I didn’t realize what made a house such a house. When I was a high schooler, I thought that if you walked into a house and it was humanely warm and felt like a blanket to be there it just happened to be that way. I didn’t know that houses get made that way by the people in them. Especially the people in charge of them. Especially the women in charge of them. The ovaries. Ovaries are the true huevos. The true albondigas.
Back in la high school, I spent a lot of time at my buddy Fish’s house and it was a blanket. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t actually the walls that made me feel safe. It was the magical humans there and one magical human in particular, her mother, Maria Luisa.
Maria Luisa was my abuelita’s tocaya or, as gringo’s say it, namesake. Maybe this connection contributed to the sense of comfort I got from being around her, her name was identical as the lady who hugged me with her tamale arms and taught her daughter, my mom, to swaddle me even though one time they did turn their backs on me after papoosing me and I rolled off the changing table like a meatball down a mountain of spaghetti all covered in cheese and got some head injury. They probably kissed my brain damage away.
Maria Luisa made a house where people like me (weirdos) and unlike me (not weirdos) and everybody in between and outside of that spectrum could come and be. I remember the smell of Mexican broths boiling and freshly chopped cilantro and I remember knowing that if I peeled back the tin foil on a pan resting on the kitchen counter, something that used to have four legs would be waiting for me and it would be delicious.
This nourishment and lovingness is the gift that Maria Luisa gave that everybody gets to keep. Those of us who knew her hospitality were built by her. We are better houses because of her. We can give Maria Luisa style hospitality because we’ve experienced it. Her memory warms my house.