelita many years later. Not so, my abuelito.
Some readers may ask, why I am writing this.
Perhaps because it is a “slow news day.”
Perhaps because I am sick and tired of today’s “politics.”
Perhaps because now I am an abuelito myself
Perhaps because I came across some photos of my abuelitos and also of my bisabuelita (Great-grandmother), below.