Though known as “La Gringa,” Matthew Suarez’s mom, “is the only one that can cook beans like my Mexican grandmother used to.”
My mother was born Jody Ann Teschner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 9, 1957, and raised in the suburbs. I don’t know much about my grandparents, except that my grandfather fought as a lieutenant colonel in World War II and Korean War. My grandfather gave up Judaism to marry my grandmother, who was Lutheran. My mother was their third of four children. My grandfather relocated to Guadalajara, Mexico, for a job and moved the family of gringos with him when my mom was 17.
It was in Guadalajara where she met my dad, Luis Manuel. “It was a rainy day when I saw La Gringa standing on this street.” My dad told the same story every time we went to Guadalajara to visit my paternal grandmother. “I offered to give her a ride, and I fell in love.” My dad claims that he was a prominent casanova back in the day, but love at first sight changed his ways.
They got married a couple of years after meeting and had their first child, my eldest brother Luis Gabriel. My mother’s side of the family moved back to the United States; her parents moved back home to Pennsylvania and her siblings to Houston. My parents lived in Texas for a short while, but they decided to relocate to Mexico City in the early ’80s.
“My sister always stood up for me, came to my defense, and tried to teach me to believe in myself,” my aunt Wendy, Mom’s youngest sister, tells me via Facebook when I asked her to confirm my mom’s past.
Mother had her second child in Mexico City in 1984, my brother Leigh M. My parents could not decide to name my brother Michael or Miguel, so they simply left the initial M. I was born in May of 1986 in Mexico City. Two weeks after being born, my mom took me to my first soccer stadium, a World Cup match between Argentina and Bulgaria.
The family moved from Mexico City to Queretaro a few months after I was born. Growing up in Mexico with a gringo name was not pretty for my brother and me, as everyone butchered our names...and the easiest name to butcher was my mother’s.
J in Spanish sounds like an H, so my mom would often be called “Hoh-Dee,” which sounds pretty close to jodida; jodida, from the verb joder, translates to “fucked up one.” My Mexican family, like most Mexican families, love to pester each other with insulting nicknames. They affectionately call my mom, La Gringa Jodi(da). But despite being “La Gringa,” my mother is the only one who can cook beans like my Mexican grandmother used to.
After more than 30 years of marriage, my parents are still together living in Mexico. My brothers and I left the nest early to the United States and other parts of the world. My parents stayed behind in Queretaro, until recently, when they relocated to Tijuana to be closer to their first grandchild, my brother’s year-old son.
My earliest memories of my mom are of us playing Go Fish and Crazy Eights in the car while I waited for school to start. I went to the same school as both of my brothers, but kindergarten started an hour or so later, so she played cards with me to kill time. Just like my aunt, my mother has always stood up for me and has showed me how to be strong. My fiery, wild, crazy personality comes from my Mexican side, my American side cools down all that passion with traits of introversion.
As the youngest child, I share a special bond with my mom. Almost 30 years old and I am still somewhat of a momma’s boy. We often watch the same shows, share books, music, recipes, internet articles, and she is always there when I have nowhere else to turn. She is my biggest fan in whatever I do and reads every article of mine that gets published.
I love you, Mom.