My Grandpa used to say at Christmas, “Que se lo ponga, que se lo ponga!” This roughly translates to, “Put it on! Put it on!” He’d say this every time that one of us (be it family or otherwise) got clothes for whatever Christmas we had the fortune to have him over. I don’t know if this is a common thing to say in other hispanic households, but I think my grandpa did it the best. Regardless, as the years went by, I heard this chant more and more. There comes an age where your toy trucks and WWE wrestlers turn into new socks and winter coats.

He was always the brightest character in any room he walked into, and his Christmas chant is, in short, legendary.

When it wasn’t Christmas, he’d be working. See, my grandpa didn’t speak English very well. He could understand bits and pieces, but he never got the full grasp of the language. However, what he lacked in English speaking ability he made up for it in his work ethic.

See, my grandpa slaved in every job he ever had. It was never easy work, but work was work and it paid the bills.

Because of how hard and how often he worked, he’d always tell me to do well in school. That I should always try my absolute best in school because if not, I would end up working hard and long like he did. He told me that I have an opportunity to make it out of a cycle, to get me a good job with good pay, with status. “Echale ganas” was his phrase he said to me. It means to give something all your desire, all your heart, all your effort.

I remember this phrase often. In turn, I remember him often, telling me this over some of Grandma’s menudo or freshly baked empanadas or rolls. Telling me to work hard, to give it my all. I thank him for teaching me heart.

Sadly, he passed my freshman year of college. The following Christmas was a little more quite. When others open their gifts, I feel the urge to chant his famous chant. No one could do it as well as him.

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