For many of us, the benefits of the COVID-19 quarantine include spending more time with family. The pandemic made some of us realize that we need to take full advantage of our lives at home, especially for those lucky enough to live with senior citizens.
Two years ago, after my father suffered a heart attack, my parents moved into the cottage behind our home. However, with my go-go small business owner lifestyle, I didn’t interact with them enough.
Since mid March, I’ve been able to see my parents every day from the safety of our backyard.
This has been a gift to me. I often work outside and get to witness their shenanigans and vice versa. We’ve cooked out, shared meals and gardened from six feet apart. In the first few weeks of this crisis, my mother baked us cookies almost daily.
The most fun experience of our life in lockdown has been creating music videos featuring my father singing mariachi ballads.
FROM SOCCER TO SINGING
My dad discovered his mariachi skills later in life when he was in his fifties. Born in Guadalajara, considered the land of mariachis, my father always loved the musical style.
But as a young man, he was captivated by playing soccer.
As a skilled futbolista, he played professionally for the Club Deportivo Guadalajara, known as the Chivas.
Then he played in the minors for the Club de Fútbol Monterrey, known as the Rayados.
The Estadio Tecnológico was located on the campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), where my mom was supposed to study Spanish for just six weeks.
She met Jaime Moreno during her study abroad and instead of returning home to Illinois, she married my father.
In 1969, my parents moved to Houston.
After retiring from his blue collar job in Houston, my dad started memorizing songs. I remember him hand writing in pencil song after song in his notebook. And he was always singing.
Then he started singing in local Mexican restaurants. All of a sudden, he was competing on televised talent shows.
He performed for former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and other luminaries. Then he formed a band. Some of the musicians couldn’t afford their own apartments so they would stay in our extra bedroom. It was common for me to come home from school and find a group of musicians practicing in our yard or cooking their meals together.
I remember going out for a late night (or should I say early morning) dinner with my college friends and running into my father at Mexican restaurants where he was performing.
My father’s hobby was obvious by his wardrobe change. He started collecting trajes charros -- those embroidered tight pants, bolero jackets and wide-brimmed sombreros. Yes, he has one in every color. At our wedding, I think he had a costume change, wearing first a black and then a green and gold suit. Once, while Tom and I were living in Mexico, we ran into my father at the Nuevo Laredo bus station. He was traveling to the Mexican border city to place an order for more charro outfits. I guess a dozen just isn’t enough.
We thought he had retired from his days of singing but then came COVID-19.
A few months ago, my dad was singing to me when Tom thought everyone should be so lucky as to have their own backyard bolero.
That's how Mariachi Mondays was born. Members of The Storyhive team safely recorded my dad singing and dancing in our backyard with the goal of sharing one song every Monday. My father, 79, sang several a cappella songs without breaking a sweat. I can’t even sing accompanied by music!
For the first recording, we told my dad to be ready at about 1 p.m. when our filmmaker, Matthew Gorgol, would arrive at our house. My mom said he had been ready since 9 a.m., dressed in his traje charro and practicing his songs.
I asked my dad how many songs he knew and he said hundreds.
He sang mariachi classics, including those he serenaded us with at our wedding 22 years ago.
Mariachi Mondays was an instant success. The first song, La Cumbia del Sapo, generated more online engagement than any other Storyhive post for the past six months. After posting a few episodes of our weekly mariachi series, we started receiving requests.
Neighbors started asking what was going on in our backyard.
One of the most entertaining moments of Mariachi Mondays was when my dad couldn’t memorize songs he had not sung in years and he created his own ‘teleprompter.’ He taped paper bags together and wrote the lyrics in marker. However, he couldn’t see the letters he had written in green marker so I had to trace over all of the lyrics with a black marker.
After nine weeks, we put the series on hold as our company finally started getting back on track. But Mariachi Mondays will return. Maybe we’ll even be able to get some of the band back together post-pandemic so my father can sing to music!
In the meantime, I’ll continue to appreciate these moments I have with my mother and father.