Through high school, my family’s Sunday morning was rather routine:
6:00-7:45: scramble to get six people ready (with one shower!), out the door and into the car. If my dad or Danny had to be early for choir or altar boy responsibilities they would leave earlier.
8:00-9:15: Spanish Mass at St. John Vianney, our home parish. Dad played bass with the choir. Mom was a Eucharistic minister, which means she handed out the host (consecrated bread) during Communion. Danny, Lori and I were all altar servers. Adrian just sat in the pew and pretended to be ill. He was always fine as soon as Mass ended.
9:15-9:30: help dad pack up his bass and music books, greet fellow parishioners, say hi to Grandma, Grandpa and tío Rick before they left (they always sat toward the back of the church while my mom preferred the first pew).
9:30: drive out to West Covina and wait in the Mariposa Inn (sometimes we’d go to another restaurant) parking lot or on the front patio until the doors opened at 10.
10:00-11:30: brunch at Mariposa Inn. Greet the owner, Raudel. Exchange pleasantries with our server — usually Nacho or my mom’s friend Mary. Then stuff ourselves silly on fresh fruit, Mexican breakfast dishes, giant burritos, fruit-filled pastries, chocolate-dipped strawberries. Wash it all down with Shirley Temples (kids) or coffee (adults).
11:30: say ‘bye to the grandparents, go home and take care of the ‘itis with a nice nap.
Sunday brunch hardly happened once Grandma got sick with complications from diabetes. After her recovery, we resumed the usual Sunday morning routine, but this time with the wheelchair in tow. The trips ceased after Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few months later in 1996. The restaurant held too many “tristes recuerdos.” Plus, Sunday brunch for a family of six was too pricey and we were going through some tough times.
Nowadays, our trips to Mariposa occur on special occasions. It’s the go-to restaurant for birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions. The last time I went was for Lori’s birthday in January. The guys turned into gluttons and feasted on giant burritos. My mom had machaca, dad had huevos rancheros, Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni shared a dish. I had chilaquiles.
Once again, Nacho was our waiter. Nacho was the kind of guy who could make you feel better with his infectious cheerfulness. During Sunday brunch, he usually tried to cheer up Lori who was grumpy for some reason or another. This time, he didn’t have to cheer up Lori because she was in a good mood for her birthday. Instead, he plopped a sombrero on her head, placed a piece of flan in front of her and called the rest of the waiters to sing “happy birthday, Panchita.”
Before we left, we made sure to greet the owner, Raudel, always gracious and friendly. My parents met Raudel way back in the ’80s when they first started visiting the restaurant. Our neighbor, Mary (Summer’s mom) was a waitress and bartender there. Raudel had worked his way up the chain and at the time was the assistant manager. By the early ’90s he was the owner. I suppose he and my parents had a connection. They were all Mexican immigrants, and moreover he was a Zacatecano who loved tamborazo like my mom.
Even though the staff got older, just like we did, they never stopped making us feel welcomed even if we stopped visiting for months or years at a time. Some things just don’t change.
Except, they do.
Last night, my dad informed me that Raudel Guerrero, 57, passed away early in the morning on Thursday June 26th. He gave a busboy a ride home and fell asleep at the wheel. His van slammed into the rear of an 18-wheel tractor-trailer in Chino (link).
Services were held Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in Rowland Heights. Unfortunately, my parents learned of Raudel’s passing after the services and did not attend.
Raudel Guerrero is survived by his wife Julieta and their four children.