Mayrim Millán Barea

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Three Kings’ Day

My father’s family, especially Abuela Ita and Abuelo Ito, my dad’s parents, and dad himself had always celebrated “El día de Reyes” in a very special and familiar way.  I and my little brothers Luis and “Pito” spent the entire year following those three stars. My  dad told us when we were little they were the Three Kings’ stars.

But finally the Three Kings’ Day eve arrives and we were so excited about spending one more year celebrating this tradition in family. To my father this is a very unique and special occasion. He is a man completely devoted to the Three Kings’ traditions.  It is also special because it is the day when his three children bring the tradition that has been in the family for generations to life, such as looking for grass to for the Three Kings’ camels so they get the energy needed to continue leaving presents for all the children.

Early in the morning of Three Kings’ Day, we prepare the boxes where we are going to put the grass.  Sometimes we use a shoe box, or a carton box.  We take a walk into the valley where my dad lives. It’s a big area full of trees of gandules, aguacate, mata de plátano, and every other tropical tree you can imagine. Also there are roosters, goats, and a mother hen with her little chickens running behind her

Luis and Pito are running around the mountain and into the trees, following that gorgeous brown, green, and blue colored rooster that always bothers the hens. It’s the perfect place to enjoy and appreciate nature, and be close the Puerto Rican way of living.

When the afternoon arrives and I get tired of counting to twenty in threes while they hide and I seek, my dad makes the announcement, “It’s time, come and look for the things you need.”

As fast as we can, since we know what he’s talking about, we run to my dad’s tool house and get the carretilla (small cart), the big patio scissors that I need to handle since I am the oldest one, and the pasteles cord. Pito and Luis always fight  to see who’s going to drive the carretilla. Finally Luis says,  “Both of us, but me first!” And he gets what he wants.

Pito in the need of feeling he’s doing something grabs the pasteles cord and walks in front of us moving his arms like he’s in charge.  Finally with all the jobs assigned, we go into the area where the grass is tall and I start pulling it and cutting it with the scissors. I feel that fresh green grass odor, while Luis and Pito put the grass on the carretilla.  We pile a big amount of grass, almost covering the carretilla. Then we go into the house and start dividing the grass into piles so we can arrange it and cut it in the correct size. We spend almost an hour preparing our grass for the Three Kings’ camels.

Once we finish María, my father’s wife, deals with the rest of the grass left on the floor. When everything’s ready we get on the car and go to Ita’s and Ito’s house to leave grass for their Three Kings presents.

“God bless you. Those camels are going to eat a lot this year,” says Ito with a big smile on his face and a beer on his left hand.

Then we go to Titi Ada’s house, our cousins Edrick, Joel, and Anthony also give us their piles of grass.  Of course they want the Three Kings to leave presents for them in our house.  “My grass looks more fresh, green, and bigger,” says Anthony just to bother my little one, Pito.

“No! Look at mine, the Three Kings are going to give me the biggest present because I have the biggest pile of grass for their camels,” says Pito. Everyone is laughing and hugging him, because apart from what he says, he is chubby and cute.

Finally we go to Abuela Letty’s house, our grandma from our mother’s side.  To receive us there is Chispita, our little blonde Chihuahua, revolving around, jumping and showing she’s also having fun.

When we finish this journey, we get into our father’s house to put on our pajamas and wait, half asleep  and half awake, for the Three Kings to arrive and give us our presents.  At 3:00 a.m. we finally fall asleep.   But the truth is that as soon as it is  5:00 a.m. Pito is awake and screaming, “Llegaron los reyesssssss!”.

Seeing that ear to ear smile on his face is priceless, spending that time with my family keeping alive our traditions is what makes me feel Puerto Rican. These are my Puerto Rican roots.

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