Belen Yudess ’25
Chilaquiles, sugar cookies, and Noah’s Arc.
When I remember my early childhood, those three wonders encapsulate my mother.
She was the one who made me countless plates of chilaquiles: toasted tortillas, marinated in medium salsa roja, a pinch of salt, a kiss (the most important ingredient) with a side of Sargento’s Monterrey jack and cheddar shredded cheese. The cheese was always on the side, never on top of the plate. I have been eating her chilaquiles since before I was born. A recipe that she learned from her aunt, my Tia Yoli. A recipe born out of love and tradition.
She was the one who woke up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to get to school on time. Even after an exhausting week, she never missed our ritual mall trips. Where, in her words, she would throw me in a stroller and take me to the small cookie stand in the mall. The home of the legendary blush pink frosted sugar cookie that I would devour in a minute. Although the cookie was the epitome of sweetness and energy, it could never match her smile while she watched me stuff a ball of sugar in my face.
She was the one who would take me home after the sugar cookie to make me more chilaquiles while we watched my favorite program, “Baby Einstein’s Noah’s Arc,” A show for infants that introduced them to different aspects of the world. The Noah’s Arc episode featured the animals of the world using puppets and in my four year old mind, mesmerizing footage of these beautiful creatures. It was here that I developed my love for wombats, dolphins, and giant sea turtles. It was an obsession that my mother nurtured. She continues to nurture and support all my unique interests (such as my love for the Blobfish) to this day.
As I got older, the ways in which I defined my mother grew and took on new heights. She was no longer just the person who fed and provided me entertainment, even though we still have pizza and “The Masked Singer” nights, but so much more.
She was my nurse who would rub lavender Vicks VapoRub on my head, neck, chest and feet every time I had a cold.
She was my designer who sent me to picture days in a navy blue polo shirt that clashed with my Twinkle toes and the mop, also known as my ridiculously curly hair, that sat on my head.
She is the deejay who sat through LA traffic (also known as an oncoming migraine) listening to nothing but the Backyardigans and Imagination Movers soundtracks (at least my dad got Meat Loaf and The Beach Boys).
But above all, she was my first teacher who taught me the importance of reading and writing through Biscuit the Dog books and my Lakeshore Etch A Sketch where I learned how to write my name before I even knew what it meant.
I am now 18 years old. I am no longer the three-year-old who can get tossed in a stroller which is both a natural, yet terrifying, thing. It means that even though my mother is my Sun, the person whose light I need to grow and thrive, just like the Sun, there are eclipses and storms that create divisions and overshadow the warmth.
We have quarreled about my inability to listen to her advice because my seven-year-old brain assumed that I was right about wearing my class picture dress to kickball Tuesday.
We argued on the way to school because of my constant tendency to get up and get ready late because I didn’t fully realize the ripple effect it had on her schedule.
And there have been a handful of times where we have given each other the silent treatment because of a disagreement in what the other considers more important or relevant at the time.
But I am very fortunate that those minor matches were the most extreme of our problems. Although, I am not naive enough to think that other scuffles won’t arise in the future.
Being 18 years old has also taken the blinders off of the picture I paint of my mother, who is so much more than MY mom.
She is the daughter of a Mexican mother and Cuban father. A daughter of immigrants. She has been a translator since she was five years old. A seamstress and business woman since she was a teenager.
She is a big sister who gave up her high school and college experiences to help her mom provide for the family so her siblings could have their own high school and college memories.
She is a fighter who constantly battles through several autoimmune diseases to ensure that she can be the best version of herself, partly for her own well-being but mostly for my family and me.
Ultimately, she is a kind, selfless, hard-working, flawed, and endlessly loving person.
She’s my best friend.
When I am sick, I follow her Vicks healing regiment, one that I recently taught my roommate.
I still love wearing blue, such as my blue sun flower headband that she bought me my sophomore year of high school, but now my wardrobe is also adorned with Snoopy and Peanuts characters that my mother has carefully curated for me.
Although we may not listen to Uniqua sing about the Lady in Pink anymore, we sing out loud to Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Mana’s “Mi Verdad”.
And I am an English major with a love for writing who would one day like to enter into the field of education.
Relationships are not stagnant. They mature with time, and they never stop surprising us. Some days it is a step forward, and other days it’s two steps back. You can have the most thought out game plan, but one event or tiny stumble can derail everything.
I am not sure what my relationship with my mother will look like in 10 years or even tomorrow, but I have faith in who she is as a person and as a mother, to hope that when I am 48 years old I still find joy in chilaquiles, sugar cookies, and Noah’s arc.
*During Winter break, my mother (and I) made chilaquiles with cheese on the side, ate sugar cookies from Sprouts, and watched Baby Einstein’s Noah’s Arc while my dog tried to take over the whole bed.*
Image Source: Belen Yudess ’25