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To Noelle Maldonado, a third generation of Felitas with love
I want to thank the corporation of Yaddo for allowing me the time to work on this book at their colony
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcom Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by Dial Books for Young Readers,
a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 1986
Published by Puffin Books,
a member of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1999
Copyright Â© Nicholasa Mohr, 1986 All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE DIAL EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Going home Summary: Feeling like an outsider when she visits her relatives in Puerto Rico for the first time, eleven-year-old Felita finds herself having to come to terms with the heritage she always took for granted.
[1. Puerto RicansâNew York (N.Y.)âFiction. 2. Puerto RicoâFiction.
3. Family life-Fiction]. I. Title.
PZ7.M72760Go 1986 [Fic] 85-20621
eISBN : 978-1-101-15358-1
When my parents asked me and my brothers to come into the living room to discuss something important, I tried not to act too nervous. But, you see, ever since morning I had sensed that something strange was going on in my house by the way my parents and granduncle, Tio Jorge, kept acting. They were all whispering to each other and then when me, Johnny, or Tito came near them, they would all shut up real quick, smile, and look the other way. What was happening here anyway? I couldn't think of anything I'd done that was bad. Maybe one of my brothers had gotten into trouble. Most likely it was Tito again. I'll bet he was skipping school and got caught. Now me and Johnny would have to listen to a whole speech about it. I looked over at Tito to see if he looked guilty, but neither he or Johnny acted like they even suspected what was happening. As I sat on the couch, facing Papi, Mami, and Tio Jorge, my heart was pounding and I just hoped we weren't going to be hearing some awful news.
Papi spoke first. “Kids, we want to tell you all somethingâsomething that should make you all feel happy. You know how we've always talked about taking a trip to Puerto Rico? The whole family going there together? Well, now we are going to do it! That's right. This summer we are all gonna spend two weeks in Puerto Rico.”
“That's fantastic, Papi!” said Tito. Not only was I relieved, I felt just as happy as Tito.
“When are we going?” asked Johnny.
“Right after school is over, at the beginning of July.”
“I'm psyched, man!” Tito jumped up and waved his arms. “Going to P.R., far out!”
“Okay, now wait”âPapi pausedâ“there's something more. You know how we told you kids that Tio Jorge is retiring and has plans to live permanently in Puerto Rico? Well, the time has come; Tio will be staying in Puerto Rico and he's going to build a house in our village in the countryside. Soâ”
“That's right!” Tio Jorge interrupted Papi. “A house big enough for all of you to spend time with me.”
“Correct,” said Papi, “and since Tio Jorge is staying, we have decided that”âPapi turned toward me â“you, Felita, will stay the whole summer in Puerto Rico and keep Tio Jorge company.” When I heard those words, I could hardly believe my own ears!
“Papi, you mean I'm going away for the whole summer? Wow!” I hugged Papi, Mami, and Tio Jorge. “Thank you, everybody!”
“The most important thing,” Mami said, “is that you children will finally get to meet all of your family. You have your grandfather, Abuelo Juan; your Aunt Julia and Uncle Tomas; and many cousins that you have never met. God knows”âMami's eyes filled with tearsâ“I haven't seen them myself for so many years.”
“Come on, Rosa”âPapi put his arm around Mami's shouldersâ“this is a time for rejoicing, not for crying.”
“Yeah, Mami”âJohnny reached out and squeezed Mami's handâ“we are all real happy. Right?” He looked at me and Tito.
“Sure,” I agreed. I had nothing to complain about.
“Well, I'm happy too, except for one thing. How come me and Johnny only get to stay in Puerto Rico for just two weeks, and Felita gets to stay there for the whole summer? I don't think that's fair!”
“Tito, you just heard what your father said about Tio Jorge retiring,” Mami said, “and it was his wish to have Felita with him for the summer.”
“Why her instead of me or Johnny? I'll tell you why, it's because she's a girl. Felita's always getting special treatment”âTito clasped his hands over his chest and blinked, looking upwardâ“just because she's a girl. Big deal!”
“Cut that out!” Papi looked annoyed. “Felita is a girl, that's right! And you, you're supposed to be un macho, a young man, so stop complaining and whining like you're two years old. You sound like a sissy, you know that? You don't see your brother making any fuss. You should be happy to be going on a vacation at all!”
“Just a minute.” Tio Jorge turned to Tito. “I think, and your parents agree, that it's important for Felita to spend some time in Puerto Rico. At her age it's important that she gets to learn some of the Island customs instead of just what you have here in this country and in this city. You're a young man and can take care of yourself with no problems. But with a girl it's different. Besides, you don't have to get upset, because I'm going to build my house and you can come and stay with me later on for as long as you like.”
“Oh, sure, thanks a lot!” Tito snapped. “I'll probably be too old to care by then!”
“Basta!” Now Papi was real angry. “You talk to your Tio Jorge with respect, or you might find that you don't go to Puerto Rico at all. Apologize and do it right now!” Tito sat sulking. I could see he was fuming mad, but at the same time he knew that when Papi gave an order like that, he was no one to fool with.
“I'm sorry,” Tito whispered.
“I'm sorry to who?” Papi asked. “And make it loud and clear!”
“I'm sorry, Tio Jorge.”
“Okay. Now I don't wanna hear any more complaints coming from your mouth. Understand?” Tito nodded at Papi.
“Come on, everybody, let's stop this fighting.” Mami went over to Tito and hugged him. “We are all going to enjoy ourselves so much. We are a very lucky family.”
“All right, Mami.” Tito smiled. Everybody knew that Tito was her favorite. If it was up to her, Tito could get away with murder and she would say he was doing a good deed.
“Listen, children,” Papi said, “you are going to eat the most delicious fruits. Mangos right off the trees âso sweet and juicy. You'll see lots of flowers and green everywhere. And the weather is great. Even in the summer you always have a breeze. And of course it's never cold like here where you freeze in the winter and the humidity makes your bones ache.”
They started to talk about all the fun we were gonna have. But I wasn't going to join in. Boy, was I mad at that Tito! Right away he had to get jealous and start something about my staying in P.R. longer than him. He was always doing that. When I looked over at him, Tito gave me a dirty look. I could see he was still angry at me. Well, I wasn't gonna hang around and look at big mouth anymore. Besides, I'd already heard about how great things are in Puerto Rico. Sometimes that was all the grown-ups ever talked about. I had better things to do, like telling my friends the good news.
The first thing I did was head for the phone and call my best friend, Gigi, but there was no answer. Maybe my second best friend, Consuela, would be hanging out. Anyway, I wanted to check out my block so I could share the good news with somebody. I asked Mami if I could go out to play.
“It's cold out, Felita. What kind of games are you going to play? And besides, there's probably nobody outside now.”
“Come on, Mami, you know we can play tag, hide-and-go-seek, lots of games. Or I can just hang out and talk to my friends.” She always gives me a hard time about going out alone just to hang out. “Mami, please, I'd like to tell my friends about our trip. Look, if there's nobody outside, I'll come back up. I promise. Please say yes!”
“All right, but you are not to leave this block. Understand? Play on our street. No rough tomboy games. You don't hang out with boys playing boy games.” Mami checked her wristwatch. “It's now two thirty. You can stay out until four, then you have to be up before it gets dark and in time for Sunday dinner. Remember, four and no later.”
Actually I was relieved that Mami had given me permission to go out at all. She can be real strict sometimes and just gives me a flat no, which means I'm stuck indoors for the whole day.
There are times when I'd really like to talk to Mami and tell her how I feel, but I know she wouldn't understand my side of things. I've never been able to confide in my mother, not the way I used to with Abuelita, my grandmother. We used to talk about anything and everything. I could tell her about all the deepest secrets in my heart. Abuelita would always listen and help me solve my problems. I still missed her very much, even though it would be two years since she had died. Two years! Sometimes it felt like I'd been with her just yesterday, but at other times it seemed like she had been dead for a long time.
I put on my warm jacket, hat, and gloves so that I wouldn't freeze when I went outdoors. My street was pretty empty. Except for a passerby now and then, no one was about. Thick dark clouds covered the sky, making everything look gray and gloomy. It wasn't very windy, but it felt cold and humid. I sat down on my stoop and exhaled, watching my hot breath turn into white puffs of smoke as it hit the cold air, and I thought about Puerto Rico. All that bright sunshine every day. I shivered, feeling the cold of the stone steps going right through me, and I wondered what it must be like to live in a place where it didn't ever snow and the leaves never left the trees. I stood up, leaning against the railing, and checked my street, hoping to see somebody I could talk to about my trip.
“Hello, Felita.” I turned and saw old Mrs. Sanchez coming out of our building. “It looks like snow.” She smiled. “I'm off to the drugstore, the big one on the boulevard that's open on Sundays. I've got to get a prescription for Mr. Sanchez. His asthma is acting up again. You must be cold out here. I'll bet you're waiting for your friends to play with.”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well, you children have a good time. Bye.”
“Bye,” I said, wishing someone I could talk to would hurry up and come by. And then I saw Consuela and her little sister, Joanie, coming up the block. I waved at them, calling them over. “Have I got great news to tell you!”