"Why won't Anatia let anyone into that room?"
My mother replied, "Well, her father, my abuelo, shot himself in that room."
I gaped at her in the dark. "What? Why?" I squealed as she shushed me, looking toward the closed door as if Abuelo himself were listening from the other side.
"He was sick with TB and he didn't want to be a burden to his family, so he took out a pistol and shot himself in that very room. Anatia is the one who found him and since then no one can enter the room but her." I lay there in silent awe, gently pulling my head away from the stucco wall that divided me from the memory of my great-grandfather's violent death in the next room.
Over thirty years later, ten years after my mother's death, I was in a restaurant with my mother's siblings, and I mentioned the story of my great-grandfather. Uncle Jorge practically choked on his tostones.
"¿Que? Abuelo didn't shoot himself! He died very peacefully in a hospital! And that house Anatia lived in wasn't even built then!" I just stared at him, heat rising from my chest to my face.
Finally I sputtered, "What? Mom made it all up?" I began to recount the other stories she had told me. One after another, they were confirmed to be fiction. I was furious. Beyond furious. How could my mother feed me these lies year after year? And I believed her! I could just see her talking to me over her shoulder in the VW van, her self-righteous lecture about not telling stories ringing in my ears.
I stared at my half eaten lunch, tears gathering in my eyes. My cousin Jose Luis took my hand and said, "Annie, what does it matter if the stories are true or not? Isn't our family as defined by the stories that aren't true as by the ones that are? Write them down, Annie. That is your role in this family. Write them down, true or false. They are what makes us who we are."