My Touch History by Yesenia Flores
My oldest memory of touch goes back to when I was four years old taking a warm bath in a clean, white tub, my grandmother is sitting on a chair bathing me and caring for me during my long warm bath. She took care of me while my mother was at work and my brother and sisters were at school. She cared for us even when my mother was home sometimes. When I started going to school, I spent weekends with her and grandpa as well as any school breaks I had, it was my choice to go. She was everything for me at that age. The sound of her voice singing to me made me feel something special as if I were the only one she trusted to sing to. Grandpa had a softer voice when he sang a lullaby to his grandkids and I now sing that song to my kids at bedtime or nap time. I slept between the two when I would go and visit at their ranch. Grandpa used to pull my ear softly trying to play with me; I used to think he was bothering me I was already too tired to play. Grandma slept on the right side of the bed grandpa on the left, some never got to see this since their love grew apart over the years so did their bedrooms.
They lived in a house they built with their own hands as well as the help of their children. I see the thick, high walls of their home and am attracted to walk over and feel them, perceive the memories that are present in all their children, grand children and great grand children (my kids pertain to these walls now on our weekends). Watching so many visitors talking for hours with grandma and grandpa, I would hear grandpa’s stories over and over and always paid the same amount of attention, eventually the visitor would stand, walk over to a wall and caress its vanity or sometimes they’d just lean on them. I would fall asleep on the couch while grandma and grandpa would watch boxing matches and sometimes I would pretend I was still sleeping when it was time to walk to bed so that grandma would carry me to bed. I could still remember her embracing me as I embrace that very moment.
Of course it wasn’t always pretty I also got spanked by grandma when I was bad, especially when I’d been rude to my older sister. We had a bit of competition going on since we are only one year apart in age. It would make me feel like a horrible human being when I got a slap because I had done something so wrong yet I didn’t understand what it was I had done wrong it was just bad. Once one of my aunts and uncle were there with my sister and me and they were trying to decide which one of us would get the white tennis shoes or the pink. They ran a jogging team and also sold shoes to the runners. We used to run with the team and mom would sometimes buy our shoes from them. My uncle said the pink shoes are one size bigger, let’s measure their feet to see who has the biggest feet. I so wanted the pink tennis shoes even if I knew I was younger, I would have jogged a 5K for those tennis shoes. They measured my sister’s foot on a piece of paper and then my foot. I stretched out my foot as much as possible all the way to my toes, and then my uncle yelled at my aunt look yesi has her foot bigger than Yolanda! Around this same time that we were on their jogging team. We’d train and run at the races they would administer. I was all for the training they provided a really good jogger they would tell me but I hated competing at the races. They would make me do it. Once I didn’t want to run at a race and when we went to the ranch at grandma’s house my uncle wouldn’t give me a lunch because I didn’t run. He made me feel so badly, how can someone do this to a six year old? Then, in Rosarito at El Mirador before it was remodeled, we once pulled over and the same uncle grabbed me under my arms and spins me at end of the cliff over the ocean. It was so scary, now that I tell my mom about this she says she didn’t know any of this. She was always busy doing something else. Now that she knows I doubt she’ll do anything anyway. What I do know of myself is that I now hate jogging; I will not do it because I cannot go further than a block. This is something I yet need to work on myself.
I would help grandmother clean inside the house and outside as well, we’d pick-up leaves and trash and burn it up. Sometimes early on Saturday mornings we would walk up and down hills to get to the tortilleria, where they make delicious tortillas and she would buy a kilo and roll one for me right there. Sometimes she would drive us there too. As I got older I opted to be with mom, my brother and sisters. It was difficult for me to decide if I wanted to be with mom or grandma. I wanted them to be together. My younger cousins were born and my grandmother helped their mothers caring for the babies, so I stayed with mom. I would still go and visit but we would go together, not every weekend though, not every day of my school-break. I can honestly say I did feel left out and jealous. I had gone to my grandparents for the wonderful individual attention they provided and now it wasn’t all there, at least not by grandma. It is ok grandma; I know you’re sorry, I can feel her right this moment. I’ll tell you right now abuelita, you were everything for me, I looked up to you for being proactive, for running a small business during grandpa’s cock fights, for administering your money so well, for caring for all your nine children at a time when there wasn’t a super market near, and you had to make flour tortillas for them every day, and wash all their clothes by hand, and still manage to keep all your 8 girls clean and their hair combed. You see, a man, at least not any man I know could do something like this. I love her for her strength and courage and for giving me my first experience of massage.
Grandma knew an abdomen massage and she performed it very well. She had a protocol she would follow by heart. When we had a stomach infection, she would do this on us and I now do it on my kids. The reason we believe in it so much dates back 45 years ago when a couple showed up at their house with their very sick child. The little boy was going to die because he wasn’t taking any food or water in. Everything would come out one way or the other. They could not give him any medicine either the doctor said he was terminal. They’d heard from someone that my grandmother knew how to do an abdomen massage protocol. So grandmother immediately worked on the child. It took a few times, they boy defecated one last time, and was all better. We all let her do it on us when we were sick, it doesn’t tickle children’s tummy when they’re sick. When I do it, I combine a bit of circulatory since I know the direction in which the intestines go and it has worked great a couple of times on my own children and once on my nephew.
I really didn’t want to write about unhealthy touch but it is a part of who I’ve become. The way my body is shaped will most likely have this part of my life in it. After I stopped going to grandma and grandpa’s I spent a lot of time home playing with my sister and brother. At night my brother and cousin would wrestle in his room and I was playing with them one night. Of course I loved the attention our cousin was giving me; he would invite me to go play with them. Little by little he got my trust and he molested me. What I remember of this is I didn’t want him to stop giving me attention but he did cause me pain in doing so. Once my grandmother was visiting and he had me in a locked room, my grandmother knocked pulled me out of there and explained that I should never be alone in a room with a man or a boy; this is what I remember her telling me. Cousin kept inviting me to wrestle with them and I never went again, because I understood her simple words, not with a slap. This may have caused a negative response on me years to come because; mother and grandmother never did anything to him. If they’d talk to him he would have stop calling over. They are very much like “God punishes” so they don’t have to do a thing. Sometimes it’s true, I agree in part but I would have liked to see a little anger toward him, to this day my mother still loves her nephew as if nothing ever happened. But I will say things happen for a reason. Although I did not like the negative outcome of it all I have found one thing in my favor. First, the negativity this brought me was I did not take care of myself, my body. I gained weight then I lost weight and was left with stretch marks on my legs and arms. It feels as if I had not valued my virginity because at 14 years old the first boy that asked me out got to keep it, sadly. I think I did not know I had a choice, just go along with him. I did like him but I would have liked to be with someone else at a later time of my life not as a child. My husband has been great support in the last seven years of my life. He helped me stop drinking constantly while I helped him quit smoking soon after I quit. He has helped me with confronting people when there is a problem; you see I never learned this from my mother or my grandmother. I have helped him keep serene when confronting so that the problem is resolved not made bigger. He even teaches people how to do this now in order to resolve their conflicts. I think we are a good team because I am very Yin with a bit of Yang and he is very Yang with a tad of Yin so there is balance in our relationship. I believe I have found happiness and tranquility within myself.
In summary, my touch history is mostly good; well it becomes something positive when you decide to put a spin to the negative. I have learned to appreciate my wonderful memories of healthy touch and no one can change my perspective because I’m the “main character” of my life. Some people block their good memories and hold on to the negative, but they don’t allow themselves to move on. I can’t say I am absolutely healthy, because I’m not. I don’t know how to resolve some of the trauma that is still here with me. I practice Massage Therapy as well as receive massage and acupuncture at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine clinic doing this and yoga has helped me go within myself. Taking life more calmly acknowledging there is an individual purpose for each one of us: we are here to serve one another.