When I look up family in my three-inch thick New World Dictionary, it says, “a group of people related by ancestry or marriage, relatives” and “all those claiming descent from a common ancestor, tribe or clan, lineage.” When I look up home, one of the many definitions, and the one most meaningful to me, reads: “a place where one likes to be, a restful or congenial place.” I like that. And though I often use an online dictionary, it doesn’t compare to the real thing. If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only have one book, what would you take? Think about it. A dictionary has it all, you could learn something about everything!
I just returned home from a trip to
and and my family has increased many-fold. Their communities accepted me with
open arms and strangers have become friends. Within a few minutes of setting up
for my first book signing at the Ocala Barnes and Noble, a small crowd
gathered. I marveled: can all these
people be here for me? Ironically, my dad thought the same thing when the old bus
rolled into his Orlando, Florida the day after
he won the lottery. And yes, a crowd gathered to welcome both me and him, on a
smaller scale but kind of like they did 72 years ago for my father, Ramón León.
His story was brought back to life! village
of Maunabo, Puerto Rico
Reporter Carlos Medina wrote a lovely article in the Ocala Star Banner, Author Chronicle’s Dad’s Winning Lottery, Journeying from Puerto Rico to Ocala, about my father’s family and the evolution of my book. I acquired two new friends in radio hosts Larry Whitler and Robin MacBlane of WOCA Ocala radio. Click to watch the UTube video of the show--quite entertaining! When locals, many from the Puerto Rican community, read the article or heard the interview, they traveled, some as far as 40 or 50 miles from Gainesville, to meet my family: my dad, mom, husband and daughter, Elena. It was inspiring to meet the people who were so moved by my book… the reviews it has received have made all my work over the years worthwhile!
And speaking of family, I had a wonderful reunion with my cousin Carlos Martinez León after not having seen him since I was seven or eight years old (Hint, that’s over 40 years)! I met his son, Carlos Jr., now 36, who selected the best Puerto Rican restaurant in
Orlando for our fiesta. The mofongo was phenomenal, I miss it!
At one point during our lively conversation, I asked Carlos Jr., “Hey, Carlos, your dad and I are first cousins, so that makes you and me second cousins, right? And how about you and Elena? I guess that makes the two of you third cousins.”
“No, man,” Carlos Jr. replied with a big grin, “we’re family!”
From left to right: Elena, Carlos, Celeste, Carlos Jr