I often speak of my pepa™ but have never shared its origin. So sit tight, my little Pepitas, as I share the tale of the first time I heard this glorious word uttered.
I remember it like it were yesterday. My maternal abuela was visiting New York City from the Dominican Republic, where she, my mother, and father were born and raised. Abuela sat on Tia Argentina’s couch, watching a telenovela that she had already seen. The Dominican Republic usually gets novelas first, she would say. And yet abuela never spoiled the plot. She sat tight, nodding, as Tia and Mami ooed and aahed. Abuela was that kind of woman.
Once the hour-long episode was over, dinner was devoured (my Tia made a savory bistec guisado) and we, minus Tia, decided to go home. We walked out of the apartment – Tia locking all three locks, including the Poli Lock – from the inside, and walked toward the back door. I don’t know why we exited through the back, but I do remember feeling terrified as Mami opened the door and slowly stepped onto the rickety, metal stairs. They appeared to be fire escape stairs, rusty and crumbled from years of being stomped on. I held onto the railing, wet from the days rain. Abuela followed behind me, stepping down the stairs one by one, like a toddler that has just learned to walk. I asked if she was okay. She smiled, “No te preocupes, mi hija.”
Feeling much more confident, I dashed down the stairs. Mami shouted, telling me to careful, but I ignored her and her worries, knowing that abuela would protect me if Mami reprimanded too hard. I always felt extra bold when abuela visited. She never allowed anything to happen to me. Not even when I deserved a beating. So off I went, flying down the stairs as if I had wings. Suddenly, I heard a loud thud followed by, “La pepaaaaaa!” Abuela screamed while holding onto the railing. She almost missed a step. Mami chuckled, said something about abuelas pepa™. Abuela also laughed, and I wondered where the humor was in my grandmother almost plummeting to her death. Then I realized they were laughing at that word. Pepa™. I had to know it’s meaning, why it was so hilarious, even during a time of peril.
“Abuela, que quiere decir pepa™?” I asked curiously. Abuela stepped off the last step before turning to me, cheeks flushed from giggling. “Ay Dios mio,” she expressed, face as red as a radish, though her complexion was always dark. Trigueña como una India. Abuela glanced over at Mami, who nodded. Abuela took her cue and told me that pepa™ means vagina. It was now my turn to giggle, to become red in the face. In that moment, I felt aware, womanly even, though I must have been 9 or 10 years old. I felt that much closer to Abuela, no longer picturing her as a pure, nurturing figure, but also as a woman who talks about sex…and vaginas.
And that, Pepitas, is how all my pepa™ talk came to be. I hope you enjoyed this little tale inspired by vagina.