My father and I had a unique tradition on Saturday nights. We spent this night together for years. First, during summers when he would drive from Arizona to the cooler climes of Southern California to where I had escaped my small town roots. Later, as he grew older and frailer, I would cross the desert back over to Arizona to spend weekends with him.
It was no secret that I was my father’s favorite. I am the oldest and his only daughter. I could do no wrong–even when I did do wrong.
We found the absurdities of life hysterically funny and became allies over common dislikes. Often my mother, who had left him some years before. When I was a young girl, I would go with him while he studied for his MBA at ASU’s Sun Devil Lounge at Mill and University–an iconic building now long gone.
I idolized him and I was the typical daddy’s girl.
Saturday had always been our special night. When he became housebound, I would either cook dinner or pick up carry out and we would sit in his family room eating off trays in front of the television waiting for our “tradition” to begin. I can still hear the pre-show warm-up theme song, “Extra Extra” in my mind because my father insisted on being in the know about Hollywood gossip. How hip he was. But at exactly 8:00 pm, we would flip the channel over to the local Spanish station.
It was time for…!S A B A D O G I G A N T E!
We would yell and hoot the name out in unison along with host Don Francisco and laugh like the circus had come to town, imitating the zeal of the announcers, dancers, and musicians. Saturday night had officially kicked off.
You may have skipped by this show, or even glanced at it for few minutes. I dare anyone not to catch the excitement of the exuberant announcer, the exotic Latinas with huge hair and their vivacious singing and dancing. It was a grand fiesta and these people knew how to fiesta. My father spoke eloquent Spanish and laughed as he followed the variety show chatter. I caught about every ten words. I speak Spanglish.
We didn’t always stay for the whole fiesta. But there was not a time, at any time, when we couldn’t look at each other and say–!Sábado Gigante!-–and make each other laugh so hard at this “you had to be there” moment of buoyant announcers, big hair, and folkloric mariachis.
Sadly, my father is now long gone. But when I scroll through satellite guides on Saturday nights and catch Sabado Gigante, I smile to myself and know my father is up there somewhere remembering our tradition. I close my eyes and can feel us shouting together in unison…
!S A B A D O G I G A N T E!