Amanda Adamez


If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother

      It’s early and can hear my abuela slapping tortilla dough in the kitchen making us breakfast like she always does. The smell of bacon and eggs is tempting me, and I get up and start getting dressed. My older brother is in the bathroom already and I start to bang on the bathroom door. “Junior! Hurry up!”I yell. My abuela Maria pokes her head into the hallway and gives me a stern look. “Por favor, niños! Please be quiet!” she yells, louder than I did. She always does that. She doesn't say anything to Junior for taking too long in the bathroom. She never yells at him or my younger brother Phillip.

       My brothers and I have been living with my abuelos since I was in the third grade. Now that I am in the fifth, my mom should be done with school and come and get us. Even though we‘ve lived here for two years, I can remember the night we came to stay with my abuelos like it was yesterday. My abuelo came and picked us up in the middle of the night and took us to their house. He said my abuela was taking my mom to a school en un otra ciudad and she would be gone for a couple of years. I miss her and can’t wait until she comes and gets us. Sometimes I go spend the night with my dad. My dad is living with his parents, my other abuelos plus my great grandfather, so it gets crowded over there.

      Junior’s dad is a black man, but he’s been in la pinta forever and when you are in the penitentiary, you can’t raise a son. That’s what my abuelo says. My little brother, Philip, has a dad that is a black man too. But he is a different black man and we have never met him and when Phillip asks about him, Abuela just says, “He’s gone,” and Phillip seems okay with that.

      So here we are at my abuelos’ house, getting ready for school. Every single morning is the same here. Abuela never lets us sleep in or goof off in the morning before school. When my mom was here sometimes she said the alarm wouldn’t go off and we just didn’t go to school. We got to stay home and watch TV all day. It was cool.

       But today isn’t going to be so bad. Today is a special day because we are having a little fiesta in our class. It is Rachel Lopez’s birthday and we all know that Mrs. Lopez always makes sure that Rachel’s cake comes from the fancy bakery, not the panaderia on our side of town that only sells Mexican pastries. 

      Abuelo Felipe drops me and my little brother off in front of the elementary school and I see Rachel Lopez with all her friends hanging out on the sidewalk. I walk by them when I hear Esperanza Gomez ask, “Is that your brother in the truck?”

      “Yes” I say, knowing good and well that Esperanza Gomez has a huge crush on my older brother.

      “He’s in high school, right?”

      “Why?” I ask. “Do you like him or something?”

And she just says, “He’s okay. You know, for a Blaxican.” I feel my face get hot. Whatever. The bell is ringing and we all do the run-walk into the building, fast enough to beat a few of the gorditos in to the building, but slow enough to not get in trouble for running. With our backpacks bouncing on our backs, we are inside the school before the kids who have to ride the bus. My little brother turns down into the kindergarten wing and I catch up with Rachel Lopez and her friends. I am glad the he is finally walking to his class by himself. At the beginning of the school year I had to walk him down to his class and then do the run-walk down to the fifth grade wing because he was afraid of going by himself and I was late almost every morning.

      The fifth graders and I head down the hallway. In class, everyone is peeking into the box from the fancy bakery when our teacher, Señora Hernandez, orders us to put away our backpacks and get to our seat. Then here comes Andrew Gonzales in a pair of roller skates, right into the classroom. “Mira, Andrew!” the other kids say. “Con su roller skates en la clase!” and everyone begins to laugh. Señora Hernandez is red. She marches over to Andrew.

      “Andrew! Why are you wearing those roller skates?”

      “Because I couldn’t find my shoes.” he says.

      “So you skated to school?” she asked and we all begin to laugh again. Señora Hernandez hushes us and looks at Andrew.

“No ma’am,” Andrew says proudly, “I rode my bike.”

      “You rode your bike to school with roller skates?!” she asks, clenching her teeth and then we roar with laughter again. Señora Hernandez takes a deep breath and very quietly tells Andrew, “Take off your skates. Walk down to the counselor’s office and tell Dr. Jane you need to find a pair of shoes. We need to start our lesson.” Andrew does as he’s told and leaves our class and everyone settles down. 

      As the day goes on it bothers me more and more that Esperanza called my brother a Blaxican. Junior thinks he’s all bad when he’s hanging out with the other black kids from the high school, but they all know that we are Mexican. If my mom was here, she would call Esperanza’s mom and tell her to leave me alone and that her daughter is a silly girl who likes boys already, and everybody knows girls in the fifth grade are not supposed to like boys already. I wish my mom was here. The rest of the school day goes by like always, except now Andrew came in from the counselor’s office and is wearing the cheap sneakers that my abuela buys me, and once again everyone was laughing at him.

       After school the bell rings and we all walk outside by the flag pole. I remember it is the second Friday because my otra abuela, Cecilia, is here to pick me up. I give Philip a hug and he is going to cry because now he has to wait for Abuelo Felipe all by himself. I wish he wouldn’t get so upset and sometimes I wish Abuela Cecilia would say he can come too. But I know they are not familia, so I never ask if he can come along.

      My Abuela Maria, always packs my things and gives them to Abuela Cecilia before I get out of school. "That way you don't take any of your good clothes and leave them over there," Abuela Maria says. “How was your day?” Abuela Cecilia asks me as I climb into her long old lady car. "Fine, Wella" I say and we sit in silence as she drives away from the school. "Remember your dad's cousin David?” she asks." I think so" I say but I know good and well who Cousin David is. He is my dad's favorite primo since they were little boys and Cousin David still calls me the baby. "How old is the baby now?" he always asks. "Is the baby going to school now?" "Does the baby still like to eat carrots?" No, I want to tell him, and I don't wear diapers either. I am almost twelve years old. I am not a baby. But I know I cannot disrespect Cousin David. "He has a new girlfriend and they both are staying with us on the sofa bed." I don't say anything because that is the same sofa bed where I usually sleep. This means I will be sleeping in an old Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag on the floor in my abuelos’ bedroom, where my abuela snores so loud my abuelo cannot sleep, so he goes to the bathroom a lot and steps on me every time he does. "His girlfriend is from England or London or someplace like that. “She talks con una accent, como una sangrona. Apa hates her,” she says. "We can't figure out why."

      It turns out Cousin David's new girlfriend is from New Zealand and she doesn't like any food that is spicy, salty, or made with lard. "Pobricita,” Abuelita Cecilia says, “Poor thing is going to starve to death." The next morning my Dad and Cousin David go with my abuelo to the cattle auction and my abuela leaves to take care of the rich old lady she works for. That means I have to stay with my great-grandfather and Kimmy, Cousin David's new girlfriend. Kimmy talks a lot. She tries to talk to Apa, but he pretends that he only understands Spanish. I think it is funny when he does this. Kimmy begins to yell when she talks and thinks that will help him understand. “How are you today, sen-or?” she yells. “Would you like something to eat? Or to drink?” And she shakes a can of Dr. Pepper in his face. I sit and watch TV most of the day and Apa is watching his estorias on Telemundo. Then Kimmy goes and sits next to Papa, smiling and staring at him. My great-abuelo gets up and begins pacing and muttering under his breath in Spanish. “¡Este pinche extranjera! ¡No tiene vergüenza!” Although I can’t quite understand everything he was saying, I could tell he was upset. Finally, he pulls out his old, beat-up wallet and removes a five dollar bill. He hands it to Kimmy and simply says in his version of English, “Peek a noon,” which she understands is the Daily Picayune. She walks out the front door smiling, knowing that the nice old man gave her a little extra for her cigarettes and she would enjoy a nice long drag as soon as she left the tiendita. She is gone for a while and when she returns, he grabs the paper and proceeds to open it up. As he unfolds it and reads it, she watches him with a confused look on her face. She finally just shrugs and walks outside to smoke. When I glance over at my great-grandfather, and I see the newspaper is upside down. Poor illiterate Apa just paid five dollars for some peace and quiet.

      On Saturday night my dad drives me home and before I get out of the car, my abuelo is walking to the car, waiting to talk to my dad. “Go inside,” he tells me, “I need to talk about grown up stuff.” I say good bye to my dad and he gives me a five dollar bill like he always does. When I walk in the house, my Abuela Maria is standing by the sink washing dishes and says, “Don't forget to put your five dollars in my purse so I can put in the bank for you.” Just once I wish she would forget that he gives me money. It's my own fault for eating candy in front of the TV when we first came to live here. When she saw me eating it, she wanted to know where it came from, what money I bought it with. Then she said I needed a savings account for college more than candy. 

      I wonder what my dad and Abuelo Felipe are talking about. I try to peek out the window, but by now my dad is driving away and my abuelo is walking up the porch in to the house. It’s time for bed and I scurry to get my dirty clothes in the hamper, before my abuela scolds me, yet again, for not getting my clothes washed.


      It’s Monday morning again and I don’t smell anything cooking in the kitchen. Instead, I hear my abuela speaking to a woman. The woman’s voice is very familiar and suddenly I am out of bed like a rocket. “Mommy!” I say and I run up to my mother who is sitting at the kitchen table. She looks a lot different than I remember. My little brother is still in his pajamas, sitting on her lap, but he looks like he is not comfortable. What is his problem? He is acting like she is a stranger! Her hair is pulled back in a scraggly chongo and she is skinnier now. My abuela gets up from the table as we are hugging and starts to take out her cast iron pan to start making breakfast. “Don’t worry about it, Ma,” She tells my abuela. “Sam is picking me up and I going to take the kids to buy some kolaches for breakfast. My abuela turns around and rolls her eyes at the idea of us buying breakfast, especially from the Czech bakery she thinks is a Polish bakery. “Those are pigs in a blanket,” Abuela says about kolaches. “I can make those with weenies and canned biscuits.” I rush to get dressed and my mother comes in and pulls out a pair of my jeans. “I’m going to borrow these,” she says and I am surprised when she fits into them. “Mom,” I ask, “Who is Sam?”

      “Just a friend,” she tells me. “He’s going to pick us up and buy us all breakfast. You’ll like him.” And I know before I meet Sam I will like him, because my mom likes him. “Mom? Where was your school?” I ask as we walk through the kitchen. I notice my abuela’s head perk up and my mom glanced her way.”We didn’t go to see you graduate.”

      “So many questions!” she says. “Don’t ask too many questions. Boys don’t like girls that ask a lot of questions.”

      “Your daughter is in the fifth grade,” my abuelo booms from the doorway.

      “She is too smart to get in trouble with boys,” he says.

      “Unlike some people, right Pop?” my mom answers back.

      “That’s enough you two, my abuela says. “Remember, los niños están allí,” she says nodding toward me and Phillip who are waiting by the front door. Junior walks in gives my mom a hug like he just saw her yesterday, grabs the chorizo and egg taquitos Abuela has wrapped up for him and says he wants Abuelo Felipe to take him to school. My mom looks like he hurt her feelings, but says that it’s fine with her. Fine with me too, I am thinking, because now I have more time with Mom than Junior. A big diesel truck rattles in front of the house and Mom tells us it’s time to go. We march like little ducklings following a mommy duck down the porch stairs and to the rattling truck. Sam has a four door truck and I can tell Phillip is excited to sit with me in the back seat. Philip and I climb into the back seat truck and I take a good look at Sam. He looks familiar to me, with his handsome smile and thick, dark hair. He barely looks at me and my brother, but has a huge smile when he sees my mother climb in.

      In the bakery, Mom tells me she is going to pick me up from school. And then we are going to the mall. Just girl stuff she tells my brother, and then we will pick him up from baseball practice. I don’t care, he says, and I am secretly hoping he is jealous that I am going to spend so much time with Mom. I can’t wait to tell her about things that have been going on at home and at school. Sam is standing in front of the cash register counter as we order our food. He doesn’t order food for himself and I wonder how he isn’t hungry. But at least he pays for us and that is all I really care about.

        I am all smiles when Sam’s big truck drops me and Phillip off in front of the school. Like always, I see Rachel Lopez and her friends hanging out by the sidewalk.

      “Who is that?” Esperanza Gomez wants to know.

        “What are you talking about?” I ask.

      “Who just dropped you off?” I can tell it is killing her to know. Esperanza is just as nosy as her mother, my mom says.

      “That was my mom and Sam,” I say, like it is no big deal. Ha-ha, Esperanza, I think to myself.

      “Oh I guess she’s out of jail then,” Esperanza says to me with an evil smile. I spin around on my heels.

        “My mom was at school, dummy.” I say to her my face getting hotter by the second. Rachel Lopez and her friends gather around me and Esperanza.

        “Well my mom told me your mom has been in jail,” she says, with that same smile on her face.

      “Your mom is a big, fat puta!” I yell, louder than I have ever yelled. Esperanza just opens he mouth and squeezes he eyes into little slits. The morning bell rings and we all go inside the school. And I know Esperanza will go inside and tell Señora Hernandez I called her mother a slut. I don’t care.

       As I walk into class, Dr. Jane is there, whispering to Señora Hernandez. “Can you follow me to my office?” Dr. Jane asks me and I know I am really in a lot of trouble. Señora Hernandez doesn’t look mad at me. Instead, she is smiling at me with a big smile that doesn’t show her teeth. I feel like I want to cry and I think Dr. Jane sees that and she says it’s okay and that I’m not in trouble. When we get to her office, she sits in a chair and I sit on a little tiny couch. “Are you okay?” she wants to know. “How is everything at home?” The last time I had a visit with Dr. Jane, I was in the third grade. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say then and I don’t know what I was supposed to say now. “Well, my mom came home from school,” I tell her. “School?” she repeats, except she says the word “school” like it’s a question. She flips open a folder and smiles at me. She scribbles a little note with a pen that has a purple fuzz ball at the end. “Okie Dokie! ” she says and tells me I can come talk to her whenever I need to.

       I head back to class and we are getting ready to get our book report assignments. Señora Hernandez tells me to sit down and that we are going to do our book reports on a book that is about a person. I am so excited because I know exactly who I am going to do. Milton Hershey. He made so many good candy bars and his candy is much better that the caramelos and dulce de tamarindo that we have to get at the tiendita. I know all this already because I have seen the book in the biblioteca and I cannot wait to get started on my book report presentation. Then I start thinking that my mom will definitely want to help me with my report like Mrs. Lopez always helps Rachel and my mom will take me to buy a poster board and help me decorate it too. She will say that I am such a smart girl and that my poster board is going to be the best in the class.

      The day is going by so slowly. I can hardly stand it. I want to pretend that I am sick so I can go home. But everybody knows that Nurse Claire only lets you go home with a fever. So I wait and wait for the bell to ring at three o’clock.

      Finally the bell rings and I run out the front door and I pretend that I do not hear Señora Rodriguez, the school receptionist, tell me to slow down. Phillip is with the kindergarten class outside already and I go and grab his hand so we can wait together.

      “Is mom and that guy going to pick us up?” he wants to know.

      “Of course, dummy,” I say to him and then he looks like he is going to cry.

      “I’m just kidding,” I say to make him stop crying. If Mom gets here and he is crying, she might get mad at me. I do not want mom to get mad at me. We are going to the mall today.

      We are waiting so long that the buses have already left and the daycare vans have already driven away and all the kids who walk home are already at home. So we wait and wait and finally Abuelo Felipe comes and picks us up in his old truck. I am disappointed my mom doesn’t pick us up and before I am even in the truck Phillip asks, “Where’s Mommy?” Abuelo says that Abuelita Maria took my mom to go find a job. “Your mother needs to work if she is going to stay in my house,” he says. 

      We drive to the Little League field and Phillip gets out and joins his team for practice. “We were supposed to go to the mall today,” I tell Abuelo as we sit in the bed of the truck watching my brother’s baseball practice. I am swinging my legs underneath me and he just looks at me for a long time and says, “Your mother has responsibilities. She needs a job. Then you can go to the mall. How were you going to the mall, anyways? Your mom has no money.” I am really mad now.

      “Sam has money. He was going to give me and Mom money to go to the mall.” I do not know this, but Sam had a big wad of money at the bakery, so why wouldn’t he? 

      Then Abuelo looks at me and says, “I am the only man you need to rely on. That man Sam…well he’s no good.”

      I am about to yell at my abuelo like I yelled at Esperanza, but I stop and take a deep breath like Señora Hernandez does.

      “He is mom’s friend. He is good,” is all I say.

        “Mi’jita, I know you think you know, but…” And he stops talking because Phillip runs up to the truck.

      “Did you guys see me? I caught that fly ball!” Abuelo and I look at each other because we were not paying attention to the practice, we were talking about Mom.

      When we are driving back to the house there is no talking in the truck and I can tell Phillip doesn’t like that. But Abuelo Felipe made me so mad when he said that about Sam. Of course he is a good person. He is my mom’s friend!

      We are walking up the stairs of the porch and I can hear my mom screaming at my Abuela.

      “Fine!” my mom yells. “Then I’m not going to stay here!”

      “You have to stay here,” Abuela says in a normal voice. “It’s part of your…” and then my Abuela stops talking because she sees us.

      “What’s going on in here?” Abuelo Felipe asks. “Kids, go to your rooms.” Philip and I run to our bedrooms, except Phillip follows me into my room.

      “Ella no quiere vivir aquí. Ella no quiere trabajar. Ella quiere vivir con ese hombre,” I hear Abuela say about my mom. When Abuelo Felipe hears this he explodes. “Go then! Go live with that man. But don’t expect us to help you out when you get in trouble again.”

      Again? I think to myself.

      “Don’t worry about me,” my mother says to my Abuelo in a tone we are not allowed to use.

      I can’t take it anymore. I cannot let my mom go again. I open the door and run down the hall and I hear the little cleated baseball shoes Phillip is wearing following me.

      “Wait! Take me. I’ll be good. I promise, Mommy. Please,” I say with my face getting red and tears in my eyes. I am trying so hard not to cry because I want my mom to see that I am such a grown up girl that will be no trouble at all. It is just not working out that way at this moment.

      “Yeah, okay,” my mom says in a sassy tone, looking at my abuelo. “I am taking my daughter with me.” Then Phillip begins to cry and he is making me mad. Why does he have to be so chicle with me? We don’t have to be together all the time. And now I get to be with my mom!

      “Mi’jita,” Abuelo Felipe says to me in a quiet voice, “If you want to go, then go. But you cannot take anything with you. Not your clothes, not your toys, not your books. We bought those for you, for you to live here.”

      “Ha,” my mom says, “We can buy anything she wants. Let’s go”

      So I walk out onto the porch with my mom pushing me in front of her. I can’t turn around to say goodbye to my abuelos and I can’t tell Phillip to stop crying. Junior was still at basketball practice and I am not going to get to say goodbye to him. Sam’s truck is rattling around the corner and I am thinking that I still have time to change my mind and stay here when my mom says, “Don’t think you can go back inside now.”


      My mother and I are staying at Sam’s house. He doesn’t have a real bed, just a mattress on the floor and pillows with no pillowcases and I have to sleep on an old couch in the living room. He only has an old scratchy couch that he says came from his Tiá Esther’s house after she died. The “new” clothes my mother bought for me was free from some church ladies that made us read a different kind of Bible and learn about some men name Joseph and Brigham before they gave us the clothes.

       Everyday my Abuelo Felipe sees me after school and I walk Phillip over to the driver’s side of the truck and talk to Abuelo Felipe and he says the same things to me.

      “Are you eating good over there?”

      “Yes.” McDonald’s or Taco Bell every day.

      “Are you going to sleep early?”

      “Yes.” Right after the midnight Three’s Company reruns.

      “Is that man nice to you?”

      “Yes.” Sam ignores me and I’ve never had a conversation with him.

      “How much do you love me?”

      “This much.” And I open my arms wide and give Abuelo Felipe a big hug. And every day after this talk, I feel like asking if he would take me back home. Then I remember my mother and how much I want to be with her. I still haven’t had time alone with my mom so we can talk about all the things that I wanted to.

      She and Sam always pick me up late from school. I always wonder why because they do not go to work. But today we are going to the store because I have to make my poster board for my Milton Hershey book report. I drew it out on notebook paper, a little version of what I want it to look like. I was trying to show my mother this morning, but all she said was not to talk because she had a headache. “We have to go to the store to get stuff for that project,” my mom tells Sam and he drives to the little tiendita on the corner. “We need to go to the craft store,” I say because that little store won’t have the stuff I need and Sam says to me, “You got money, little girl?” My face gets red and my mother tells him not to be rude. He rolls his eyes and throws some money at her. My mother and I get out and walk into the store. We should be at the craft store; picking out glitter and fancy paper and those tiny little pictures of candy that are for scrapbooks.

       We walk in and look down the dusty aisles where the jars of mayonnaise have a layer of clear yellowish liquid at the top and the ketchup bottles have brown ketchup and are made of glass and I cannot remember seeing ketchup bottles made of glass at the regular grocery store. There is a selection of school supplies where I find a tiny bottle of glue and an even smaller bottle of glitter. And that is it. I don’t know what I am going to do. In my mind, my mother and I were going to make this awesome poster board with the whole life of Milton Hershey. I was going to draw a picture with my map pencils and I’m sure it is going to be awesome. We were going to laugh and talk and when we were done she was going to make a big deal about how smart and artistic I am and how she is lucky to have me as a daughter. But now all we have is this sad glitter and glue.

      “Wait a minute,” I say. “Can I buy these different kinds of candy bars? And glue them top my poster board?”

      “Sure,” my mother says. “Just hurry up. Sam is honking”

      “What about these Hershey’s Kisses? Can I take these too? I can give them out to the class.”

      “Hurry up!” My mother is getting mad. So I grab everything Hershey and take it to the counter and she pays for it. We go outside into the truck and Sam is acting like he is going to drive away. After we are in the truck, he starts complaining about how late they are going to be. “Late for what?” I ask. “This party,” my mother says at the same time Sam says, “None of your business.”

      I am so mad at my mother. We are supposed to work on my poster board together, the way Rachel Lopez works on her projects with her mother. We drive up to Sam’s house and they just drop me off. So I am alone in this house I do not like, working on my project. I finish my project and roll up my poster and go to sleep on the scratchy couch.


      When I wake up I go and look for my mother. She and Sam are snoring loud and when they are asleep like that I know I am walking to school. I look at the clock on the microwave and I see that I am running late. I pick up my poster board and the rubber band I used to roll it up with is gone, but I don’t care. I am going to be late to school. Something else is wrong and I cannot figure it out, just a feeling I have.

      I get to school right when the bell rings and I am going to be counted tardy because I am not in my class when the bell rings. I walk into my class and everyone else is getting ready for the book report presentations. We sit quietly while Elizabeth gives her book report. We always go in alphabetical order, but Elizabeth Garza always goes first on account of her getting too nervous about waiting during our very first book report presentation and then throwing up all over Señora Hernandez’s desk and her ceramic apple collection. Then it is my turn. As in walk up to the front I am picturing the faces of everyone when I unroll my poster board and they see the candy bars and glitter and my drawing of Milton Hershey. How excited they will be when everyone get a Hershey’s Kiss! Except as I approach the front of the class I get a horrible feeling in my stomach. I forgot the bag of Kisses. They weren’t next to my rolled up poster board where I left the last night. My poster board is not heavy like it was last night. I unroll it and, sure enough, my candy bars are gone. All that is left is the part of the wrappers that stuck to the glue, glitter that is falling down off the poster board and onto the carpet, and the picture I drew of Milton Hershey.

      “Why did you do Hitler?” Andrew Gonzales asked, pointing to my drawing.

      “It isn’t Hitler!” I yell. I look at Senora Hernandez. She looks at my poster board and she looks at me with this look like she’s thinking, pobricita. And then my face is hot and I start to cry. And cry. And cry. And everyone is staring at me and Señora Hernandez walks up to me and takes my poster board and tells me to go to Dr. Jane’s office until I calm down.

      When I get to the counselor’s office, Dr. Jane is expecting me because Señora Hernandez called her and said I was on my way. She pats the little tiny couch for me to sit down. Then her telephone rings and Dr. Jane says, “She’s right here, actually. Sure I’ll send her.” Then she hangs up and tells me to go down to the reception area with Señora Rodriguez because my Abuelo Felipe is here to pick up my brother and me.

       When Philip and I walked to the receptionist’s desk, my Abuelo was there, waiting for us with his old straw cowboy hat in his hands. We walked out into the parking lot where Junior was waiting in my Abuelo’s truck. This means my abuelo checked him out of school early. He never does that. There must be some emergency. I climb up in the truck and I ask “Where’s my mom?” “Get in”, is all my abuelo says. Junior is silent and he looks upset. Phillip looks confused like me. We drive up to the house and Junior runs inside and straight to his room. Phillip waits for me. “Go inside Phillip,” my abuelo says. “I want to talk to mi’jita.”

      “You are going to stay here again, okay? Quiere vivir aquí? Con nosotros?”

      “Yes, yes I do.” I know I never should have left.

      We are walking up the porch and my Abuelo asks, “How much do you love me?”

      And I spread my arms wide and give him the biggest hug I can give.

      We walk inside the house and into the kitchen. My abuela is there and I can tell she has been crying. “What is going on?” I ask.

      “Where is Mommy?”Phillip asks.

      “She had to leave,” my abuela says.

      Later that night I hear my abuelos speaking in Spanish after dinner. I can’t understand everything they are saying, but I can make out some words. Abogado. Lawyer. Drogas.Drugs. Policia. Police. Cien años. 100 years. And Sam. I understood the word Sam. I wait for my abuelo to go to sleep and my abuela is still in the living room watching Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, even though she calls it “Johnny Carson.” I walk in the room and sit next to her on the couch. “When is my mom coming back?” “She’s not,” she tells me. I feel sick to my stomach. I have so much to tell my mother. I want to tell her about Andrew and the roller skates and Rachel and her cakes and Kimmy and Apa and Elizabeth and the vomit and now I will never get to.

I want to tell her to stay because I need her, but then I want to tell her we are better off without her.

“¿Abuela?” I take a deep breath. My heart is pounding in my throat.” I want to know where my mom is.” My abuela is mending a shirt. She doesn’t look up from her mending, and she opens her mouth and before she can speak, I say, “I want to know for real this time. I’m almost twelve. I want to know.” I can feel my face get hot. I am afraid I have upset my abuela. She puts her mending down and looks at me. She opens her arms and motions for me to sit with her. She holds me close and I lay my head on her shoulders, and I am not going to like what I hear.


Amanda Adamez is a Mexican-American born and raised in Beeville, near the Coastal Bend of Texas. While a biology student at The University of North Texas in Denton, Ms. Adamez enrolled in the creative writing class of author Miroslav Penkov and, thus, discovered a passion for writing.  Along with her childhood memories in South Texas, Ms. Adamez is largely inspired by the experiences she has working with the bilingual students of Denton ISD. Her short story “If It’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother” is the winner of the Short Story Writing Award at The University of North Texas.