My father takes me down to the arroyo when I am so small that I do not yet reach his waist. My feet fumble across flaking desert skin and he pulls me along gently by my hand and tells me to be careful of small cacti and the bones of dead jack rabbits. He does not let me straddle the rift where the earth divides into repelling mounds of sand. Instead, he slips his hands beneath my arms and swings me around in a half circle, his red face wrinkling into a smile.
That morning, my father had crept into my room with the sun and shaken me into consciousness. “Get your sneakers,” he had whispered. “We’re going on a treasure hunt.”
It is minutes later now and we are trudging down an overgrown trail, tactfully descending the deep slopes of New Mexican land. Everything smells strongly of mud and salt and soaked manure from the horse barn down the road. I almost trip over a weed, but my father steadies me and says, “Almost there, baby.”
The arroyo is different than I have ever seen it. It is scattered with long, silver puddles. In the pink glow of the rising sun, the sand looks shiny and slippery. Around us, green tufts of vegetation burst from the earth in unpredictable patterns and yellow wildflowers with thin stems knock softly against each other in the wind.
My father tells me to wait and he steps down into the wet sand. I watch as his sandals sink deep into the ground and leave long footsteps. He crouches suddenly, and digs into the earth with a discarded stick. Then he stands, approaches me, and places in my hand something slimy and smooth.
“A pottery shard,” he says, in explanation. “From the Native Americans, who lived right here a thousand years ago. The rain washes them up. If we’re lucky, we’ll find all the pieces of an entire pot.”
I look down at the strange triangular stone and wipe the sand from its surface. He lifts me up in his arms, carries me back toward the house.
My father gives me a book about Georgia O’Keeffe for my fifth birthday. We read it together and he bounces me on his knee and licks his fingertips before turning the pages. He points at a landscape that looks like a rumpled tablecloth and tells me, “This is why we’re here.” I steal a flashlight and flip through the book under my covers at night. I touch the same glossy picture and whisper, “This is why we’re here.”
When I am 6 years old, the Sunday school teacher asks me what my father does for a living. I tell her he is an artist like Georgia O’Keeffe. I do not know that I am lying. I do not know that he hasn’t sold a piece in months. I do not know that my mother sits at the kitchen table after I go to sleep and cries because the mortgage is past due and she can’t figure out a way to tell me that this year, Santa Claus just might not make it.
For Christmas, my father gives me a sparkling blue stone he found in the arroyo. I say thank you and pretend I mean it. Later, I stand on the edge of our brick patio and wind up my arm and throw the rock as far as it will go. It disappears inside the bristles of a pine tree.
I do not say goodbye to the arroyo before shutting the car door and stretching the seatbelt across my chest. I do not say goodbye because I think that I won’t miss it. We are leaving New Mexico. We are going to New York where my father will get a real job and we will become a real family. We drive alongside a cliff, the rock rough and jagged and sprinkled with a thousand tiny diamonds. I press my finger against the glass. This is why we’re here.
When I am 16 years old, my father takes me back to New Mexico and we go once more to the arroyo. The neglected trail is long gone now and we stumble in our tennis shoes over dried up cacti and colorless desert flowers. I am too old now to hold my father’s hand. He walks a few steps ahead of me and I do not see his face.
The arroyo is bone-dry, littered with dented soda cans, beaten strips of tire and mud-stained garbage bags. Many monsoon seasons have left the sides of the arroyo tall and smooth, except for the dried roots of long-dead plants, still lodged in the dirt, which reach out toward us like skeleton hands.
My father crouches over and his shirt draws taut across his back. He delicately parts the earth with his fingers and searches for something that he will never find again.
“No more pottery,” he says. He looks at me and squints his eyes against the sun. “It must have washed far away by now.”
Suddenly comes to me the vague image of my father in ripped jeans, pressing a pottery shard into my palm.
I wonder if he, too, has washed far away.
Descriptions of Characters in My Family
- Length: 579 words (1.7 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Character descriptions in the film "My Family":
José Sanchez: Eduardo Lopez Rojas (1950 - 1980), and Jacob Vargas A very hard working, family oriented proud man who was a great role model for his children.
Maria Sanchez: Jenny Gago (1950 - 1980) a strong willed hard working, religious woman who's family meant everything to her. The monarch of the Sanchez family.
él Californio: Don Alejandro Vásquez a great uncle of José, very stubborn old man who stayed in California after the war, as far as he was concerned he was still in México.
Paco: Eduardo James Olmos, the eldest son of José and Maria, he grew up to be a writer and used his families journey for material.
Irene: is the oldest daughter, who enjoyed food. She was heavy as a kid, slimmed down and got married to Gerardo. She was soon heavy again. She was successful in her own right and owned her own restaurant.
Chucho: Esai Morales, he was a handful from birth. He used his pride in an unproductive way, unlike his father. He felt the racism of the 50's toward the Mexicans and it made him ashamed of his heritage. It is ironic because his dreams were exactly the same stereotype he so wanted to get away from.
Toni: the youngest daughter and she was the prettiest. She was headstrong, pushy and faithful to her god and family. She was passionate about life, liberty, and love. If something felt right she went for it, whole and hearty, regardless of what anyone else's opinions were.
Guillermo - (Memo): Enrique Castiliio he was very studious, he was always studying and you get the feeling that he knew it was his only way out.
Jimmy: Jimmy Smits youngest of all the children and loved them the hardest. The death of his brother killed him inside. The wall he put up only came down when the love over powered the hate in his life.
Isabel: Elpidia Carrillo an el Salvadorian, who's father was a disliked leader of a union there, an illegal alien working as a nanny for a rich couple. When she married jimmy she became, "free" but her morals and religious beliefs wouldn't let her take the vows of marriage lightly. She was a loving, persistent woman who didn't let her anger eat her alive.
Carlitos: Jimmy and Isabelle's son came into the world at a disadvantage and in some ways his heartache basically consisted of anger from both parents.
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He was his father's son though, you could tell by the wall around his heart.
To me Jimmy was a very significant character in the movie from beginning to end. As a young boy he idolized his father in the Milpe (the cornfields). He also idolized his older brother, and enjoyed his role as the youngest. The bond between Jimmy and Chucho was very strong and healthy, in the time they did have together. He learned a lot of valuable life lessons from Chucho such as loyalty to your family along with loving them, regardless of the situation and a deep respect of self. I felt Jimmy died under the bridge along with Chucho that night, or at least part of him did! He also made me feel all of Chuchos bad qualities, like the hatred of the Placa (police), (because of the racism), and only being able to make real money (like the white man). If he took it or if he got illegally. Chucho might have been the one who got shot, but Jimmy's heart got shattered too. His life of self destruction began, and when he was older the only emotion he allowed himself to feel was anger and it controlled his every move. But just as Chucho was able to fill him with trust and love, Isabelle restored his faith of those qualities.
Just as Jimmy allowed himself to feel, and even work a honest day's work, over the bridge, he saw the owl. Along with his wife the owl took his trust and love again. Jimmy didn't feel like he could be a father to their son, or maybe he didn't want to pass on the anger that was passed onto him. He showed his son love, from afar and when he was released from the Pinta, he knew it was time to cross the bridge and come back to his loving family. His importance to the film showed that love can concur all. I feel it was a very realistic portrayal of a minority family and the trails, tribulations that they go through, and the strength and loyalty they have as a family!
In the end of the film, it goes back into time so to speak. It started with Jose and Maria (Jefe and Jefita) and it also ended with them as well. It showed that regardless of the tragedies we go through in life; your life can still be rich and fulfilling as long as you have your family.