McALLEN — When asked how much he loves his grandmother, 5-year-old Seth Redding, with excitement, held up 10 fingers. He then reached out to give her a hug.
Seth counted the ways he loves his grandmother, Chugit Cabrerra, while cutting out stars to glue onto the picture frame he was making for her at the International Museum of Art & Science on Sunday for Grandparents Day.
“Because she cooks for me,” was his first reason.
Seth said his favorite dish his grandmother prepares for him is “red chicken with blue tea,” which she then explained was sweet and sour chicken with African butterfly pea flower tea.
Another reason: She plays outside with him. In Cabrerra’s backyard in Mission, they either spend time “talking about everything” in the treehouse she built for him when he was a year old, or tending to the garden she grows there.
Cabrerra describes her backyard as a jungle, with many flowers and vegetables growing, including tomatoes and dragon fruit. To relax after long days of playing, she said they enjoy bowls of starfruit from her garden.
Cabrerra, 54, grew up in Thailand and immigrated to Long Beach, California in 1980. After living there for three years, she moved down to Mission with her husband, who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. She is a retired mathematics teacher of Mission High School, and is now investing her time into raising Seth, her only grandchild so far.
“I am very happy with him. It is not like having your own kid,” Cabrerra said while fixing Seth’s hair. “It is a different kind of love that you have.”
Since Seth lives in McAllen, she said, they see each other just about once or twice a week. So, time with him is always special to her.
“It is a great blessing to have a grandkid,” she said. “I still do discipline him. I don’t spoil him, even though that’s what my daughter says.”
And, besides showing Seth how to cook and care for plants, Cabrerra said she makes sure that she teaches the importance of being humble and approaching setbacks with resilience.
“(So) that he admits if he does something wrong. And if he makes mistakes, that he shakes it off and tries to do better the next time — to always try,” she said.
The event took place in the museum’s Ann Moore Art Studio, where bowls of twigs and leaves were set at every table for children to use to decorate their frames. Grandparents Day is celebrated annually on the Sunday after Labor Day.
Selena Garza, an IMAS educator, remembered the time her grandfather traveled from Monterrey to Missouri, where her family was living at the time, to visit. She recalled how eager she was to see him as a 5-year-old.
“I remember that I skated a lot as a kid, and when he came out of the car I skated to him,” Garza, who is now 24, said.
She added that though her grandparents lived on the other side of the southern border her whole life, they still played an important role in who she and her siblings are today.
Garza said her grandmother, who lived in Monterrey, nicknamed her and her brothers “concha.” And when she died in 2012, her brothers got tattoos of conchas in her honor.
“It’s easy to get busy and forget to value family,” Garza said. “So today is a day to reconnect and come together to spend time with family members.”