Lucille Mascareñas (LM) and Victor Mascareñas (VM)
LM: Your dad was raised with his grandparents. His grandmother called him”mi alma,” which was like her soul, her sustenance, everything that she was she poured into this little child. And she only spoke Spanish, and I understood Spanish but I didn’t speak it. I remember one of the first experiences I had alone with her, your dad told me that ”you’re going to help her out in the garden today,” and I thought ”well how fabulous.” So I started hoeing away. Well I was uprooting plants and pretty soon all I heard was ”Camota!” and I kind of got the connotation of that and it wasn’t real happy. And I stopped in my tracks and she took the hoe away from me and when your dad got home she was telling him ”esta camota” or something or other, ”y Americana, Americana” she would say, and she would hit the cupboard. ”She’s been acting like that all day,” I told him, ”and she’s just very mean and I apologized but she simply refuses to accept my apology.” And I left the room.
VM: You know I think she looked at you and felt that you really needed to be straightened up.
LM: You needed to know something, definitely, which I didn’t. I knew the top ten on the radio and I could do my nails, but I didn’t even know how to cook. I used to make tortillas and I’d cut them out with a plate so they would be perfect. Now, in retrospect, even as harsh as she was with me, I appreciate her very very much. I remember one day, she told me ”vamos a hacer una quilta,” to make a quilt. And she had three small flour sacks and she told me that we were going to begin with those. And as we were doing it, she’d tell me these stories about when she was first married and her children and even burying children. And then by the end of the day we had our quilt done. And then she reached over and she tapped me, like that on my knee, and thought that she accepted me…
LM: It was like an acceptance almost. And I remember looking at her hands and they were gnarled, and they were old and they were wrinkled and I took her hand in my hand and I could feel the calluses. And I turned them over and I rubbed them. And I remember thinking that this was a hand of dignity – that the things that she created, not just in her hard labor, but in that quilt and her children, it said it all and I just thought to myself ”What a wonderful lady she is.” I had learned and she had taught me.