Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
While visiting my grandma in Lubbock last weekend, she said I have a cara de suegra. In translation, that’s the face of a mother-in-law.
Grandma Chaya was basically saying that my 15-year-old daughter Laura is maturing into a young lady and it may not be too long before Laura gets married and I become a mother-in-law. May God help the man who will someday call me suegra.
At first I was turned off by this. I was like, “I’m not that old abuela!” But truth be told, I was still coming off a reality check from my Spanish teacher, Vitelio Contreras, last week who looked around the classroom and said, “Let’s see, who’s old enough in here to remember the O.J. Simpson trial? What about you Elena?” he looks at me and I’m thinking to myself, “The O.J. Simpson trial wasn’t that long ago! I’m not that old!”
Of course later, I told this to my friend in Clovis who is a couple of years older than me. After doing a little math, we were shocked to realize that the O.J. Simpson trial was 11 years ago. While we were trying to move ahead in our careers in the early 1990s, some people in that same classroom were playing with Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls and collecting Beanie Babies.
Getting back to this monster-in-law or suegra thing though, (Didn’t Jane Fonda capture the mother-in-law spirit so eloquently?) I realized this was probably a generational thing, so I didn’t feel so old after all. My Grandma Chaya, who is 82, got married about age 16, which wasn’t considered so young during her days. So if we turned back the hands of time to 1938 and I was raising my teenager then, yes, I guess I would have a cara de suegra.
I remember when I was 14 and my sister Becky and I went with my dad to a family funeral in Dallas. We were visiting Aunt Chelo, and her then husband remarks, “You girls are just abut ready to get married and start having babies huh?”
Becky and I just looked at each other like “Yeah right!” and shook our heads no. This was in the 1980s, and back in those good ole disco days, 18 or 19 was about the ideal age for us to tie the knot, at least judging by our friend’s standards. That would have put my mom in her late 30s or early 40s when she developed this cara de suegra.
Ask me now what the “cara de suegra” age is today and I’ll say it’s closer to age 50. Ask my daughter Laura what she thinks is the right age to get married and she’ll probably say after she graduates from college. At least that’s what I would hope she’d say. That’s the idea I’ve been trying to implant in her head since she was little.
I had Laura at age 22, less than a year after I graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree. As far as I’m concerned, that was still too soon, financially and emotionally speaking. So I’ve taken the liberty to tack on a few more years and have “highly recommended” to Laura that she not only wait until she meets the right man someday and graduates from college, but that she wait until she’s had a few years to work, save and buy a house.
So with this mid-to-late 20s age of marriage that I have in mind for my daughter — ojala, que si quiere dios — please don’t tell me I have a “cara de suegra” for another 10 years.