Toy stories 7 to the last #SOL Tuesday

While on the plane to Frankfurt I am tweaking my last Instagram toy stories. Hopefully I can publish this slice during SOL Tuesday before I board my plane to Oregon. This is it. Today I am starting a new chapter of my life. Excited to see how it will evolve.



Even though technically this is not a toy but a wedding present given to us almost 26 years ago by our dear family friend, Omar , this fish mobile is the winner of the wedding present—toy combo survivor category.

While I was cleaning all the big and little fish, I remembered all the stories behind the hanging, unhanging, packings and unpackings of this mobile. When we got it my husband looked at it and said: “I love these fish. There are so colorful. I can picture them in our future home. This mobile will follow us wherever we go.” Little he knew that literally these fish have crossed two big oceans and a sea a couple of times. Little Omar knew his present was going to be part of the fabric of our family. At each house we had the ceremony of unpacking the mobile, untangle and balance the pieces together. Then it was followed by a brief discussion lead by Steve with his hammer on hand of where we were going to hang it. Finally the place was sealed until the next move.
Our kids as babies enjoyed the movement of the mobile. When they were unsettled we walked next to the mobile and observed it together for a while. When the fish touched each other, the wood made a crisp sound. Almost always it did the trick of distracting the baby in our hands and switched their pain on an awe. Later, the discussion of where to hang the fish were made together as a family. Here in Spain, it took us a while to decide the perfect place, since the house was a little bit darker and with no open spaces like in the other houses. But the mobile found its place in a corner of the living room. It gathered for ten years a bunch of dust and spider webs for being up high and never touched but by the morning wind. Eventually I took it down this week, cleaned it real good, and placed carefully all its pieces wrapped on paper inside box number 78.
I wonder if this mobile made an impact on my children as it did, does on me. I wonder what part of it they remember or if they even know what I’m talking about.


There are some things that you have to let go but take a photo of them to remind you of some moments of your children’s life. When Matilde was probably 14 or 15 she asked us to get her a mirror for her room. We told her she didn’t need one. She had the mirror of the bathroom next door. She insisted and we fought back. It was out of the question. One day Matilde arrived home with a beaten up mirror she found who knows where. She cleaned it and painted it, and asked her dad to secure it on one wall in her room. And Steve did. There, our daughter got her mirror.

The other day we were showing one of our handlebar bike basket that we used in the Camino de Santiago to one of Vincent’s friend. He said “look, there is something inside” I said “I bet this was Vincent’s basket.” When we saw what was inside I said: “THIS was Vincent’s basket for sure” while holding in my hands the almost fossilized piece of cow’s set of teeth.


It seems that handarbeiten are not my forte. I started this embroidery when Matilde was born more than 23 years ago. I think I got into dinosaur one and left it probably because I couldn’t stay still. I continued with Vincent, 21 one years ago and got into dinosaur number two. Probably I didn’t finish the design because I was packing.
Anyway, another survivor. I feel very proud of it. It maintains its colors and the white hasn’t turned yellow. Needless to say that it was shipped to Oregon.


This is it. Today I left behind the biggest toys of all, our home in la Matilla. Yesterday, I spent 12 hours cleaning its walls, doors, closets and floors. I enjoyed it. It was as if I was cleansing all the mistakes I committed here. It was also soothing. I could say goodbye to every single corner of it while I was caressing them with water, detergent and chlorine. While listening to the Beatles and the sound of the cloth splashing, I remember moments of happiness, of sadness, of amazement and sometimes of despair and frustration. We had a great time in this house with its ups and downs as life itself. We owned every moment and that’s what’s I call happiness.
This drawing was made by my dear cousin Maria Isidora who came with her husband Keno a couple of years ago and enjoyed the charm of our home and the great cooking of Steve. I don’t know what has the house but every person that stopped by got trapped by its enchantments. To me, my kids, the doggies, the cats, and Steve were the pillars of this charm. Without them, this house is just a dilapidated place.
Time to start finding the enchantments of another home. I’m getting ready my broom for the long ride.



I found this little figure of St. James in Vincent’s room. It made sense. Vincent’s middle name is James, in honor and memory of grandpa McCann. I didn’t have the fortune of meeting Jim but I have known him vicariously through the stories of his children, especially Steve and Laura, one of my sisters-in-law. Jim was a great man and I’m glad my son has his name.
Today Buck and I are embarking in our plane to Oregon. Last Thursday we sent all our belongings on a truck. Steve will join me later with Clyde and hopefully the cats, Lola and Ralph. We will definitely need the protection of St. James who protected us in El Camino de Santiago. Now he will be taking care of us in our new Camino. And the spirit of grandpa Jim will prevail in our home.


Toy stories 1 to 6 #SOL Tuesday

I am moving back to the US after spending ten years of my life in Spain. Moving is good and painful, and the process of packing is exhausting but very healing.

Getting rid of things is a powerful tool. I kept reminding myself that I should let things go. We are ending up with almost 90 boxes of books, clothes and memorabilia I collect for the sake of collecting. I am a trained historian and the fact that information we will need in the future will be intangible makes me hard to let go easily maps, stubs of museums, movies,  plays, drama, metro, buses, or a pamphlet handed out on the street. Everything reminded me of something.

While packing, and putting things for a garage sale, I started a series of stories about the toys I found of my already in college children. These toys were the survivors. I posted the stories in Instagram but now that I am almost done packing, and the truck is coming on Thursday, I decided to gather them all in one long blog post, taking advantage of the quietness before the storm, and that today is SOL Tuesday.


Before starting our yard sale, I made sure to send photos to my kids with all the stuff that we were selling that were theirs. My daughter basically told us she was a hoarder and we could get rid of everything since she didn’t remember most of the stuff.

In any case, when I discovered Slinky and the marionette, I couldn’t put them in the pile of 1, 2 or 3 euros. They remind me so much of her. I can’t get rid of them. I will put them in a room in our home in Oregon to show every person who visit us who Matilde Is: the juggler, the globetrotter the doglovermati. Cómo te quiero, guati ❤️🐕🌎🤹‍♀️ #dollstory1


Demon Doll (Small)

This is another item that didn’t make it to the yard sale.  This is a REAL survivor.
Matilde received this doll as a present from her aunt Alejandra and uncle Matias when she was around two. It was hate at the first sight. Never care , never played with her. I remember my mom trying to teach her how to pretend that the doll was her baby and Matilde looking at her terrified waving her little right hand saying firmly, no,no,no,. and walking away. I remember my dad saying: “Toda la razón. ¡Esto es mucha responsabilidad!”. (She is completely right. Having a baby it’s too much responsibility!).

Nevertheless, for some mysterious reasons the baby made all the cuts of our moves: from Chile to Montana, to Maryland, to Virginia, to Oregon, to Spain. When Matilde was around 11, the baby starts having appearance in her life again by making it as primer figure in her videos (” Me the model” being the launching of her career as the mistreated baby of a model by all the rough housing of Vincent). Soon she became the star of every single performance created by Matilde. The doll has been into Sevilla’s street inside a suitcase dragged on a bike, throw through stairs, and who knows what else.

In this photo, the demon baby— as Mati and Vincent call her affectionately— is posing happily with Matilde’s recently washed original baptism outfit, tights and jumper. She is ready to cross again the Atlantic ocean, through the Panama Canal to her place in Oregon until Matilde rescues her.
Sorry Vincent, I can’t follow your WhatsApp’s commands: “Throw that evil baby away, ive always hated that possessed doll“. Matilde thinks that after all she might be her child. #dollstory2

PS: This story was so popular with my selected group of followers that my friend and leader of my Spanish Writing Workshop got inspired and wrote a short story in Spanish called “La muñeca” (The doll) using my daughter´s dislike for dolls  and my dad´s observation as starting and ending points respectively.

Mati y doll.jpeg


Bolones (Small)

These marbles went into the garage sale. Nobody got them. I thought that if I were a kid I would love to have them. In any case, not too many kids came. I decided to rescue them and pack them away. Last week while packing and cleaning Vincent’s room, I found two piles of marbles inside a pair of soccer socks. In one sock were bolitas and in the other bolones. A little boy got the little marbles probably because they were more. But the one that were really “valuable” were the big bolones. They reflect a little bit of my son.

Vincent didn’t keep too many things in his room. His childhood’s toys were marked by waves of obsessions. At one, he only cared about one movie, the soporific “The Incredible Journey “, water in all places and forms, and all sort of balls. At two he was obsessed with little cars. I used to buy a set of four of them in Toys R Us, and bribed him every time he went to the bathroom. Soon enough I realized I would have tons of little cars spread all over the house, so I decided to recycle them. Since he lived in his own world, he never noticed that I was using the same cars over and over again.

At three he discovered trucks and tractors in Montana. He looked with big eyes the huge trucks toys that his cousins Ben and Simon had, but actually his biggest obsession was jumping on a real truck with his uncle Curt. Whenever he couldn’t take him, he run to me crying in a desolation that I couldn’t appease until Curt was back, and the hope of getting on the truck flourished again.

Then came rocks, knives and swords, the Rubik cube, the card tricks, rotten bones of animals kept in his pockets, rock music, and the marbles. The fact that he didn’t give them away made me think that probably he cared for them. He never answered my whatsapps asking what to do with them. By heart, he is a hoarder, like all of us. Maybe he didn’t have the guts to tell me to pack something so mundane.To me the bolones are part of my son, valuable to the core, with a brain full of thoughts and a heart full of feelings. The marbles need to be kept in socks, otherwise they get disperse. You treasure them. You can’t play meaningless with them.


Do not disturb (Small)

Packing a home of ten years to move back overseas (yes, we are going over seas) is not an ordinary matter. When I learned how much a moving company charged to pack all our stuff, I cried. I just have broken my pinky toe and was particularly sensitive. I looked at the amount of things that overflowed our home, and the two dogs and two cats that were watching me unsettled. A considerable amount of advise from family and friends begun to arrive via whatsapp, emails and social media. “Be simple,” “be happy”, “don´t take anything”, “follow Marie Kondo´s advise”. “With the money of the container buy everything new when you come back.”

With Steve we tried to assess the situation. We were going to pack the stuff ourselves and try to reduce what we bring back to the “simple life.” And then, then is when a new Pia, willing to deal with the mountains accumulated over the years, diligent like a faithful soldier and empowered by all the Kondo´s style advise, touched the knob of the door to open Vincent´s room, and saw the “Do not Disturb Sign”. We were in some store in the US, and I have told firmly to the children that they can choose ONE item. Vincent picked out this stuffed lion cub. I was surprise by his choice, and even told Steve about it. Vincent was probably 10 or 11. He was a strong boy. At two he could pack 2 kilos of avocados while helping at the parcela my parents had near Santiago. At ten he could knocked down kids, if he wanted but he never did. He has to be very mad, to use his strength. And he wanted this stuffed animal. I can see his eyes shining when he showed me his item, caressing it with his chubby cheeks and smiling. “He is so cute”. The sign was always with the “Come in” side on. Only when Matilde got him on his nerves he turned it to the do not disturb side.

How can I throw that little creature away? How can I think that leaving him in a garbage can will make me happier? I didn´t want to buy new stuff. I didn´t want to leave my mattress on a dump. I put the little cub in the washer, and now is inside a cardboard box anxiously waiting to be put on a door knob with the “Come in” side again. I’m removing dust and memories. It makes me happy.

Come in (Small)


Raggedy Ann (Small)

This doll was rescued from a box left by Matilde filled with stuffed animals and moths. Raggedy Ann didn’t get eaten, thankfully. She was made with love by Gramma Minnie and will make it back to the West coast of the US. When I took her clothes off to wash them, in her body was an embroidered heart that says “I love you”.
In honor of all grandmas and children inspired by Johnny Gruelle‘ s character.


Chilean Doll (Small)

This is another survivor of my daughter´s indifference, even though it made it to the box where the moths where happy. This doll was also given by my brother Matías and sister-in-law, Alejandra (Probably more by the latter than my brother 😜).
She is a genuine Chilean doll, dressed as a school girl with the uniform I wore 10 years of my life. When I undressed her to wash her clothes, I was amazed by the details. She has a perfect white blouse, and a dark blue sleeveless dress called “jumper”. To keep the uniform clean we wore a blue and white checkered apron. And in winter, a blue cardigan.
In the late 1960s during the presidency of Eduardo Frei Montalva, the mandatory universal uniform was established for private & public schools in Chile. It meant to save money to families and lessen the distinction between the have and have-not. I know it was a great help to my mom’s budget. She bought us very long jumpers and aprons, that while we were growing they got shorter and shorter. During my senior year, my apron only covered me up to my bellybutton. 🤣 (I did it a little bit to annoy the school administration but also because I thought it was pointless my parents bought me a new apron during my senior year.)
Even though I didn’t like the uniform, I enjoyed the fact that I could get it messy and I didn’t have to think what to wear during the school days. The mandatory rule ended in 1995, but many schools still use the uniform with some variations. Probably now they are more expensive than regular clothes but during my childhood, “street clothes” as we called the regular clothes, were expensive.
I will use this doll in my new school, to tell stories to children about Chile ❤️ (until Matilde reclaims her).


—To be continued. I have a couple of stories left before the container goes—

#SOL Tuesday

Day 6. A new outfit for Reme #SOL19 #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individualMarch 6th:

Here I am. Two hours already in front of my computer and no slice yet. I have too many ideas but nothing. I still have to write my assignment for my Thursday writing workshop. We have to write a thriller, mystery or murder story which is very challenging for me. So far I have only the title : The Japanese Soprano.

Finally, I think I am going to settle on writing about something that I wanted to write about for a long time. After you read it, I will explain the events that inspired this slice.

A new outfit for Reme

That morning Reme woke up as usual. Very sleepy.  Her dad tickled her, so she would get up quicker. She had mix-feelings about this early routine. She didn´t know whether to burst out laughing or start crying like a baby. Eventually, after some roughhousing, she slid out of her bed. Her feet were surprised by the coldness of the floor.

— Don´t forget to go to the bathroom and pee, Reme!— yelled her mom from the kitchen while preparing breakfast. Actually, it was not an angry yelling. It was a loud but a gentle reminder, since Reme always got distracted and forgot to go to the bathroom first thing after getting up.

Reluctantly, she ate her breakfast and let her mom squeeze her with hugs and kisses that sometimes took her breath away.

— Be careful when you walk down the street. Remember to follow María´s grandma to the bus stop — Those were always the last words of advise her mom repeated every time before jumping in her car and going to work.

— Yes, mom, we will.

Reme was in second grade now, and her parents started to allow her and her little brother to stay alone until it was time to walk to the bus stop with María and her grandma. She was the one who requested it. Before, when dad and mom were getting ready to go to work, Reme and her brother Julio needed to go to one of the neighbors and wait with annoying Sandra until the bus arrived. They hated it. Sandra lived in a messy basement, and the only thing her mother did all the time was spoil that little brat. By the time the bus arrived it seemed that an eternity had passed, even when they were there only ten minutes.

—Mom, please? Can we stay at home? It´ll be only ten minutes. We promise, we will be good and won´t forget to lock the door.

Julio nodded with his big brown eyes and a grin on his face. Reme gave him a stern glanze. “Oops, maybe I should put on my responsible face” he thought.

Reme´s mom looked at her husband, then at Julio, and finally at Reme.

— Ok. Let me talk with grandma. I will give you a copy of the key of the house. You need to put it safely in your backpack, or maybe wear it around your neck. Don´t loose it. I will set an alarm that will tell you when to leave the house. I will ask grandma to come and get you if you don´t show up. I probably should get her phone number also.
Room 22 was quiet. Reme knew that when the teacher was talking she needed to listen but her friend Lola told her a joke and she started giggling. Ms. Ramos caught her, and used a much angrier voice than she would have liked.

— Reme! How many times do I have to tell you to keep your hands on your desk and be silent!

The scolding caught Reme by surprise. Her teacher was never mad at her. She was always sweet, and with a smile on her face. She let her class read any book they wanted every morning, and if they couldn´t find one in the classroom, they were allowed to go to the library and ask the librarian to let them pick one.

Her giggling stopped. Her face got paled, and her startled body shook. Then, with no warning, a warm trickle of pee started to flow down her seat. She tighten her legs and flushed.

— Is there something wrong,  Reme?

— Yes, Ms. Ramos. I peed my pants.

The class was not quiet anymore and Reme knew it was her fault.

— Oh, Reme, so sorry. Go to Ms. Pinto´s room and ask her for some dry underwear and pants.

Reme walked towards the door like if she was walking on a blanket of eggs, so afraid to wet the floor. Twenty pairs of eyes followed her tracks. Once outside she felt relieved. At least nobody was staring at her. She ran to the bathroom. Quickly she took her underwear and put them on the sink. She opened the faucet and rinse them with hot water. She started to feel much better. She sighed, straightened her dress, and walked sheepishly to Ms. Pinto´s room.

— Hi dear, may I help you?

Reme nodded and showed Ms. Pinto her wet panties.

— Oh, I see. You need a new set of undies, and probably another dress.

Ms. Pinto´s room was amazing. A little bit chaotic but still amazing. Tons of books, clothes, toys, and the most absurd things were all around. She also has a picture of two children on her desk. They looked exactly the same age as Julio and her. After she looked for a bag where she could put Reme´s underwear, she opened a box  filled with clothes: pink and floral briefs, big and small shirts and several leggings.

— Pick whatever you want— Ms. Pinto told her while tossing the contents on the floor. The two of them kneeled down. Ms. Pinto started playing dolls. Or at least, that´s the way Reme felt. Yes, she felt like a beautiful doll whose owner was going to get her to look astonishing.

—There you go! You look perfect. Now hurry up, before you miss recess.

Reme muttered a shy “thank you” and returned to room 22.

When her mom picked her up after school, she noticed the new outfit. While holding her in her arms, and pushing her nose with her finger, she looked into Reme´s eyes and said: Let me guess, … You forgot to pee this morning!


This slice of life story was inspired by events that happened when I worked as a resource assistant and parent liaison in an elementary school in Arlington, Virginia between 2002 and 2006. One day a girl showed up in my office asking for a dry set of underwear. She was really ashamed. She knew she was old enough to know how not to pee on her pants. I always wondered what happened to that girl before she ended up in my office. During that time, I was studying to get my master in library science, and occurred to me that I should write a children´s story about this event, that maybe could help little, but not so little kids to cope with a situation like that.

I have neglected for almost 15 years to write the story and today it showed up again in my memory. It was about time. While I was writing it, it occurred to me that I needed to give a background of who was that girl, where did she come from. At the beginning I was trying to imagine the real girl that came to my office. It was difficult to paint a picture of her that was genuine since I didn´t know her. All of the sudden the story started to take shape easily but in another direction. I remembered my own daughter when she was little. She could wake up at 6:30 in the morning and not go to the bathroom until 11 am. I always had to remind her to pee not because she wet her pants but because she held her pee too long. The rest is history…



My real office in Arlington, Virginia c. 2004