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As my family has traveled, a reproduction of one artwork has traveled with us: The Creation of Adam by the Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo. The composition depicts the Biblical anecdote of God breathing life into man, who was created to resemble God himself. Michelangelo’s fresco artwork can be found on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City; today, a painting of the outstretched hands can be found on my abuela’s living room wall.
Until I was five years old, my family lived in Hackensack, New Jersey. Being Hispanic means that ‘family’ is not typical. It means that at every family get together, a new cousin is introduced. Despite the amount of Mendozas around, we were, and still are, incredibly close. We have a family gathering at least once a week, and no one ever eats or dances alone, influencing togetherness in everyone.
Eventually, my parents decided to relocate to Casselberry, Florida. As a tightly knit Ecuadorian family, we moved collectively; the two cars tightly consisted of my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, my cousins, and my own family unit. My grandparents were moving into a small townhouse that needed tedious remodeling. Naturally, we beckoned the rest of the family to assist them. The entire process took two days to complete with the amount of helping hands present. After new cabinets, appliances, and furniture settled in, all that was left to do was cover dirty, eggshell colored paint, and mount Michaelangelo’s enormous painting. With my extensive family leaving (after a housewarming fest of course) the rest of us began to open cans of fresh, taupe paint. Taking our time, we talked for hours over my abuelas sango de verde. We discussed what we hoped would happen in Florida, what we wanted to make of such a drastic move, and the upcoming months.
Pushing himself up, my abuelo retrieved a can of paint, and a number of smaller paintbrushes. He said; “Always remember that blood is thicker than water. This townhouse will be a home, a safe place, a refuge for any family member – it will be passed around. But this, right here, will never change. Our family will always be a close one.” With tears in his eyes, he asked my brother and I to stand up, and handed us paintbrushes.
“Write your names on the wall with the paint.” he urged.
“But won’t that ruin it?” I questioned him. Without saying anything, he passed the paintbrushes around once each signed painted their name; his neat script the last to go up. I remember him saying; “Homes are temporary, but family is forever.”
With wide eyes, my brother and I watched my abuelo and my dad run the paint rollers up and down along the walls, concealing our names.
The night was spent on blankets, comforters, and air mattresses strewn all over the living room, far from the the new, glossy walls. The final touch to the walls was the art, the hands from The Creation of Adam. Over the last ten years, my abuelos have painted the walls over multiple times, my family helping each and every time. Like tradition, the infamous painting has always been rehung after. It is a constant reminder in my environment, of the first night spent in Casselberry, and the warming words of my abuelo: family is forever.
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