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Personal experience: The Sunday night ritual

Photo courtesy of Claudia Rivera


It gets loud, really loud. It is in my house at around 7:30 that my world comes together to talk about Fidel Castro, Puerto Rico’s financial crisis and the latest family gossip. As my mother rummages through the cabinets, the dishes clatter like wind chimes getting blown by the breeze. She sets up the cutting board, grabs a knife, stacks up the cheese, pulls out the red wine and smoothly reaches for the bottle opener; twist, pull and “pop”. Movements all too familiar to her that she does them with ease, almost like a ritual; the Sunday night ritual.

My kitchen is small, equipped with a modest refrigerator, electric stove, a stainless steel sink and a few cabinets. On Sunday nights my kitchen grows bigger and bigger until it is so big that it holds over a hundred years of life. The drink of tonight sits tall on the kitchen counter, a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. The mouthwatering cheese shimmers of grease and high cholesterol but in this household it is a sin to have wine without nibbling on a cheese platter. Conversation dulls down the Coqui’s song and paves way to a discussion between three generations about politics, history and religion. My eyes jump to each person as they talk. They focus on their hand gestures, their eye rolls, their grins, the nodding of their head and how their composition changes as we switch from one subject to another. I notice how when talking about Cuba my grandmother’s eyes water as if she could see herself back in the fields with her father and how my grandfather’s stance becomes hostile and firm as he swallows the lump in his throat brought up by nostalgia and frustration.

Through all of this my brother captures the moving figures of whomever he sets on drawing that night. The only downside to that is that no one ever captures him in the act. In my attempt to sketch an image of him through my words all I can say is how content he looks when he is doing what he loves. His thick black eyebrows furrow in concentration and his tentative gaze goes from the paper to the person as he vacillates between the conversation and his drawing. His hand glides smoothly over the paper like a machete cutting through a sugarcane field. By the middle of the night his sketches are finished and he gives life to what was a dull white piece of paper. I believe this is his way of making sense of things, his way of documenting these moments instead of just leaving them as memories.

When I look at my mom she takes a while to feel my gaze but when she does she sends me a toothy smile and blows a kiss. When she turns her attention back to the conversation I look at her and see parts of me. For me her whole being exudes love. She listens attentively, meanwhile, maintaining everything in check. Every line, scar or mark, whether in her face, hands or arms has a reason. Her voice fills every inch of our home and it serves as a constant reminder of her nurturing and caring ways. The gold chain that sits around her neck is my mother’s emblem. The “P” on it stands for Pilar, her name, but beyond that it defines her as our protector, provider and above all a powerful woman. I hope that like me, she finds parts of herself in me.

I catch myself smiling through all of this. I am completely and utterly in love with the people sitting in front of me. As they slurp on the last drops of wine and eat the remnants of cheese left on the platter the clock strikes ten thirty. This is usually the time when my grandmother nudges my grandfather and hurries him to finish up his wine while complaining about how late it has gotten. My grandfather dips back his head and consumes what is left of the velvety liquid. Reluctantly, I bid my goodbyes and help my mom clean up. As I wipe the crumb filled counter, I look over my shoulder and realize how lucky I am.

Claudia Rivera can be reached at

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