Why?That’s how it used to be. You used to live with everybody, help out with the kids. And my mother, your vavó, she was always working. Always. So my vavó would take care of us, make us octopus,
Eww.Yeah, eww. But that’s the thing, her husband, Joe, my vavô, who you never met because he died when I was just a baby, loved octopus. She would make it with wine,
Ewwso it would turn purple
Grossand she’d just let it bubble on the stove for hours til it went squishy soft like one of those peppermints that melts on your tongue. So write down Joe next to Ana. Okay, so then there’s
How do I spell vavaw and vavooI don’t know, baby girl, just put down grandma and grandpa.
But they’re your granparents.Mhmhm
So they’re my great- granparents.Okay, go down to the next line. Write Teresa. That’s your vavó, my mother, who loves you so much and never ever cooks octopus.
Why not?She thinks it’s gross too. But what does she cook, baby girl?
Espaghetti.That’s right. What else?
Oh! Cookies.That’s right. So put down Grandma Teresa. Right there. T-e-r-e-s-a. So do you remember your grandpa’s name?
Uhuh.Joe. Isn’t that crazy? Joe. Two Joes.
Why?Don’t ask me, baby girl. There’s a lot of Joes around here. People like it. It’s easy. Our Joe, my father, had arms that were so big you could hang off them. Like you hang off the tree out front.
How big?So big I used to have to hold on with both hands. And then he’d lift me up in the air like this so my feet came off the floor and he’d say, The floor is fire, baby girl, the floor is fire, hold on tight so you don’t burn your feet. And I held on tight.
He called you babygirl?Always. So put down Joe. And then right under Joe and Teresa you put down Mom.
Okay.Then put your name at the bottom, right there on the trunk. See the little circle?
Uhhuh.Okay. All done. Go wash up for dinner.
Whatabout the other side of the tree?Did you put down your aunts and uncles? You can add spots for them. I don’t know why your teacher didn’t put spots for all your aunts and uncles.
What about the other side?Add Auntie Sandra. Add Uncle Paul. Then go wash up for dinner.
But ma, what about the other side? Teacher said both sides.Well I said wash up for dinner and who puts food on this table, baby girl—me or your teacher? —
Christian Aguiar is a writer and educator from Rhode Island; he currently lives in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Ocean State Review, Connections, Alimentum, Anamesa, Poetry Virginia and other publications.Artwork by: Paul Mocan