I have a pretty close knit family. Or at least I thought we were tight. Okay let’s face it, we not be as tight as we all want to be because we all are sooooo damn busy, have kids, work, practices, grandkids, blah blah blah. We all end up falling into that comfort after you leave the nest where you think you can survive on your own and still communicate with family members during the holidays, birthdays, or funerals. I honestly thought my family was tight because we did things that way. The holiday dinners and maybe the occasional Sunday football game with White House Chicken (our local chicken shack). We do a lot together as a family, so I thought we were a close knit family because we are a lot closer than most families we know. Until we met Them Damn Ricans.
Now there is a little bit of a back story I should mention first. Nancy’s ex was a complete asshole, maybe not the largest, but definitely in the top 7 asshole list of all time. He was very controlling and would not allow her to visit family unless his goofy ass was around for whatever all- about-him reason he had. After Nancy left his dumbass, and he was convinced his best chance for survival was to leave the country and move back in with his parents, Nancy was free to visit her family as much as she liked. I couldn’t wait to meet them either. So was I accepted? Immediately! I was the one who brought Nancy home and put a smile back on her face because that is exactly what she had done for me. I had a feeling I would be accepted just for that reason and that was enough for me. But them Damn Ricans went so far above and beyond appreciation in welcoming all of us it was almost embarrassing.
In the beginning of our relationship, I met Nancy’s mother and two of her brothers. All absolutely amazing people. When my family actually discovered how families should act around one another was on our first trip to Puerto Rico. My mom and dad came along with Nancy and I so they too could meet some of Nancy’s family and enjoy a nice vacation. We were met at the airport by aunts, uncles, and cousins as far as the eye could see. Some of the aunts brought their famous coquito which is a Puerto Rican holiday drink most close to egg nog but 100 times better. We caravanned to a small group of roadside bars and eateries in Rio Piedras where another group of aunts, uncles, and cousins were waiting on us. We ate! Oh my God did we eat, had some soda pops (Medallia) of the local variety, kissed, hugged and got to know one another. We then went back to my Mother In Law’s (Maria) house where still even more family awaited. More food, more Medallias, more hugs and kisses, music blaring, and dancing and singing like crazy. I do not remember sleeping that day, but Them Damn Ricans put on one hell of a party and we felt instantly welcome. We spent our almost entire two weeks that year with all of them. Amazing! It really sucked to say good bye, but we had to. We immediately planned the same trip for the same time the next year.
As our plane touched down in San Juan the next year, it is customary to clap loudly and sing a little song. We remebered it, and joined in this time. Once again, a massive family get together at the airport, time together in Rio Piedras then off to Mom’s house. We rented a beach house this time because more of our “White” friends wanted to come with us on this trip. Nancy and I were going to renew our vows in Camuy at a gorgeous place owned by Tio (Uncle) Sonny’s friend Ramone and his wife. Of course it was a pub/eatery we visited on the last trip, but their is a gorgeous cliff over looking the Carribean that was something out of a fairy tale. The entire family and our friends rented rooms at a small, quaint resort in Camuy which was about a mile from the wedding spot. It wasn’t gorgeous but it was magical, inexpensive and right on the Carribean. I mentioned magical because this is where I saw magic happen between two different cultures and people occur that made me feel so good about the world. I said we were all immediately accepted, but this was ridiculous. My brother in laws, Alex and Anthony would scale the coconut trees and bring coconuts down, shave them, pour rum in them and serve them to whomever wanted one. This was about 9am. My sister, Shannon fell in love with those two and they treated her like a princess. So my dad wanted to join them. He tried to climb the tree, but the years of him doing that passed, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t pick up that machete and learn how to shave one down even though my mom’s heart fell with every swipe. It was amazing watching him. So the day fell into night on that New Years’ Eve. We went to the pub/eatery for final plans and ate, drank, and sang. We all sang karaoke. My dad and I even did a song even though we were so out classed by our new families singing voices (they all can sing beautifully) we sang New York, New York.
Messing with us, the owner, Ramone changed the lyrics over to Spanish half way through. Big laughs ensued, but we ad libbed as best we could. When we got back to the resort around 1am, my dad and a friend of ours Hillbilly were not tired, so they found the Manager’s room and had him open the bar. Surprisingly they did not get shot and he opened the bar and we made it worth his while. Apparently on New Years’ Eve it is customary to knock on the doors of people, sing a song, and they have to offer you something to eat and drink then join you in moving onto the next home. By 3am the entire resort was up with us and we went to a grassy area outside of our room. We were laughing and drinking, and my primo (cousin) Manolo picked up a trash can, Damian some sticks, Tio Coca some rocks, Tia Martita an empty jug and then they made music. Good music. Our prima Yarixa (Jar-itza) began to sing and if it was if the Heavens opened up. Then all the aunts joined in, brothers, cousins, oh my God it was an amazing event I will never forget. We did that til dawn, got a nap, then got ready for the wedding.
We still try to make a trip every year over New Years’ Eve and stay thru Three Kings Day, but now all Them Damn Ricans come up to our places on Lake Erie to camp with us for an extended weekend over the summer. So now every year when we go up to open our campers, the first thing we get asked is when Them Damn Ricans are coming. When they do show up, we have about five grills going at once, as many coolers as we can find, corn hole and hillbilly golf wars, and lots of music. We still go fishing in the mornings with whoever wants to go, then we party the night away. They are truly amazing people, and they never waivered about opening their arms and lives to my family. So thank you to THEM DAMN RICANS! I LOVE YOU ALL!
RIP Tia Martita!