By Diana Reyes

Experiences shape us and make us who we are. Learning to live by yourself in a different country is something that will make an impact your whole life. 

Food always accompanies us throughout our lives, but the moments and the people we share our lives with make those flavors unforgettable. Each flavor we experience in our lives keeps a secret, a smile, a tear, a laugh, a moment. Life is about moments full of flavors. My advice to you, dear reader, is: Eat a lot of moments.

Chilaquiles 

On Saturday mornings, I would wake up to the sound of “It’s not unusual” by Tom Jones. 

My dad would play Tom Jone’s CDs at home at around 9 a.m. while he made breakfast for my sister, mom and me.

You could hear the music very loud from my room because it was located upstairs, right above where the CD player was at. 

The smell of delicious chilaquiles and beans would enter my room. I’ll admit there were multiple times where I wanted to keep sleeping, but I’m glad I didn’t. My mom didn’t let me anyways. She would give me ‘the look,’ and I immediately knew it was time to go downstairs and help my dad with “el desayuno.” 

That was it. Those were the best moments of Saturdays. 

When we are kids or teenagers, we think everything will last forever. The good and the bad, but life doesn’t work that way. 

Everything moves —everything changes.

Earth is in constant rotation, and it moves us with it. It moves us around. Sometimes it has enough power to impact our lives with a quick 360-degree turn. 

I moved to the U.S. by myself when I was 19-years -old, packed my clothes, took my plushie, and left home to pursue an acting career.

And suddenly, I found myself living on a college campus full of young artists. My Saturdays weren’t waking up to Tom Jone’s or my dad’s breakfast anymore. 

I was far from home, waking up in a college dorm, with no breakfast until 11:00 a.m., because apparently, no one in college wakes up early on the weekends. 

The only sound I was waking up to was the snores of my two very hungover roommates who partied hard the night before, and all I could think of at that moment was: Who eats breakfast at 11:00 a.m.? 

9:00 a.m. is a great time to have breakfast.

Oh, How I miss you, Papi! 

And you too, Tom!

Loud and noisy Tom, I miss you too. 

Pan Dulce

When we leave the place that saw us grow up, there’s a part of us that always stays there. It’s an interesting feeling, but we can never be entirely free from the place we once called home. 

There’s always going to be something that will remind us of home —a sound, a smell, a color, a place, even a person. That is because we will always long for something or someone that’s there. It could also be something intangible like a memory. 

It’s funny and hard to admit the fact that we decided to leave home doesn’t mean we have the power to stop time. It’s like we expect everything and everyone else to stay still, not to change, not to move and wait for our return. 

Sure, friends and family will miss us, but we can’t stop the inevitable. Change happens. The mall we used to go to when we were teenagers is not a cool place to go to anymore. Our favorite Panadería, the one we went to a lot as kids, is now just an empty building. Our best friends are getting married. Our cousins have kids. The people that used to be our neighbors have moved out to a different city. Let’s face it, Mom and Dad are getting more wrinkles every time we see them.

Change, don’t try to fight it, just let it be. And understand that you will always belong to both lands, that you have love and stories in both places, and you can call both of them “home” if you decide to do so.

Nothing can be replaced —not even your favorite “Panadería” that is now gone forever.

Arroz con Leche

Remember that favorite dish you used to eat all the time in your native country?

Well, when you live far from home, you will realize that it is not the dish you enjoyed but the company and joy of the people you used to eat with brought to you. 

In my case, it was Arroz con Leche, the traditional Mexican dessert of rice, milk and cinnamon. 

Both my grandmothers knew how to make a delicious Arroz con Leche. Then my mom learned, and then I learned —although I am still in the process of getting better at it. 

The texture of it brings back the memory of my Abuelita Jose and how her soft hands used to touch my face with such tenderness and love every time I went to her house. 

Having the first bites of it reminds me of when all my cousins, aunts, and uncles would get together to eat it. It became a tradition. 

The smell reminds me of my beloved grandmother, Tita, and how she used to do my hair when I was little, fixing curl by curl, and her unique magnificent scent comes back to me.

The taste reminds me of cold nights in my hometown back in México, where I would share an evening with Mami, Papi, and my sister eating Arroz con Leche. It reminds me how the simplest moments can be the fullest if you spend them with the people you love. 

Vasito de Leche 

Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I just go to my kitchen and have a little glass of milk. 

It reminds me of the nights when my Papi would come home late from work, and he would go to my room and give me a goodnight kiss. 

I remember the smell of his cologne and how his tie would lightly touch my cheek as he leaned forward to give me a kiss. 

On those nights, I was already asleep and couldn’t join my dad and have a little glass of milk together. 

Now, I’m far from home. Some nights I stand in my kitchen and have a little glass of milk. All I could think of is: 

‘Papi, how was your day today? 

Let’s have a vasito de leche together.’ 

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