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November 7, 2010

'Abuelita's Ranch'

Special thanks to Carolyn Le for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit

November 07, 2010|By Daniel A. Olivas

My Abuelita lives in a big, old, yellow house near the freeway. In case you don't know, "Abuelita" means "Grandmother" in Spanish.

On some weekends, Mamá and Papá let me stay with Abuelita. Last weekend, they dropped me off at her house. Abuelita gave me a big hug. "Mi cielo," she said, "let's walk to the market to buy some special food to cook for our dinner." "Mi cielo" means "my heaven." I like to be called that by Abuelita even though my name is Rigoberto.

As we started our walk to the market, I said, "Tell me about when you were my age." I tried to keep up with Abuelita's long legs.

"Well," she began, "I lived in a big ranch with my Mamá and Papá."

"Yes," I said. "It sounds so fun!"

Abuelita slowed down and reached for my hand. Now we walked at the same speed.

"It was very fun but my parents worked very, very hard," said Abuelita. "I tried to help as much as I could."

"If I lived on a ranch, I'd help a lot, too," I said.

After Abuelita and I chose the food we needed, she paid and we started our walk back to her house. Abuelita laid all of the food on the kitchen counter and started to prepare dinner. I sat at the kitchen table with my special job of mixing eggs in a big, green bowl.

After we finished cooking, we placed all that wonderful food on the dining room table and sat down. After we started eating, I asked, "Do you miss the ranch?"

Abuelita put her fork down and looked at old photos that hung on the wall. There were pictures of Mamá, Papá and me. And there were pictures of Abuelita on her wedding day looking so beautiful and happy with Abuelito, my grandfather, who died long before I was born.

"Yes, I miss the ranch sometimes, but I'm so lucky to have a wonderful grandson like you!" said Abuelita as she suddenly threw her arms around me.

After a few moments, she said, "Time for dessert!"

Abuelita stood up and went to the kitchen. She came back with two small plates of flan. If you haven't had flan before, you have to try it! It's like a custard covered with a caramel sauce.

"Why did you leave Mexico?" I asked.

"When I turned eighteen," answered Abuelita, "I met the most wonderful young man who worked at the ranch."

"Was that Abuelito?"

"Yes, mi cielo," she smiled. "We fell in love and got married."

"But you didn't have to leave the ranch, did you?"

"Your Abuelito wanted to come to California and start his own business," she said. "He had heard that there were many opportunities here. So, after we married, we came to Los Angeles and bought a little store on Pico Boulevard where we sold wallets, purses, key chains and other things people needed."

"Did both of you work in the shop?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," Abuelita smiled. "Abuelito made certain we had all the shelves full and I helped the customers. After a few years, we earned enough to buy this house. And then we had a little baby girl named Isabel."

"My Mamá!" I exclaimed.

Abuelita nodded and then looked down at my empty plate. "I think someone liked his flan!" she said.

"It's the best you've ever made," I said.

"That's because you helped, mi cielo," said Abuelita. "Your love made it sweeter."

Daniel A. Olivas is a writer and attorney who lives in the San Fernando Valley with his wife and son. He is the author of five books including one for children entitled, "Benjamin and the Word." To learn more about the author, visit

Special thanks to for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit

Special thanks to Carolyn Le for this week's illustration. To see more of her work, visit

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