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A Lesson In Love, and Rainbow Flip-Flops🌈



Love may mean nothing in tennis, but the lesson of love I learned from my late grandmother means everything to me.


My father was a Phoenix police lieutenant and was very protective of me and my sister growing up. We never had a babysitter that wasn't a relative, and if we did have sleepovers, they were with my grandparents in the small farm town of Tolleson, Arizona, just west of Phoenix. My grandparents lived in the same house on Taylor Street for as long as I can remember. They were civil rights activists, and were loved in the predominantly Hispanic community. A few blocks from their house was the most beautiful Catholic church, Blessed Sacrament. This church was such a big part of my life growing up. I went to weddings, baptisms, my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, and funerals. This church is where I said goodbye to my late father in 2009.


I was going to visit my mom one day, who lives near Tolleson. I was feeling very reflective and wanted to take some photographs of the church. When I arrived at the church, the door was locked. I was going to take some photos of the outside and call it a day, but I saw a landscaper walking by, and asked if I would be able to go inside. He pointed me to the church office. The woman inside was kind enough to let me go inside. I'm so glad I didn't just drive away. As I walked around inside the empty church, I was filled with so many memories. The most predominant memory of sitting next to my grandmother on the dark glossy church pews. If she was mourning, she would wear a black lace Mantilla veil over her head. She always had tissues in her black patent leather clutch, as well as peppermints she'd quietly give me during mass. I remember how her fragile hands gently held her rosary as she followed along and prayed. She was so proud of my sister and me, and she would introduce us to her fellow church-lady friends after mass. She was very poplular.



One summer day, I must've been around 8 years old, I don't remember exactly what the occasion was, but my mom dropped me off at my grandparents house, by myself, to spend the night. I was in track shorts and a t-shirt with my favorite rainbow flip-flops. I was excited to have the house to myself. I could play, have snacks, and run around outside with her dog Daisy. It was a Saturday, my grandmother liked to attend Saturday mass at 5pm. She called me inside to get ready for church. She cleaned me up, and combed my hair to her liking. She had a wooden armoire, just like the one in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where she kept an assortment of church dresses for us girls. She gave me one to put on. I realized my mom didn't pack my white mary jane church shoes and white fold over socks. I had this lovely white summer dress and no church shoes. When my grandmother came into my room to get me, I sat on the bed in my dress and bare feet. She said, "Are you ready, it's time to go." I replied, "I can't go, I don't have church shoes, I only have flip-flops." She looked at my rainbow flip-flops, then back at me. "Oh," she sighed quietly, realizing she didn't have church shoes for me either. She wasn't upset with me, she was never upset with me. She was always gentle, happy, and loving. She smiled, and said,

"God doesn't care what you're wearing, he just cares that you're there."

She helped me slip my rainbow flippies on, and we walked to church. I remember that walk to church with her. She'd smile down at me, lovingly and proud.



My grandmothers name is Aurelia, which fittingly means Golden. She taught me many things, but this golden rule is one that resonates with me today. It inspires me to seek, and give love and acceptance unconditionally, the way pure love should be.


It doesn't matter if you double-fault to lose a super tight match, if you miss an easy overhead, if you're not perfect. You are loved.


My grandparents Porfirio and Aurelia Gonzales

Love Always,

Val


Rainbow Flip-Flops Tory Burch

Dress ZARA no longer available, find similar here

Earrings Kate Spade

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