EVERETT — Maria Paz Eleizegui Weir holds dear what she learned from her Filipina grandmother.
From roughly age 4 through 12, Maria Paz lived with her abuela in a Manila neighborhood near her parents’ house. Not all mothers and fathers in the Philippines hand off their children to be cared for by other family members, but it was somewhat common then.
From the day she moved into her grandparents’ home, Maria Paz began to absorb the centuries-old dichos, or proverbs, imparted by her grandmother. Spoken in Spanish, the sayings often rhyme, have a special cadence and are used in everyday conversation.
“That was my abuelita’s teaching style, her way of offering practical knowledge, strength and inspiration,” said Weir, who is retired now and lives in Everett with her husband, Larry.
Weir is the author of a new bilingual book published by the University of New Mexico Press (www.unmpress.com) titled “What My Grandmother Told Me: Practical Wisdom From Spanish Proverbs and Sayings.”
Later, as a teenager, Maria Paz went back to live with her parents and did not see her abuela as often, though when there was a call for a family dinner, the members “landed like leaves near the tree.”
A girl who always had her nose in books written in English, Maria Paz did not surprise her family when she applied for and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Washington.
Her grandmother encouraged her to go to Seattle, knowing the two would see each other seldom, if ever again.
“She knew it was important for me to be somewhere where I could be myself,” Weir said. “In the Philippines there is a lot of pressure to conform, so I left in my early 20s. It was my first time away from home.”
Weir earned a master’s degree in English and was hired right out of school to be an editor for the UW Publications department.
“At work I would quote from my abuela’s sayings. As time went on, my colleagues started telling me I should really put them into a book,” Weir said. “I believe there is a book in all of us, so when I retired I got to work on this memoir of sorts. As the saying goes, I did my best and left the rest to fate.”
Weir wanted hers to be a universal book of sage advice, comfort and encouragement that would appeal to all ages.
The book contains more than 100 dichos, printed in Spanish and English, and arranged in chapters that touch on childhood, friendship, manners (“Dirty linen is washed at home”), work, wisdom, love (“If you like the dog, accept the fleas”) and destiny (“It’s a long way between what you say and what you do”).
“Everybody goes through these stations in life,” Weir said.
The book is illustrated by the artist Mahala Urra
“A lot of the charm of the book I owe to her talents,” Weir said.
Earlier this year, the book received a Skipping Stones Honor Award, which recognizes outstanding multicultural books.
“But the best award is that ‘What My Grandmother Told Me’ is on the shelves at Everett Public Library and already in many homes,” Weir said.
In the book’s introduction, Weir notes that like favorite songs with melodies that linger on, the proverbs remind the reader that “wisdom transcends time and has no borders.”
It is, of course, dedicated to her grandmother, “who has departed, yet is always with me.”
“Sometimes you have to go back to your childhood to find out who you are and to hear that voice of the heart.”