A Lucky Girl
I don’t typically think of myself as a privileged. The word brings to mind a rarefied world that’s set apart, and I’m always bustling. But, even I knew that I was lucky to have known Graciela Perez-Grillo. A well-known Cuban singer then in her 80s, my sister and I were introduced to her through a mutual friend when we first arrived in New York. She became our family away from family, and you never knew what you’d find when you stopped by her Upper West Side apartment. If there was something on the stove, she set you to work and it was there I learned to wrap tamales, watch baseball, and yes love pudín de pan. Despite her age, her voice never faltered and she continued to perform and record into her nineties. Having spent her life surrounded by extraordinary musicians, Beny, Billie, Tito, Cachao, Sarah, Dizzy were just colleagues who’s music was always playing. She’d often have us to stop and listen, singing half to herself and half to us, explaining in a few bars what only someone with her talent could discern. While she appreciated our admiration, I’m pretty sure she found our awe amusing. They had spoken her language, but she was willing to translate. A rare privilege. Goodnight Gracie. Paz, luz y progreso.