Remember when...

 

We’ve lived in this house since May of 2013. We aren’t even close to being  completely organized. Our basement is a mess of boxes and garbage bags full of out of season clothing and stuffed animals Eliana has outgrown. If we’re missing anything from our last move (the fifth in four years), we wouldn’t know it.

Our old landlord called yesterday to let us know we had left a box behind and was kind enough to meet The Husband to hand it off yesterday. Inside, we found memories we didn’t realize were missing.

There’s one of me at 21. The  Boyfriend that eventually became The Husband had whisked me away for our first romantic weekend getaway to Mackinac Island. Truth? Yes, it was a weave and no, he didn’t know it yet. When the truth eventually came out, he was visibly relieved. Turns out the tracks connecting the weave to my scalp had left a lot of unanswered questions in those wild with abandon moments during which he ran his fingers through my hair.

I made a wish...

Monkey toes.

She was so tiny when she was born. Long little limbs. The longest fingers and toes I have ever seen on a newborn attached to the daintiest pudge-free baby feet ever to have existed. She was six pounds and 21 inches with a perfectly round head that made everyone who saw her assume she was a c-section (she wasn’t).

I remember looking at this picture when I first saw the proof. It took a minute to realize that my baby’s ankle was positioned just above my arm and her toes stretched far below.

“We’ve given birth to a monkey, I think.”

And the nickname stuck.

 

Upon a star...

My mother’s parents were killed in a car accident on their way back from a trip to Mexico when I was 10-months-old. My grandfather had been a native of Guadalajara (which, I guess, explains my hair), and my grandmother had been American-born but raised, for part of her childhood, in northern Mexico. My mother  was supposed to have gone on that trip with her parents but had decided at the last minute to stay home. I was just baby; too young to leave with family.

At 19, my mother buried her parents.

I lived in my paternal grandparents’ home in Detroit for the first three years of my life with my own mother and father. My mom likes to tell the stories like how my Guelo was feeding me beans and rice at six-months-old and how I called my Guela “Mom” and called my mother “Dorothy.” I remember going to Bingo with Guela and I remember translating an entire conversation between my grandmother and a postal worker dropping off a package while home alone with her one afternoon.

My grandmother died when I was six, leaving my sisters and me with one grandparent. He was  just over  five-feet-tall and was a big, round belly. In my entire memory, he is retired, always balding, with sharp, hazel-green eyes. His voice is gruff, his English choppy and so heavily accented it’s impossible to understand. He commands respect and once drove an old station wagon and had a dog he called Come Cuando Hay which literally means “Eats When There Is.” Every Sunday we ate dinner at Tia and Tio’s house and every Sunday, Guelo left with a bag of bones and meat scraps and leftover beans and arroz. That’s when Come Cuando Hay could eat because there was.

Guelo called us his cabronas. His little assholes. To me, that’s just proof that anything in Spanish can be made into a term of endearment if said with love and a smile.

Andale, mis hermosas cabronitas.

Come on over here, my beautiful little assholes.

And there it was.

Love and a smile.

 

This is my I'm 36 Now face.

 

I tried planning ahead this year. Working from home while homeschooling and trying to keep up with the laundry usually means everything is last minute and so many things get pushed off until tomorrow. Or the next day. And then the day after that. I had planned to met my deadlines a week early and enjoy this week with my little family and some close friends. The house was going to be clean and the Christmas menu set and the food prepared so all I had to worry about was what to do with the leftovers.

We never got to that part.

I got the flu. The kind that came out of nowhere and hit my like a frat party hangover. Suddenly the world was spinning and my head was too heavy for my neck to lift. I sat there breathing slow and shallow breaths like the kind usually reserved for labor pains. The column I had started working on was put on hold as The Husband silently took away the Macbook and I shuffled off to bed. Tomorrow, I told myself. One day wouldn’t change anything.

Three days later I was still sleeping more than I was conscious, burning up even when the thermometer didn’t register a temp. Every breath felt like fire in my lungs. My body ached. The Husband took to sleeping in Eliana’s room on her tiny little twin bed, hoping ti avoid the plague, while my little shadow crawled into our big queen and snuggled up next to me every evening. “I’m taking care of you,” she told me. “Don’t worry. I’ll hug you all night so you feel better.”

By focusing on me, she was letting herself forget the suitcase she had packed in her room. The one full of randomly selected clothing and toys and even her toothbrush and toothpaste for her “trip” to see her Guela in Detroit. My mom had moved with us to Tucson when Eliana was 18 months old and lived with us for three years. When she moved out, Eliana was lost, but the presence of a very close-knit friendship circle did wonders for soothing her anxieties. Then we moved again and this time, Eliana was old enough to miss those we left behind and want so very badly to wave a magic wand and instantly recreate something out of nothing in our new home. Northern Maine is beautiful. We love it. But it can also be a little lonely when it’s time to explain to a child that making friends takes time. Making friends that become family takes even longer.

So she packed her suitcase and pretended she was taking a magic airplane to see her grandma and would be back on Christmas morning in time to open gifts. I was the flight attendant. Her daddy was the cab driver. And then for the entire day before I got sick, I was my mother and our home became her home and I wished so very badly for Santa to fit a new friend-family under our tree. And then I couldn’t move without the world spinning and her make-believe was forgotten because Mama had the flu and Daddy was either working or trying to help out when he got home and she dealt with it by comforting herself by comforting me and I love her for it.

Day four was better. I was able to get out of bed. The world was still again. My body ached and I moved slowly, but I was out of the woods and still planned to get those fucking deadlines met and out of the way. We were going to make cookies, dammit. And drive around to see Christmas lights. And play board games and listen to Christmas music and drink hot chocolate. And then on my birthday, we were going to drive the two hours to Bangor for the sales and a movie and a birthday dinner. That was the plan. Then the plan changed again.

Both Eliana and The Husband got knocked senseless by the same flu I had just weathered. My laptop sat open and waiting as the laundry piled up and the sink over-filled with mugs from tea with honey and hot toddies and broth. I didn’t shower because I was too busy shoveling snow, carrying more logs inside to keep both woodstoves piping hot for heat, and making sure my husband and daughter stayed hydrated. I took their temperatures and grabbed my keys to drive to Walmart for Nyquil for The Husband and more albuterol for Eliana’s nebulizer and learned I wasn’t going anywhere until I shoveled away the snow the plow driver had piled four feet high against the garage door.

Christmas did happen, though. They opened their gifts from the sofa bed. Santa was nice this year, even if he didn’t get a chance to tackle that last request from me. Eliana was well enough to get out of bed and play with her new toys but the suitcase stayed packed because she’s not done imagining her grandmother closer.  And The Husband apologized for not being able to take me out for my birthday. I told him to shut up and just feel better.

Today was my birthday. I spent it taking care of my patients and picking up more prescriptions. We ate leftovers and the sink is still full and the laundry untouched. Then I made homemade pumpkin ice cream floats and they sang Happy Birthday to me before our ice-cream melted and we watched Mary Poppins and my laptop sat, waiting just a while longer, while plans were ditched in favor of The Moment that was right there for us to grab on to.

“I’m sorry about your birthday,” The Husband told me before he dragged himself back to bed.

“Don’t be,” I told him. “We’re together.”

 

Photo credit: Feld Entertainment

Disney on Ice shows have been such a huge part of my childhood that when I got to take Buttercup for the first time I actually teared up. There she was, sitting on my lap, clapping and giggling and in love with the magic. And I got sappy. Like I was passing on some kind of torch or something.

We’ve gone to every show that has come to Tucson since moving here when she was just 18 months. And every time, I promise myself I am going to take her to every show from here until her 18th birthday and that I will drag her kicking and screaming to that last one, if need be. Because dammit, it’s all about the magic, people.

And the magic is coming back, y’all. She doesn’t know it yet, but my sweet girl and I will be heading out on opening night, courtesy of Feld Entertainment, to see Disney on Ice presents Dare to Dream on October 11 at the TCC (The show runs from the 11th through the 14th). And thanks to some really good marketing, a phenomenal charity event that made me wish I had hair long enough to cut (I’ll tell you about THAT tomorrow), and the fact that I actually remembered to check my email, SOMEBODY gets to win a family pack of four tickets to see the show, too.

Yep.

*Nods head*

For Free.

Don’t worry if you don’t win because there’s a special discount code available for readers to get $4 off per ticket for the following shows.

  • Saturday 11:00 a.m.
  • Saturday 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The code is MOM12 to receive the discount and can be used at www.ticketmastser.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

I am supposed to legally tell you that all opinions are my own and the free tickets thing and more stuff about how I would never promote something I didn’t truly enjoy or believe in but I won’t bother. You’ve probably been here before. If you are new, this is the post where I don’t say bad words.

Now for the contest. I’m making this an easy one because I need to get back to that other job that doesn’t pay me. To enter:

* be 18 or older

* leave me a comment on this post by no later than midnight (Eastern Standard) on September 26.

* Done.

Just make sure you fill out the portion of the comment form with the email address. I’m the only one that can see it and I can’t contact you without it.

PS-come back tomorrow. You’ll kind of hate yourself if you don’t.

 

 

Carbonated Traditions and Wedding Favors

We are seated at table number 26. My sisters, our husbands, and my mother because she stopped belonging when my father died. Jarritos with Thank You for Sharing Our Day line the table at the entrance to the Grand Ballroom. Buttercup is fidgety after patiently waiting through the hour-long cocktail hour none of us were expecting. But then again, so are many of my adult family members. Formal cocktail hours aren’t exactly the norm at a typical wedding. I’m figuring it’s the Irish payback to the Mexicans for the four hours we all spent at the church without central air.

 

The bride was beautiful, but let's focus on the 90 degrees, the lack of central air, and the fan.

Mexican weddings are steeped in tradition with prayer and blessings and music sung by Mariachis, but they take forfuckingever.

 

It's okay, little man. We feel the same way

 

Dinner is served immediately following the toasts and before the bride and groom share their first dance. One sister raises her voice over the music to tell another sister that there is a woman here with an ass bigger than her own and my mother asks me if I saw the woman in too many colors, a too short dress, and so much hairspray that she has somehow managed to stand out in the crowd of Mexican women. I pretend to ignore both of them because Buttercup is sitting next to me. I can only hope the woman with the big ass is seated on the other side of the room. I focus my attention on the DJ who is announcing the father/daughter dance in English so heavily accented that no one can understand him until he repeats himself in Spanish. Buttercup only hears the words father and daughter and tugs on Daddy’s hand. He shushes her gently.

 

Today will be the reason she starts planning her own wedding and makes Daddy pretend to be the groom

 

It’s time for Tia because it’s her wedding, baby, he tells her. I’ll dance with you soon.

The banda music calls half the guests to the dance floor. The other half waits for the DJ to start playing music that doesn’t sound like the Spanish -equivalent of the same polka song stuck on repeat. Buttercup is one of the first people on the dance floor and twirls until her little body tires, only taking breaks when she needs to rehydrate with ice-cold water.

She’s beautiful, Pauline. Aye, que linda. Aren’t you going to have more?

Relatives and family acquaintances I haven’t seen since the last family wedding reach out to stroke Buttercup’s cheek as she ducks and tries to hide herself behind my body.

She’s not used to this, I explain. And we had help to have her, so…

Heads nod in understanding. I am only slightly annoyed that I had to justify the fact that The Husband and I don’t have at least three more of our own running around the reception hall.

Buttercup escapes to the dance floor once again. This time she takes me and three of my four sisters with her. We move with the crowd, sometimes inadvertently brushing elbows with strangers, other times bumping into relatives removed from the Christmas card list for reasons no one discusses because everyone is there for the bride and groom. Rehashing family drama is not on the agenda. I wonder briefly at the fun we are having in spite of the tension I had expected to feel while I move to the music with my daughter and laugh with my sisters. I smile to myself when I realize that I feel just as much as part of the family as I did growing up. Granted, that feeling of belonging may have been overshadowed by insecurity stemming from too much emphasis on the hyphenated part of my identity, but there’s comfort in the fact that not much else has changed.

Mama, I’m tired.

Buttercup weaves her way back to table number 26. She asks to go back to the hotel room and The Husband and I quickly grab our belongings, kiss the relatives we still call family, making our way out of the Grand Ballroom. I take a Jarrito from the table on the way out.

Daddy…

Daddy and his Flower Girl

Arms outstretched. He reaches down and lifts her into the air, settling her head on his shoulder.

She tells us she had fun and loved dancing and is so happy she got to dress like a princess for Padrino David’s wedding when we reach the quiet of our room. Then she places her index fingers and thumbs together, showing me the heart she has formed with her fingers.

This, she tells me, is their love. Take a picture of their love, Mama.

So I do.

Because love looks like this

Time for bed, baby.

I turn off the light and she snuggles against me in the bed. This is where she will always belong.

 

;

My mother wants to know why I cut my hair so damned short and what size dress I am wearing now.

An aunt clicked her tongue and shook her head as she lamented my daughter’s lack of Spanish-speaking skills.

My uncle’s sister — whom I have not seen since I was five — asked why I only had one child. Then she nodded approvingly at my sister and the four children running between her legs because working ovaries are obviously a sign of a good and proper Mexican woman.

Rapid fire Spanish from a relative who flew in for the wedding wondering how old said child is now as she hides her face from another pair of prying hands in the folds of my dress. Four of her five years and 2,500 miles between us and the Mexican Show Pony Craziness that comes with special occasions has turned my three-quarter-Mexican-child into a white girl who expects strangers to respect her personal space.

She looks so much like you.

You look so much like your mother.

Your sisters look so much like your father.

And I am instantly 13 again. Insecure. Out of place. Unsure of where I truly belong.

***

We flew in to Detroit from Tucson a few days ago for my cousin’s wedding. Buttercup is the flower girl. And we’ve spent the last 20 minutes outside of the church waiting for everyone else, including the bride, to show up late. No one from the church is looking for us yet. They are used to running on Mexican time.

Buttercup is playing in the courtyard with her four cousins. She is grateful they speak English, I think. Small talk keeps me and my sisters occupied because the divide between us is more complex than the miles we just crossed. Because we are in the same place, though, we will pretend to try. No one will be expecting weekly phone calls to stay in touch after we return home. And yet there are no hard feelings. It’s just understood.

Family begins to arrive. Hugs and kisses and You Look Great, Mijitas are exchanged. Sometimes because it is expected. Others because it is sincerely meant. We — The Husband, Buttercup, and myself — stand alone in the midst of the Spanglish craziness. I am acutely aware of the fact that I am thinking in English.

***

The rehearsal takes two hours. By the time we are ready to leave the church for the rehearsal dinner, Buttercup is crabby and asking to go home. We oblige, taking my mother and one sister with us, grateful to hide behind the excuse of a tired child. The bride and groom nod their understanding. More hugs and kisses are exchanged. And we are free.

Buttercup is full of smiles and laughter as soon as the car door closes and the engine starts. No longer overwhelmed by the noise and the outstretched hands, it’s apparent the child is more like me than I sometimes realize. In the middle of strangers who are bound by blood, she wants to hide and remain unnoticed. But with close friends who have become family, she is light and she is happiness.

It’s time to go to my mother-in-law’s house now. It’s where we are staying while we are in town. As we turn to leave, my mother hands me a small bear.

Don’t forget this, she says.

It’s my one-eyed bear from childhood. I smile and hug it close as my mother makes sure to remind me her dress size is smaller than my own. I’ve come home again.

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