DescriptionMeredith and Debbie talk about family and Debbie coming out in the family.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Debbie Esparza
- Meredith Lucio
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00:05 This is Meredith Lucio. I'm 37. It's March 12th 2007. I'm at the Grand Central Terminal and I'm interviewing my cousin Deb.
00:17 Thank you. This is Debbie Esparza. I'm 48. It's actually March 12th 2008 Hoops, but we are at Grand Central Station in New York, and I'm here with my cousin Meredith.
00:30 That's really funny. Cuz if it were 2007, I'd be 36.
00:36 Alright, so
00:38 I guess let's get started Deb and I are cousins of a very big family by my grandmother had nine children and Deb is part of the California family and I'm part of the Texas family, which is where my grandma and grandpa settled. So I guess my first question to you Deb is a California relative. What was it like coming to Texas Four Christmases and stuff. What were your impressions. You know, I thought that was just the way it always was there is a Sprint giant celebration cuz that for my entire life that was really the only vacation our family took we went to Texas every year and then there was a time when we got a little older that we only came every other year, but the fact that all the Texas continuance and gathered around, you know, when we came to town was a big holiday. I just thought there was a parade all the time.
01:38 For Christmas and it was really really special to have that homecoming, you know, when I never grew up in Grandma's house, but that was a homecoming for us every single year. So do you feel you feel like you're a Texan as well as the California and you have an affinity for your roots? I do I am when I'm when I'm talking to folks. I normally say, you know, my family is from Texas and so that I'm not but but my family is from Texas and you know, I can I can I have like a fake Texas accent that I use when I come back from Texas. I'm using the y'alls and there's a little bit of a draw when I'm coming back and you know, yes, like I faked it pretty good. Do you really isn't something you consciously do or is it just you fall into it once you get there, I just been around you guys and you know, I want to be like you and so I start trying to talk like you right right, you know, it's funny one of the things I noticed when I go back home having lived in New York for 7 years that
02:38 Most people here in New York don't think of me as having a Texas accent but then I go home and when I'm with family and friends I fall right into it and it's there's a good 24 to 36 hours of of transfer once I get back up here to the starting to talk without the accent I guess and it's not necessarily yet something I do on purpose is just something that naturally occurs. So and you are the you're older than I am. And so that makes it means a great deal in our family because you're the boss of me.
03:15 And even though I'm 37, I'm old enough to be your own boss and old enough to be My Own Boss itsfunneh. Infect your friend. Kathy know the really pretty lady who was on the Upper East Side Catherine. She even commented when you were here. Once that that you like took care of me when you were here to visit and and I'm an adult and so it was so unusual to her. But that's a dynamic of our family that the older the older take care of the younger have to look out for them for the recording call younger folks the part. I like about being older though. Is that in any situation pretty clean Grandma's house if there was a chair that I wanted I could make you move such a fun part of our family. You look at the littlest kid in the room when you can say you need to get up cuz I want to sit down and you guys did that was so funny.
04:15 It's weird because For the Longest Time my sister and I and my brother were the youngest so we were always get on the floor always at the kids table so we can wait for people to have babies and when just made that up there was never really a rule but just us older folks, you know, all these are all the charges cousins had somebody fake could make do something. So do you think that I just always assumed that that's just always wait why is because he was the boss and she was the oldest that we made that up.
04:47 Man, there's going to be a reckoning now.
04:51 I'm going to have to bring my own chair exactly other a lot of younger kids in the family now so I can get a seat if we keep it like that.
05:00 So I remember the first time that we ask that you and I actually had a conversation about.
05:12 You you being gay when was that? It was at Grandma's funeral and we were we were an aunt Helen's bedroom and Chris's call Ed Helms bedroom, even though she hasn't slept in it for 40 years. We were at Helen's bedroom and your girlfriend Terry was there and my sister were there was there and I was there and we were all sitting in the room ceiling private odds because we were in grandma's house and she wasn't there and it was full of people but she wasn't there and we were doing crazy things like eating Cheetos in the bedroom between F and Grandma were there it was like, yeah, we did it, but it just felt wrong and I think I remember just saying at some point so Deb.
06:02 Take a right and it was we also would have laughed because you have been with Terry for Terry for five years by that time. And so and Terry was a part of our family. So do you feel like it was easier for you to be more open about that once grandma died? What's interesting and and that Dynamic is that the whole thing not out was less about Grandma and more about my mother cuz Grandma knew who I was the whole time. She didn't know who you were, knew who I was and she knew cuz the other for the animal I was with Terry for nearly five years. I have been with Linda for seven years. I remember Linda and Linda came to Christmas two or three times as part of the family and you know, every time you talk to Grandma, it's you know, how are you how's everything you know, and she would always she knew that these people these people these these women were Partners in my life important parts of my life.
07:01 Do without house Linda house Terre in the how are the important parts of your life? And she was okay with that. She you know, she just wanted to ask about my my whole life, right? So she didn't I don't think Grandma ever had a judgment on it. She didn't I actually maybe five years before 5 or 7 years before she died. I got a little mini cassette recorder and taped the conversation with her and we talked about it in a very roundabout way if we didn't say right but she basically said that it didn't matter to her. It was it was an eye-opening experience this interview with Grandma. I found out some of the family the deep dark Family secret, but I won't out anybody else but I got surprised but even grandma is like I got the sense that her stance about about your relationship with your girlfriends or even
08:01 About things like it's been awhile since I've listened to it, but about abortion and an about you no sex and dating and whatnot that she was really really kind of liberal in a way and just you know, but had to reconcile that in the framework of of being a very strict Catholic. So but she I remember her saying that it just didn't you know, these these women in our people that you loved and they are part of the family for that and as long as they're good to you their family, so I didn't know that I always thought that you didn't talk about it because of Grandma
08:40 In a roundabout way it was it was Mom's respect for Grandma that kept me Quiet Riot cuz mom thought that grandma would be offended or hurt. Do you think that your mom? What kind of realize is that that
08:55 Wasn't true that grandma would have been able to handle it.
08:59 I don't think it matters because it was really about my mom's right and ability to handle it that at the time with all the other things. She had you know, like in her life, but it's okay that mom used to Grandma for that. Right? Cuz I know that I know that Mom loves my grandma loves me and my family loves me, right and so I could see past what they had to work through Friday to still be true to who I am. Do you think your mom still has issues? They're they're deeper now. They're they're they're not as out there. She welcomes me. I mean, I live in our home now. It's true and that she knows who I am and she's proud of who I am and and she loves me but you know, it's hard for her to see me, you know holding hands with somebody are being affectionate. So
09:55 And I mean I always get a little
10:00 I've never been fond of public displays of affection. Is this early as she like if it's my brother or somebody it just I just don't want to think that way but you so you think it'll be easier for your your mom if likes to say you woke up tomorrow and said Alright Mama to start dating guys know cuz she know that still wasn't me. It's easier for my mom when I'm not in a relationship, but she's not she's so she's really not asking me not to be who I am.
10:29 I do think there are other people in our family since you know, we still had you still have 7 7/8 and uncles that are living on that side of the family or do you think your other people in our family are uncomfortable with with you being gay? I haven't felt it and it could be just because I'm okay with the fact that I'm gay. If that is okay, but yeah, I can't think of anybody else.
10:57 And again for Mom, you know, I mean, we both know my mom too, and I love her dearly but it's about appearances in about what people think and and there's a part of you just have to make it look right right, which is so weird because my dad her brother is so so not bad not about that Eileen Annette Cena dead by that. You know, I think your dad is the first person I came out to in the family. Well before grandma died and he was out visiting in California and you know what's going on and you know, I finally couldn't stop talking I never did talk in the in the wrong pronoun, but and I would always talk about my partner you have that she that she that in the end they name them but one time just got so hard to like pretend that we weren't a unit a family unit 406 like, you know, like where
11:57 Together, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, how come you know, how come no one else does well, you know, your mother doesn't want my dad knew that it was it was about yeah. Yeah that my mom that had
12:16 Which I don't know what it would be like to have a daughter especially in that time, you know in the time of growing up where you have the last 60 years have been so.
12:26 Tumultuous for things like gar social living situation the acceptance of being gay the acceptance of race and women and stuff are the interesting ways that I weather I've
12:41 Pass it off as a server or excused it, but I keep thinking and Mom at my mom and dad moved from Texas, you know, they were like the first and only wants to move away from the extended family and they did that with the purpose of making a better life for themselves and their children.
12:58 And everything they've done everything I said was to make my life easier.
13:05 And I think deep in her heart. She just wants me to have an easier life and because of that tumultuous Society what you're talking about and all the things that can the hate that people put on to the people. My mom didn't want that for me. Right? So it's not that she didn't want me to be gay. She doesn't want me to have to deal with all that hate all that other stuff. So I have to find that ride my mom because totally makes sense about your mother. I mean, you know that scene in what terms of endearment where Shirley maclaine's in the in the hospital with my daughter the medicine at the medicine. I could totally see your mother doing that. That's who she is. So yeah, it's not about that, but she can't own it is that she wishes I wouldn't
13:55 Being alive that might be harder rides and
14:01 Have you experienced that kind of hardness as as a gay person that get I mean a business person you're a very very well-established business person. It's interesting how it presents itself to me.
14:18 I get fear I do get fearful in unknown places if I am with people I care about because that's when I puff up and head want to be there protector and see when you're the older. Yeah. Yeah, so I let you know pop up and want to be that protector and to be in a place that I'm unaware of and not knowing where that harm could come from.
14:43 Is as white leaves my most vulnerable.
14:46 Well, and I can only say growing up like you were.
14:52 You were the example of what a what a person in our family could do and that's been hard to KSI have a burden for a while. And I'm glad you've got to be successful because I don't need to do that now, right? Right, right. Well, you know what my dad sort of being the the unique person that he is sort of made it okay for us to just do whatever we wanted to and be a dacious. I mean if nothing else my dad is certainly instilled an olive his children a certain audacity and flouting of convention, but your father is also instilled in not only has children, but the rest of the family that centeredness of family he isn't your dad or your Uncle Henry supposed to be that you know that the Elder son, but your dad has brought I think the the voice of reason and and logic and centeredness to the family.
15:51 More often than not that interesting cuz he's sort of the clown of the family, but that's how we can do it. Yeah. Yeah. Do you remember my sister's wedding and we had this great great location, but was across the street from the church and the church was holding everybody's at cars rental cabins in the parking spot. It was in their parking spot. And so they didn't want to let they wanted to charge like a hundred bucks a car something and it wasn't the church. It was some guy and guy and I probably got permission from the church to make money off of it or something. I don't know I was out there for like 45 minutes or so trying to get this guy to see reason and then dad comes that it was like magic I'm convinced there is a certain magic in our family that genetic in our family and so he came out and just talked to the guy and said luck, you know, this is my daughter's wedding and I need to let these people go and
16:51 Within the guy said all right, so they all laughed and I know Aunt Jenny has the same thing because when Tina when Tina used to live in England, she had to leave England cuz she has overstayed her welcome and they were not going to let her go back in the country and get her stuff but she had an apartment. She had things in the story I heard was that in Jenny went up there with with her the courses as well before September 11th, but when I went there and convince Customs to let them in the in the country for the weekend based on her word that they were going to leave on Monday now. Yeah, the passion of a Lucia runs deep but you know when we're focused on something we can make it happen. No doubt. There's that magic.
17:49 One of the other questions I wanted to ask you was about Tia even Tia is nice is Mexican Spanish for aunt and in our family, even though we had probably four or five different aunts. There was only one Tia which one is the Cilia and she was the ti because she's the oldest and she died in 79. So I think I was 8 years old and because she live in California as well. I didn't really I didn't know much of her I knew of her I didn't know her but she was a legendary ocean fabric of our family, but you were much closer to her.
18:32 So I wanted to ask you about Tia at what are your memories of her a couple couple things will start kind of from her her Memorial services and and those kinds of things cuz you guys don't know this but I was mad at all of you. I was so mad because you guys didn't know her and you know, I lost a really important loved one and I know you all loved her but it was like one of the it was the first real loss I ever had to experience.
19:04 And I did not get how come you guys weren't more mournful. Like I'm going like how come you're not crying or how come they're not you know, so sad then you know why I did some him did not wish reflection then but actually wrote some essays about it and you guys didn't get her in your life everyday know we didn't know her you didn't come back to to not have her there and she was only there at Christmas time. That's where I am and that so I didn't catch up to everyone else until next Christmas when we really felt a lot but you know, I got to go back and you know, she wasn't there on Sunday dinner and she wasn't, you know, giving me a call house school and what's going on in and end that fits so I might have been like they just don't get the last week just sad. Yeah, I remember Celia
19:57 But we all called her Tia Tia and interesting enough. My niece who is now 3 knows me is Tia and because I'm the oldest girl in my dad's at my dad's children and that was really important to me. Mine is calls my Tia. Yeah. Yeah, and I wonder like now that my brother is getting married when he has kids. Will they call my sister Tia? Cuz she's going to send me she should be at 10 a.m. EST. Yeah, you can have a bull rider. That will be the new rank. I'm sorry. Can you
20:34 Flanagan food food at once have I taken in our family we are on this is the my my dad's my dad's family herbs for my loss of family and I grabbed their oldest sister their oldest sister was named Cecilia in Spanish. The word for aunt is Tia. So OS cousins growing up in the family. We all knew my aunt Cecilia is Tia that was like her first name to us and even her sisters and brothers would call her Tia around us around us. Yeah, but like for instance Debbie's mom, I always called her aunt Bertha. I never called her Tia because Tia was always an Cecilia which I don't think is true. Another family's is just something we did. Yeah, I think it was funny to that. I didn't realize that you guys didn't know that wasn't her first name.
21:34 Yeah, I thought that's who she was. That's how I grew up. It was a long time before. I knew it. Her real name was actually Cecilia but do you know that he knows how the story goes to that, you know Mom moved out to California to because she was married to dad and then I came along and The Story Goes that grandma made to move out to California to be with Mom because now they had their little baby. Yeah, they make sure she was okay. So he really was a big part of my growing up, you know, and yeah, I remember being in the limo at her on the way to the grave site and I think I was in the car with you actually and it was so
22:18 It was it was a shock. It was that your ride there was a real difference of experience just in that car and I remember how shocking it was because I noticed you were so beside yourself with grief and I was kind of a little shell-shocked by at all, because she was my first experience with death to and fortunately I really never had to experience that for like 20 no 15 years later 10 years later. So we've been really blessed for a big family and just thinking about
22:53 She was kind of a stranger to us even though she was a legend in our family. So what I remember is the legend rather than the person she is the go-to girl in her family that she basically was the answer if there was ever a problem with any of her brothers and sisters with any of the kids that you know, Tia could fix it. Tia can handle it. She exuded love and acceptance. She really dead because she would get you through whatever distraction there. Was there any family klible just buy
23:34 Keeping the family together as much of Cornerstone of our family is Grandma was absolutely sure that for a long time they did and by this time my grandfather had died my grandfather died before I was born so I only know I don't get I don't really know much about him because Dad doesn't talk about him that much I get the impression that he was a hard man to live with sometimes. He was loved the stories I hear is he was pretty strong with your dad but on the flip side, do you know my mom was his favorite so he was not scared with my mother but he was very Stern with your father. That's really funny. Yeah. I'm sure my father needed a Stern hand the stories. He tells me about his childhood that my dad did some really
24:22 My parents did some accidentally brilliant things in raising us from from the time. I was a little girl. I can remember my dad whenever we would talk or joke about alcohol friends day. There was alcohol and you know, our family drinks a little bit my mom's side of the family weird drinkers were four wheel of wine and no the good stuff the goods the good life, which is know sometimes includes drinking and but every time we talked about it as a child or a joke about it, my dad would always say you never drink to get drunk you only drink because you enjoy the taste and he would say that so often and he would tell us stories about him being a teenager and going to parties and he and his best friend Uncle Bill is now, you know and Uncle by
25:15 By a decree. If not by Blood, right? He would tell stories about going to parties with Uncle Bill and he would have a beer and he would nurse the beer and then sometimes he would go to a plan and don't because he didn't want to get too drunk. And so he wanted to he needed to look like he was drinking when he didn't want to drink so that he was out of control. And of course I was young enough that I really believed all that for years. I thought my dad never never drank that much and of course now, I know he he probably embellished a little bit but consequently, you know, none of my none of my sister my sister and brother and I were not would not
25:59 Out of control drinker, so he really did, you know by hooker by crook this this really great thing and it helped us. Yeah, we know how to manage the founders the boundaries of alcohol and we would never into drugs or anything. So, I don't know maybe she did it on purpose but you did. Yeah, everything else tries about your dad and Uncle Bill. Did you ever hear the story about he cuz you know grandpa had been dead for a long long time and not so Grandma was really raising raising the kids and she was still I guess she was still able to be a housewife because of the railroaders pension and but Dad was getting bigger and older and I remember dad did tell the story about he did something that Grandma was really mad at so Grandma was trying to spank him with a bell and my dad was too slow.
26:59 And taking about no actually Grandpa Grandpa must have been alive at this point. Grandpa was alive at this point because he'd but he'd got bigger and it's a grandma was taking it away and dad said to finally grandma said you either let me spank you or when your dad gets home. He's going to spank, you know, my grandmother attended. There's some great stories.
27:32 I like the wind when your dad and uncle Richard tell the story about your dad polishing Uncle Richards car that Uncle Richard who is grandma always thought never did anything wrong either OK comes back from the Navy or something has a cooler full of beer or something like that along those lines and your dad wanted it. And so Uncle Richard said, okay polish my car and I'll give you the cooler full of beer. So uncle benny your dad polishing the car gets it all nice and shiny is ready to get to finish his his his work and get his reward this cooler full of beer and Uncle Richard or either Uncle Richard told Grandma or Grandma came out and it fell on the beer and and saw the beer and Uncle Richard said, it's not mine. It's been earned it by it was it was my dad's for about 5 or 5 seconds, and he didn't even get one of these and so then grandma
28:32 Uncle Richard the whole time
28:36 Yeah, that's my dad. Yeah.
28:41 BDubs always been a good sport about it, you know, he's with you know, he has taken the brunt of some of the family's kind of issues or challenges, but you know who he is been that I really solid, you know steady person throughout a lot of it and I don't think folks always give him that that credit but cuz it's easier to the secret. It's kind of a center of power I think so. Yeah, he be good for this cuz he's got something I want to know that you know back to the family and you know, you can get us back on another topic but you know, you really did the major stepping out, you know, traveling the world, you know, we were talking about Tia a minute ago. And you know, I look at that your life and who you've grown up to be in human body a lot of her spirit because you'll just you know you if you moved away from the family if you taking a lot of trips and traveling and have followed your your spirit.
29:41 Your talents, you know, what what what lets you do all that cuz everyone else to live in Texas, you know, I'm not really sure it was always in me. I think it was part of my my makeup and honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with with I think I'm so much like my dad and so many ways even though he made different choices to you know, your wife in Texas he has a job, but he works for the railroad and he talk sometimes about think you know, how nice it would be to just get a job on the Railroad and just travel from place to place. And so even though my dad never never really wandered so much. I think he has a real wandering Spirit which is is what I inherited from him more than anything and I've always well and also Tia was a known traveler each other now, we saw all the song
30:41 Checkers on grandma's and grandpa's living room from all the different places that you know, those are in my living room now all the Daniels taken to my brother's taking two to get in collecting salt pepper shakers to so and it's hard because I still you know, when grandma died, I feel like it was kind of a mess you were kind of dere but because Dad was working. I got a seat at the big table as him when they would, you know, divvy up the goods and stuff and it was was an eye-opening experience because I saw a really harsh side of the family Dynamic and it's not it's not something that my dad ever really embodied and there were hard decisions to make about who gets the Rings who gets you know, and because my Grandma had so many kids that just loved her and needed to take some piece of her.
31:41 It and holding on to her it was it was it was a really harsh reality about what it is when somebody dies in a big family, but on the other hand, I swear I kind of came to the conclusion that I inherited something very specific from Grandma and that is maybe it's also something that Tia had and that is the responsibility to
32:08 Connect the family to keep a connection to all the family and I never really felt it before grandma died. But afterwards I certainly it was something that it just sort of felt like a need that I didn't have before and I think that when grandma died, we also inherited not necessarily the goods but some aspect of her personality. My my dad is a gray green thumb because I have one too. So I think that that's what you inherited and what I happen to inherit and maybe it wasn't so much has a talent or or or or or something, you know that I was predisposed to but it was more of a mission that I inherited from her when she died the mission to make sure that the family was connected in one way and it's really hard now.
33:08 Because she was the Cornerstone, you know, if nothing else now that we have a cousin and in North Carolina, we have California, even the even the the cuz since you're younger than I am or had to having babies and families and and because Grandma's not there we're sort of scattered a little bit. So and that's kind of sad to me that the younger in our family may not be as connected to the larger whole of our family. I worry about that too. And I think it affects them, you know, like we have cousins that are addressed and aren't you know, we grew up with this this some
33:51 The importance of Education in our family and Grandma had a third grade education Grandpa did not you know, he he ran away from Mexico when he was 12 years old because his dad wouldn't let him go to school and would take his checks when he wanted him to work and we go and pick up his paychecks at the pool hall where he worked so he ran away for a better life and for him that didn't include education but for but it was so important to both of our grandparents. And so all of her kids had a high school education her kids kids, you know how high school college or Advanced degrees in but unfortunately the
34:37 It seems like the younger in our family don't because Grandma's not here to tell you. No make everybody step up, right it gets lost a little bit worried about that. I think you know you and I and the rest of the rest of us and you know, that that little big table that they used to always be in Grandma's house. Now, we've got to figure out how to connect because the other part is that our aunts and uncles are getting older too that you are and you know, I can see the age and then but I can see the youth and our cousin's kids and how do we connect that? Because this is a really important time to bring all of that when grandma's not here it is. I mean, we really I definitely I feel like we grew up in the Golden Age of our family and you know, I was so lucky cuz even on my mom's side of the family that we just had these big bold beautiful families that were as far as I can see only positive influence.
35:37 You know and
35:40 And because you know the foundation is gone, we're all over the draft. She was she was truly the matriarchs in the foundation and
35:51 She was she was key tattoo who we've all become. I think you're right, you know so much of what you've said it we can we can do something to I think we have to I think I don't know what it is, but but I know I know I do keep in contact with the family units in the time and making it important to get them all together and and not let the little ones Dionne Quints, you know, go so far draft. They're really important, but probably why I can't come to the other side of the country and not and at least hang out with you for a little while, you know, cuz I know right well, I think that we deserve good stopping place and thank you for doing this. Thank you. Thank you. I hope you had a good time I did and I love you. I love you too. Cousin.