Brooklyn private independent school


BC Celebrates Candle Lighting
BC Celebrates Candle Lighting

All three BC divisions celebrated a successful first semester and the start of Winter Break at the annual Candle Lighting ceremonies this morning!

Student representatives from each grade along with representatives from the Parent Association, faculty, staff, and alumni joined Head of School Dr. Lisa Waller to light the candles. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade choruses and Middle and Upper School choirs performed and Middle School World Languages Chair and Teacher Elizabeth Luscombe addressed the Middle and Upper School.

See more photos here:

Ms. Luscombe's Candle Lighting speech:

Thank you, Dr. Waller.

Good morning!

The candle lighting ceremony is one of my favorite traditions here at Berkeley Carroll and I'm so honored to have been asked to share a few words with you this morning.

For those of you who don't know me, I was born in El Paso, Texas. I am a proud Tejana, a native Texan of Mexican descent.

When I started working at Berkeley Carroll, 7 years ago, I think Scott Rubin and I were the only Texans on staff, but our numbers are steadily growing! I think we're up to five now - so y'all better watch out!!
I strongly identify with my Mexican heritage and Latinx roots. Sonia Sotomayor once said, "The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever", and when I think of holidays and traditions that I hold dear, I think of two strong latinas, my grandmother, Elena Gonzalez Gardea and my great-grandmother, Maria Reyes Gonzalez.

My great grandmother was from Jalisco, México - which is famous for being the birthplace of Mariachi music, which you know that I love so much.

In our family, my great-grandmother, was the absolute matriarch - she lived to be 98-years old. She and my grandmother lived together for many years, and their humble little home was the heart and soul of our family's traditions - especially those involving food.

When I was around 4 or 5 years old, I remember being in my grandmother's kitchen, standing on my tiptoes and looking into the kitchen sink and seeing that it was filled with water and corn husks that were soaking and floating in it.

In the background a radio was playing Tejano music with its familiar sounds of accordion and lively lyrics and soon women in the family began to arrive they crowded in around my grandmother's dining room table. Totally unbeknownst to me this was a tamalda, a tamale-making party!

I wasn't old enough to help, kids were usually sent outside to play or told to stay out of the way, and sadly when I was old enough to have participated, my grandmother no longer hosted the tamaladas; they took place at other relative's homes and by that time I was a teenager with all kinds of other interests.

Now, when I look back, I feel a deep appreciation for the gift of time that went into making those delicious tamales and what I'd give anything to be back in the midst of all that wonderful commotion around the dining room table where everyone's hands were busy filling the corn husks with masa and chile .

My grandmother and great-great grandmother were true role models for what it means to devote oneself to family and for keeping the home fires burning.

It was in the early 1900's, when my great grandmother and her husband, Gilberto, left Mexico and braved the difficult 1,000 mile journey north to the US. They emigrated so that my great-grandfather could work in the Arizona coal mines.

Along with their few meager possessions they brought with them a fierce determination to persevere no matter the struggle.

My grandmother and her three siblings, were born in Arizona. However, shortly after the last baby was born, my great-grandfather got sick with black lung disease, a consequence of having worked in the mines, he died, leaving my great-grandmother alone with four young children.

She had brothers who lived in El Paso, about 200 miles away, so she relocated herself and the children there.
Fast forward to the late 1930's, my grandmother by now an adult living in El Paso, meets the man of her dreams, my grandfather Armando Martinez Gardea. They marry and buy a home and my mother is born in 1940.

WW2 had already begun and my grandfather, who was proud to serve his country, gave his life on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy.

Now my grandmother and my mom, who was 4 years old at the time, were all alone, so my great-grandmother moved in with them. That's how they came to live together and why the small home they shared, became our family's headquarters.

My grandmother's kitchen was so small that two people could barely be in there at the same time. There was a tiny stove and next to it ON a little sliver of countertop, was a cow creamer. You know the kind where the tail is the handle and there's a little hole in the mouth? But it was never used as a creamer.

Instead it held strips of brown paper cut from a grocery bag.

My great grandmother would use one match to light a burner on the stove, and if she needed to use another, she would light one of the paper strips on fire and use that to ignite the other burners. Matches cost money and having lived through the Great Depression she and my grandmother were extremely frugal and super resourceful.

My grandmother was afraid of fire but that sure didn't stop her from almost setting fire to that tiny kitchen every time she cooked! I saw tortillas in flames and pans with hot sputtering oil and consequently I learned that sometimes it was best to keep a very healthy distance from the stove and maybe just stay out of the kitchen altogether.

One treat that involved lots of frying and dangerously hot oil were my great grandmother's buñuelos. Buñuelos are a thin, crispy pastry about the size of a tortilla - the dough is fried and while hot, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. They're eaten with a sweet, sticky syrup made from piloncillo, a Mexican brown sugar, drizzled on top.

The buñuelos would be carefully stacked and stored inside a brown grocery bag and the bag would sit on the dining room table during the holidays. That bag was a symbol of holiday deliciousness and when family stopped by - they looked for that bag and got excited when they saw it!

Tomorrow I'll be making buñuelos to take to a family gathering and I can't wait! I think my great-grandmother would be proud to know that this holiday tradition lives on in our family. The messages I was given about food and family were very clear. The best food is the one that is cooked from the heart.

Providing sustenance is an expression of love.

Share what you have and offer it with joy; nourish the people you love - because food is a way to live in their hearts and souls and memories forever. And above all, be devoted to your loved ones for they truly are what matters most.

My grandmother and great grandmother were very spiritually devoted.

On my great-grandmother's dresser, was a little altar to honor loved ones who were sick or in need or to hold close the memory of those who had passed away. On the altar there was a small cross, and family photos were tucked along the edge of the dresser's mirror, along with little prayer cards with pictures of saints and in front of it all there was a candle.

Every morning my grandmother and great grandmother would light the candle and take turns kneeling to pray quietly in front of the dresser. The candle would burn throughout the day and I was instructed from a very young age to never play with it or even think about blowing it out. That flame was the embodiment of their hopes, prayers, and devotion.

When you light a candle you suddenly have the power to ignite something beautiful sometimes you light a candle for someone who cannot, in their memory, or in their honor; sometimes you light a fire for warmth or survival, and always the flame will illuminate and shed light where it's needed.

As we light the candles here today and pass the flame from one shared candle to another I'll hold close the traditions that have been passed on to me traditions I too hope to pass on to others.

There's a comfort in knowing that each of us carry our own light inside. May yours shine brightly and fill you with all the joy we are so fortunate to be able to experience with each other and with our loved ones this holiday season.

Thank you.