My brother, sister, and I are in the piled into the backseat of my father’s truck holding cups, chips and other goods my Tia requested last minute. As we turn off the main road, we pull over and my dad lets the three of us jump into the bed of his truck before he heads down the caliche road. As always, the caliche leaves a dusty path behind us as we bounce up and down the long driveway to my Tio’s and Tia’s ranch outside of Laredo, TX.
This is where the three of us and all our cousins grew up: playing on the playground that my Tio welded with his own hands, lighting fireworks, and opening Christmas presents as the clock struck midnight. Weekly and on holidays we would drive down that long driveway to a familiar scene. My Tia hovering over the stove making arroz. My Tio with a bud light in one hand and tongs in another manning the grill. My Abuelo fidgeting with little antique radio that crackles out corridos. My cousins jumping on the trampoline with the rest of my father’s brothers and sisters sitting close enough to see the us playing but not so close that they can hear our antics.
As the sun sets behind the thornscrub and the sweat on our backs finally starts to lift everyone knows it’s time to eat. After pushing off our appetite with chips, guacamole, salsas, and quesadillas it’s time to indulge in the smells that had been taunting us all day.
After filling up on fajitas, borracho beans, and rice it’s back to the fun – for everyone. The adults gather to play charades or quarters and their laughter overflows into the darkness where we’re playing tag and scheming on how we’re going to convince our parents to let us sleepover at our cousin’s house.
Today, that place is no longer but the atmosphere still exists. Less frequently but with many more, our whole family still gathers eating, laughing, and each Christmas Eve adding more and more members that can join my Abuelo’s tequila shot toast.