Hineksa Anonymous

THE RICE BLANKET: This is my favorite old blanket,  made by my paternal grandmother  of rice sacks sewn together.

THE RICE BLANKET: This is my favorite old blanket, made by my paternal grandmother, of rice sacks sewn together.

I have been very preoccupied with my health lately. I think I have come to recognize that by not taking care of myself, I am not being the best mother I can possibly be. I have also become painstakingly aware of the fact that if I don’t snap out of it and start feeling better about myself, it’s going to impact my son, making it easier for him to miss out on joyful experiences or activities that he has every right to have in his life.

I made up my mind to “knock it off” about three weeks ago. My son’s teacher requested a family picture to include on the classroom wall. When the paper came home, I panicked. We do not have a SINGLE family picture. I mean, sure, we have these grainy little web-cam shots and a few shots of us the week my son was born, but in all honesty, I have vigorously dodged every photo opportunity since having Vicente two years ago. I felt (feel) terrible that my son does not have a family photo. When I look at our picture collection, I can see how someone might assume that my husband is a single father. I’m not in a single shot. I refuse to be.

A rare picture of me and my son.  Still, not a real picture, but an impromptu web-cam shot.

A rare picture of me and my son. Still, not a real picture, but an impromptu web-cam shot.

A family picture is such a basic thing for a little boy to have. Knowing that my son is the only kid in class without one on the wall forced me to woman up.  It made me feel like a really bad mother.

So, I began the process of easing back into my formerly healthy ways. I started working exercise in again and have become more conscious of the food I am eating. It has been a very positive experience and I have the support of so many great mommy friends!  Thank you!!  I thought getting back into shape would be depressing, but I’ve only felt happier since starting to make healthier choices.  BUT there is one thing that this CHamoru girl is having a really hard time letting go of: RICE.

I decided to “come out” with my rice addiction after reading Craig Santos Perez’s recent post, explaining the history of rice in our region and the huge role it has played in maintaining the colonial status quo. It really got me thinking about what rice means to me.

Like Craig, I find a strange kind of comfort in quietly washing it for my family. The meal doesn’t feel complete when there isn’t a scoop of it on the plate. I tend to feel most satisfied with my meal when it includes rice. When it’s not there, something is “missing.” When I was a little girl, I remember going to the states and being very upset that the restaurants didn’t serve “regular” rice with every meal. I went on a mini hunger strike, begging waiters at IHOP for “the normal” rice. (It was all very entertaining for my parents). I’ve been told to cut rice from my diet many times. Each time, I looked at the person like they were insane, like they were asking me for custody of my child. *NOT POSSIBLE.

The blanket you see above, as this entry’s main photo, is a blanket made by my paternal grandmother, Vicenta. She made many like it after the war, for her kids, and they have been kept around. We can’t let go of them! We call them our “rice blankets.” They are made of old rice sacks sewn together. They are PERFECT blankets for Guam. The material, especially with time, has come to be the perfect kind of “soft.” It gives you the security you want when slipping into bed, without making you uncomfortable in Guam’s heat. When I look at that blanket, I think about how important a sack of rice was for a CHamoru family at one point in our island’s history. And somehow, even now, I feel an odd kind of panic when the rice supply runs low at our house. We could have a ton of other things in the pantry or refrigerator, but when I see the rice disappearing, I get a little weird and make sure that as soon as possible, I put rice back in the container.

My rice container.  Having it full symbolizes more than I even realized, until I stopped to think about it.

My rice container. Having it full symbolizes more than I even realized, until I stopped to think about it.

My maternal grandmother, Lola, also told me a story that makes me think of the strange attachment I have to white rice. She explained that when American priests came to the island, they wanted Pale Roman, a Spanish priest who was very close to many of the CHamoru families, gone. American businessmen on island (including my maternal great-grandfather, an American) helped to circulate a petition that insisted he be removed. My grandmother explained that her mother really didn’t want Pale Roman to go; she liked him a lot. But, she ended up signing the petition because when the men showed up at her house with it, they brought a sack of rice. My grandmother told me that they never questioned Tan Maria (her mother) about signing the petition, but they understood that they could not turn down rice. She said her mother was very sad when the men left.

Another story comes from my father’s side. He explained that my “mother’s relatives” were in a position of more influence than his were. One of her uncles was tasked with distributing the WWII food rations. He explained that, according to his parents, when the uncle from my mother’s side went to his family to hand out the food, he would scatter the rice on the ground, just to see them get down and gather it. My paternal grandfather explained that they hated this uncle from my mother’s side, and they would never drop to the floor to gather rice when he was around. They hated that they would have to get on their knees and collect the grain once he was gone. It was humiliating.

And these aren’t all the family stories I have been told involving rice either. I think it’s really interesting that so many of the stories handed down to me from previous generations involve rice. Even now, I have, unfortunately, introduced my son to white rice in a way that I am trying to be more conscious of. My baby likes kådu and rice, tinaktak and rice, shrimp and rice. His teacher explained that sometimes, he turns away the school’s lunch, but will always eat the lunch I pack him, which I am a little embarrassed to say, always includes a little rice.

He walks toward me in the kitchen when he’s hungry, points to the rice pot and says, “mmmmmm.”  (I know, baby.  I know!)

I’ve been serving less rice lately, to the disappointment of my father and son. My dad claims that he also NEEDS rice. He argues that he might get a “stomachache” if it’s brown rice. Then he proceeds to tell the story of how he had to be transferred to a Filipino host family during a teenage Baseball trip to the states.  He said he “got very ill,” because the Caucasian family they placed him with didn’t serve enough rice and soup. Yeah right!

But I want my family and I to be healthier and the truth is, we don’t NEED to be eating as much white rice as we are. I’m not banning it from my dinner table completely, but I am trying to include it less often.

CHamoru food is NOT WWII ration food. CHamoru food does not mean canned or unhealthy food. CHamoru people are not “spam” people or “bud” people. (PS: I hate those stupid “Taotao Bud” stickers.) There are so many wonderful local dishes that I can serve my family. So, I am going to continue to back away from the rice container when I make my family meals.

I mean, WWII is over. I’m gonna be okay if there is no rice, right?!

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3 thoughts on “Hineksa Anonymous

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