Tag Archives: photographs

Remembering Grandpa

20 Oct

muertos 4The other day, my eight year-old daughter, Isa said something that stuck with me: “Mommy,” she said, “Isn’t it sad that I’m not used to saying the word Grandpa?”

It’s very sad, indeed. Isa has never had a grandfather, as René’s father and my father both died before she was born. My father has been gone for almost thirty years now and it seems as if I think of him more often as I grow older myself. It’s become a regular occurrence that his memory comes to me when I’m reading or writing and I don’t know the meaning of a particular word. I think to myself, Oh, if only Dad were here—I could ask him—because when I was a young girl, every single time I needed to know what a word meant, he always knew.

My dad still shows up in my dreams sometimes. I’m the first to admit that because of his alcoholism, I’ve carried the weight of a heavy resentment toward him for many years. But now in my dreams, I’m no longer the victimized and martyred little girl as I used to be. I’m just a daughter who’s over the moon to see her daddy again. And as if I’m still half his height, I stretch my arms up high to hug him, the soft cotton material of his Brooks Brothers button up shirt brushing against my skin. I bury my face into his neck, the scent of nicotine and Old Spice coming off of him like a stale and comforting perfume. I always ask him the same question: “Where have you been all this time?”

Lately, I think of my dad every time I walk through the living room. It’s that time of year again when we set up our altar for Dia de los Muertos—Day of the Dead, and his photograph is the focal point of our altar. He’s surrounded by skulls, candles, marigolds, pan de muerto, and most importantly, by the smiling faces of other relatives and friends who have also left this earth.

muertos 1

I think he would be surprised by the number of faces placed next to his: his two younger brothers; his granddaughter, Gillian; the many faces of Isa’s young friends who’ve all died from cancer. He might be a little bit pleased that on this altar he’s still the patriarch—the grandpa watching over them all—a part of something that we who are still here on this earth have yet to understand.

It feels good to remember that in more ways than not, my dad was a decent man. He was flawed, as I am, but he did the best he knew how to do, just as I’m doing the best I know how to do. And despite his imperfections as a father, he must have done a few things right along the way.

After all, I turned out pretty good.

muertos 3

Simple Gifts

6 Jun

It used to be that I thought I never had enough. Now I know better. Today was just another day, but I’m able to walk through it and see how each moment is such a gift. I took these photographs to document that it’s the insignificant things in life that matter the most.

These things make me happy.

Billowing white  hydrangea bushes blooming under my living room window like wedding bouquets.


My lovely daughter, Isa who had her last day of second grade today. Here she is holding one of twelve puppies born only a week ago.

isa and puppy

A month ago, I cut this vine back so severely that I thought I had killed it. I was wrong. Every day it climbs a little higher up the fence.

purple vine

The newest love of my life, Cody–the Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix that my husband brought home without my permission. I was livid. For one day. Then I fell in love. Here he is, cuddling at the feet of my daughter, Nora who stopped by the house to take a nap before work.

cody and nora's feet

I’m always inspired by what goes on in the garden. Such color!

flowers june 7

My wonderful son, Nino and his lovely girlfriend, Kristen. He’s a remarkable young man, although I think there’s something wrong with him because he still likes to hang out with his ridiculous parents. This is how great he is: he goes to Starbucks to get me coffee and sometimes he even pays.

photo (6)

A surprise gift from a dear friend–and my absolute  favorite composer, too!


What is more precious than a pile of puppies?

pile of puppies

I’ll be away for a while, so I’ll leave you with my simple gifts in the hope that you can find yours…Happy Summer!

If you’re in the neighborhood, come on over sometime for a puppy play date!

A Dream Come True

26 Nov

The Mireles Family 2012

When I was a  teenager,  I used to dream of becoming famous. I pictured my face splashed across the pages of People or Seventeen and I imagined how it would feel to be adored by millions of fans. My young mind believed that my future happiness depended on whether or not the world knew who I was.

My fantasy usually involved me playing the piano on the concert stage, probably because this was the one area at which I excelled. I couldn’t dance, sing or act, and no matter how much time I spent in front of the mirror tweezing my eyebrows, exfoliating my pores or straightening my perpetually frizzy hair, even then my teenage sensibilities were developed enough to realize that I didn’t have what it took to become a fashion model.

But back then I believed that my fame as a concert pianist was the only way I would be noticed. And I had to be noticed because I believed that in order to find someone to love me I had to be extra special. If I became a celebrity, someone was bound to think I was deserving of that love.

My fantasy always played out pretty much in the same fashion: I would have just finished playing a note-perfect performance. A warm yellow spotlight would be focused on my white organza gown that floated like fluffy meringue across the concert stage. As I took my bows to a thundering standing ovation, I would suddenly lock eyes with a handsome, intelligent and witty man, and the two of us would fall instantly in love with each other. We would marry, have four beautiful children and live happily ever after.

So I practiced the piano for hours each day, thinking that for this dream to come true, I must work diligently. I kept meticulous scrapbooks documenting all of my successes and they grew thicker every year as I won piano competitions and performed in more recitals that I can remember. I believed that all of my musical accomplishments would lead me closer to turning my dream into a reality.

I kept the fantasy alive for as long as I possibly could, or at least I did until my senior year in high school when I lost the fight with the raging hormones that surged through my body. At age seventeen, I confused lust for love and fell for a twenty year-old boy who was exceedingly handsome, but who turned out to love alcohol more than he loved me. Having had lots of practice as a co-dependent with my own family’s dysfunction, I turned it into my mission to fix him.

But like an old Polaroid photograph that fades over time, the image of my once vivid dream of becoming somebody famous disappeared into nothing but yellowed paper. He and I stayed together for five mostly miserable years until I finally grew up enough to realize that I deserved better.

But our dreams often have a way of manifesting themselves in ways that we don’t expect, and about eight months later I found my future husband in a Santa Monica restaurant where he was a cook and I was a waitress. In my stained green uniform and smelling of french-fry grease, I locked eyes over a sizzling grill with one of the cooks, who just happened to be a handsome, intelligent and very funny man. He barely spoke English, was undocumented and uneducated, but he held all of the other criteria of my girlhood fantasy. So I took a chance on him, and he took a chance on me, and surprise—this part of my dream did come true.

We married and began our lives together and I never did become that famous concert pianist as I once envisioned. But I realized that maybe that this dream of fame was not what I really wanted after all. Instead, I became a piano teacher and started having children, and I can honestly say it’s been a very good life.

I even have documented proof that my life has turned out well for me. We’ve made it a tradition in our family to take a group photograph every Thanksgiving to send out with our yearly Christmas newsletter. The annual photos hang in sequential order along the hallway wall, where each year we add the newest one. As we’ve grown and changed (and we have changed a lot over the years) our history together has been authenticated in one smiling face after another.

This past Thanksgiving, our family once again gathered in our backyard to take a photo. We dressed up, combed our hair and fixed our make-up. It wasn’t the paparazzi snapping photos as I once dreamed of as a teenager— it was just my nephew trying over and over again to capture that one perfect shot. It certainly isn’t easy getting everyone to smile at the same time—especially a wiggly seven year-old, but we managed to find one or two acceptable photos, so it looks like the tradition will live on for another year.

I’m awed by the love that is evident in these annual photographs: A dark-skinned man, a light-skinned woman and four mocha children are all smiling together in one single moment in time. They are clearly devoted to each other. They don’t realize it, but they are without a doubt as stunning and perfect as any celebrity. Not one of them is admired by millions, or even the least bit famous, but that’s all right, because they are absolutely adored by each other.

And that’s the kind of fame that comes only in dreams.

1994 just after Nino was born









2003: Shortly after this photo was taken I became pregnant with Isa

2004: just after Isa was born


2006: The year Nino grew his hair long (not a good look for you, son….)

2007: With Isa bald from chemo–a year we will never forget





2012: A bunch of goofballs