Once everything closed down, and the fear of COVID-19 spread rampantly around the world, there was only one place I could turn for consistent comfort: home.
I had just finished working in LA when I returned back to Moreno Valley. My dad was still working from his office, my mom started working from home and she welcomed my company. “I’m so happy you’re here, Andy. I would’ve been here by myself, just having Laci, Garfield, and Eddie to talk with, but they’re asleep most of the time. Be honest with me: did you just come back to see us, or for food?” she asked. I slyly responded with my cheshire cat smile, “neither. Laundry.” Picture the expressionless face emoji on her face, as I playfully revived an old hobby of giving her a hard time.
It didn’t take long for me to revisit my old spots to eat throughout the city. My favorite Mexican food place Armando’s remained open with newly reconfigured safety protocols. I found this place during my college years when I was invited out with classmates. It didn’t take long for me to introduce the place to my family, to which very quickly we settled down to order our usual carne asada nachos with guacamole, sour cream, cheese and beans: Yum! This was the ultimate place we personally considered as Victory Food. Imagine having a rough day (i.e. school, work, idiots driving on the road, etc), or imagine you just aced a test you studied all night for, you received that job offer you desperately wanted, you get the gist. Whenever we would get Victory Food, we knew we had just accomplished something valuable, or knew that we just made it through another week and were ready to celebrate the weekend. We do however take into account the prices since the past ten years have accelerated the place as a luxury. As expensive as the place can be, you can definitely count on getting what you pay for, and we wanted to support small businesses during the shutdown by coming back at least once a week; so far it’s been going on one month.
If we wanted to cook Victory Food from home, my dad would cook his homemade pozole and menudo. Warning: the following sentences may not be veggie friendly, reader discretion is advised. Pozole is like a Mexican stew, garnished with red chili pepper, onions, garlic, hominy corn, and meat, either pork or beef depending on the cook. Menudo is a bit more traditional, a Mexican soup filled with red chili pepper, hominy corn and small pieces of cow stomach stirred to sheer perfection; I can just smell the heavenly aroma from our kitchen right now. Me, my mom, and my brother consider these two cuisines whenever my dad decides to make them the Halley’s Comet of food, a unicorn seen in public, an actual decently made Michael Bay film, you know they exist but hardly ever see it. He usually made enough to last two days, which is a lot of food between us four. As we would sit and enjoy, I would make it a habit to inquire to my brother when the last time we indulged upon this paradise. “Damn, I can’t really remember. I think the last time was like Christmastime,” Rob would variedly answer. He was right, as this is considered such a luxury above-luxury. This is the Victory Food you can ponder on everything you have done and accomplished to that point, and figure ‘wow, time really flew by so fast. I wonder what I’ll be doing after this, and what will be finished with by the time I have this food again.’
Moving to LA, I realized that no matter how much I research, no matter which places are recommended for me to eat, no matter how many times I can try and replicate the recipes, nothing can compare to the comfort from back home. I can always count on my family, my city and the food to be waiting whenever necessary. However, lately it hasn’t felt like any victories have occurred; moreso, negative thoughts on the uncertainty of the future have ramped my anxiety. This is why I had to retreat back home; to recover in the familiar. If the future is going to be sometimes hard to stomach through, I might as well fill it with something yummy.
There was a moment in my life when I thought I was going to lose my mom. I’d like to think that I saved her life, but I think I just rescued her before anyone else had the chance. You see, we were at my great aunt’s house in Northern Iowa for the 4th of July weekend to enjoy fireworks and a carnival near the lake. The house was full, so my mom and two sisters slept outside in a tent while I slept on the couch in the living room. One night, I woke up suddenly to the house moving and then someone was screaming. I bolted upright and ran towards the noise. My great aunt and both sisters were in the kitchen and the back door was open. The screaming was coming from outside so I kept running, through the door and down the stairs. I came face to face with a 40-year-old maple tree that had fallen over in the backyard. My mom’s screaming was coming from somewhere in the tree branches.
I was around 12 at the time, but I didn’t let the pitch dark or the small space between the branches slow me down. I made my way through the branches toward the sound of my mom's voice. She was yelling “Help!” Over and over again, so I told her I was coming. She stopped screaming and started to talk to me so I could follow her voice. With it being pitch dark there was no way to tell for sure where she was, but I eventually got close enough to reach out and touch her. She told me she was okay, but she was trapped by something and she couldn’t figure out what it was. I started to feel around her and wiggle any branches that might have been trapping her. Eventually she said I had found it. It must have been something I stepped on because I hadn’t lifted anything, but her leg was suddenly free and she could stand. I helped her to her feet and we made our way to the opposite side of the tree and around to the front of the house. The tree was blocking all paths back to the house except the front door. Once inside, we realized she had a huge gash in her head, but that was her only big injury. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, had staples in her head and was sent home with a clean bill of health.
I’ve tried many times during my life to think about what my life would be like if that tree had hit my mom anywhere else. If she had been in a different part of the yard when it fell. If the tornado had just swept her away instead of knocking down the tree. It was silent, no one knew it was there. There was no weather warning. It just showed up randomly. My mom could have died that night and she wouldn’t have been there for some of the things that shaped who I am. She’s always there to talk me through anything that’s happened and support me with all my dreams and goals. She’s talked me through breakups, bad friendships, bad jobs. Supported me when good jobs came along, helped with 3 moves, listened to me gush about boys who are cute. Even when I screw up, she tells me, but is there to help me fix it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for her.
She called me at the beginning of this pandemic and said all she wanted was for me to be home. She wanted all her kids home and I’m the only one who lives out of state. So I packed my car, took my cats and drove home for the unforeseeable future. Not because I’m leaving LA and moving home, but because my mom needed me and I needed my mom. Because, I knew, if my mom got sick and died from this stupid virus, I would kick myself for not coming home when she said she needed me. I’ve spent every day with her, doing projects and getting creative, working outside and playing with my sisters kids. This is time that I won’t ever get again, so I’m enjoying it. I know she’ll never forget these moments, just like I’ll never forget the time I almost lost her. I thank God every day that I get to see her, because those could have been days that never existed.
One of my many beliefs is that some of the worst people in the world are kids in middle school. If you happen to be between the ages of 12 and 15, chances are you happen to be a massive jerkwad. In early 2009, I was 14 years old and the world revolved around me (according to myself).
The date was May 18th, 2009 and I had just gotten home from school in my freshman year of high school. I remember that particular date fondly because that was the day that Punch-Out!! (2009) on the Nintendo Wii came out. Punch-Out had been one of my favorite series for awhile now and they hadn’t released a new entry in the series since 1994 and I was VERY excited for this new iteration.
It was going to arrive in the mail today and I was gonna play the ever loving snot out of it!
“Did my game come?” I excitedly asked as soon as I entered the door.
“No.” mumbled my mother.
I could tell something was off, but I was too darn excited for this game.
“Anything you want to say to me?” my mom asked.
“Nope!” I joyfully said.
Was I in trouble?
She sighed and walked away. A good 30 seconds passed before I realized it.
Today was her birthday and I had forgotten it.
This forgetting-my-mother’s-birthday incident gave me a quick and harsh change of perspective. My mother is one of the hardest workers I know and I feel like I just robbed her of her one day of celebration for my own selfish wants. I was in the wrong in this situation 100%.
I’ve always had a strong relationship with my mother. She’s a big influence on the person I am today. She always went the extra mile for me and my siblings. Every time me or my siblings have a birthday, she would spend the night decorating the dining room to celebrate our birth. There were 4 of us too, so that was 4 times a year she would do this. On top of all that, she would make us breakfast in bed. That’s true love right there! She would leave her bed, make a hefty breakfast, and serve it to us like it was the gosh darn Mariott! Once again, true love.
Another tradition we have in the Agnew household is every Christmas we would all wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, drink hot beverages, and open gifts. Guess who would spend the entire night before wrapping gifts and the whole morning preparing the breakfast?
When I wanted to move to California and had no idea if I would be successful, my mother supported my crazy dream and helped me through some rough years in my adulthood.
She constantly encourages my work even though she doesn’t totally understand it.
She talks to me when I’m having a bad day.
She loves me when I feel unlovable.
A big part of who I am today can be attributed to my mom. I try to make others feel celebrated and loved. I like cooking big meals for others, especially breakfasts. When friends are being critical of themselves, my advice is to take a step back and focus on who they are rather on who they could be. It’s a basic “treat others how you would want to be treated” mentality that I believe is the best way to approach life.
I honestly could not have asked for a better mother. Even when I recalled the infamous 2009 birthday to her a decade later, she laughed it off. That moment didn’t matter in our relationship. It didn’t impact what she thought of me. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a mom like her. We talk to each other every week even though we are on opposite ends of the country. She still sends me care packages during holidays. She’s willing to watch the stupid content that I put out online. She loves me.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
I love you lots.