Just Like That by Idalia Pagan

My mom has a strange grip on impermanence. In contrast, I hold onto life with white  knuckles trying to control time. Beatriz Gonzalez has a magic daily repetitious habit of  saying just like that. It is genuinely her brand. She can wipe away years and historical context  with this phrase. 

“Mija, don’t worry, things can change if you try- just like that” I did not see her constant  use of just like that as a habit as a child because everyone in my family had their recurring  phrase. My dad’s line was “the bottom line” in bringing the point home as his summary and  closing statement. My older brother can include the response “one hundred percent” to nail down  his agreements and disappointments. My abuela reins the house with Catholic blessings and  prayers, which I am sure is the birth of my mother’s poetic license with her well-known  catchphrase. My abuela and mom can outlast any conversation with quick retorts. Have I lost a  shoe? My mom would tell me if I learned to put things away, it could improve my life just like  that, and my abuela would echo with, “You know blessed Mary will help you if you pray more.”  There was always a workaround. 

Seven-year-old me thought this repeat button of my mother was funny until it wasn’t. For  amusement and curiosity, I pulled out my bright pink Rainbow Dash notebook and hash marked  each time she said just like that. My goal was to track and total my mother’s daily power of the  spoken magic of just like that. My notebook had a Sharpie black title of JLT on the front cover.  About a month into my newly found hobby, it all went wrong. 

My dad first caught my constant recording in my Little Pony JLT notebook. Amused, he  questioned me in a caring, involved dad voice.

 “I see you scribbling, eh hum, I mean writing in your notebook. School project or  the next great novel?”  

My mom’s super radar hearing kicked in, and she came to see what caught my dad’s  attention.  

“Oh, let me see…a school project? What does JLT mean?” She gently pries the  notebook from my seven-year-old death grip. “ Is it a diary? I see dates with lots  of tally lines and a total for each day.” 

 My head is trying to spark a jolt of an explanation when my abuela walks in. Seeing  her strikes a response that surprises me, “JLT means Jesus Lord Tracking…. uh, it’s a way to keep  track of how he helps those who pray!” My face lit up with a huge smile of relief at my  ingenuity. My brother, who watched this scenario unfold, was just about to challenge me when  my abuela beat his disbelief by praising Jesus on my beautiful witnessing of his blessed work.  She swooped me into her arms and hugged me in an approving brace. I could hear my mom say,  “Just like that, our daughter sees his way!” 

I was riding the wave of the good daughter when my dad countered with the idea that this  should expand to church. My mom and abuela raise their heads and spines straight up like prairie  dogs looking at my dad with searching eyes. My dad’s bottom line is I keep track of all our  church congregation’s prayers. My brother agreed because he knew I was entirely out of  character since the church was my “do I have to?” line. Every Sunday, I was the girl who wanted to  sleep in and then watch cartoons over family church time. My dad and brother had me, and  seven-year-old me just had to call their hand. “I think I should also keep track of when they are  answered,” not sure I thought this all the way through.The following Sunday and six long months after, I would report to the congregation the  numbers from my record keeping of prayers answered. My Rainbow Dash notebook is now a  cautionary memory. My mother never stopped her daily commentary, and I learned a valuable  lesson just like that.