Lillyann Asencio Zayas

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Doing laundry in college


It was 1984 when Josian A. Rivera’s lens captured Letty Zayas’ unhappy day in a Laundromat near The University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. Even though this is a really old picture, the scenario for me is fabulous; the clothes all over the floor and my mom screaming fits perfectly to show how she looks nowadays doing laundry. The black and white photograph and the antique laundry machines are representative of the era.  The girl in the background remains unknown, but her face adds the tone of the picture.

My mother did not remember this picture when I showed it to her. I had found it in my grandmother’s closet almost ten years ago with many others, buried under boxes and other forgotten storage. I don’t really know why I secretly kept it.  Except I felt that when I looked at the picture, I was looking at myself.  I saw her free spirit, her energy, her funny side, the hard working side — all characteristics I got from my mother, Letty Zayas.

Ave María purísima Lillyann bota eso!” My mother exclaimed laughing when I showed it to her recently. She was just nineteen then, living on her own and studying criminal justice at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras when her boyfriend, Josián, took this picture.  He was a photographer, seven years older. They met in the same Laundromat where the picture was taken.

“The Laundromat was ‘the spot,’” she said with a little girl tone, as if remembering all the good moments.  Strangely, nowadays, she hates doing the laundry.  To show she understood my expression regarding that fact, she said sarcastically, “And like the girl behind me, I’m very excited today to do the laundry.”

But then her face changed. “That was one of those days,” she said.  As her daughter, I understood she meant, “not a very happy day.”

“But why?” I asked. She didn’t answer, just started to cry.  I had not meant to make her cry, but I understood immediately it had something to do with my grandfather.  It was mainly because her sadness always seemed to have something to do with my grandfather.

Seven years ago my grandfather was murdered and they never got to figure things out between them.  He had been a very strict father and had never shown his true pride and joy in her for being the smartest and most accomplished of his two daughters. This picture, I thought, would provide a key toward understanding what went on between them. But all she said was, “When I gave birth to you, he told me he did not have a daughter anymore.”

Up to this point, this was a topic she always walked away from. I was surprised we had gotten this far. But what I was beginning to realize was that she seemed angrier with herself than with him. Perhaps, neither of them ever dreamed they would one day lose the chance to say the things they needed to say to each other.

My mother handed me back the photograph and changed the subject.  Her face went back to neutral. Maybe this moment was not the time for me to understand or for her to tell…







  1. Like you with that picture, we all have one that makes us lives again the moment. Because there is no better thing to remember and laugh of an event you’re browsing through a photograph. The picture is what makes your memory stays alive and do not miss the grace and charm. In my house, my mom saved many pictures because she says that this is the only thing that we can save and leave as proof of our past. She has a photo when my parents were dating, and whenever I see it, I laugh because it is a picture that makes me see how my parents were at that time. Pictures are our closest memories of those moments that we don’t live or we live but what we have is a distant memory.

  2. Mamiiii! No habia visto este mensaje! Gracias x no solo ser mi madre! Si no mi inspiración y mi ejemplo! Las palabras se quedan cortas para decirte lo agraciada q soy por ser tu hija <3

  3. Lillyann tu mami siempre estará orgullosa de ti,aprendisteis a leer el alma de las personas , pero recuerda siempre seguir tu propio instinto.TE Ama por siempre……..tu MAMI.

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