Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Father, I must confess, I look like a tramp.

This heat is hot. It just is. Inside the house, it feels like you're draped in a steaming wet towel that's been partially stuffed down your throat as well. I say all this in my defense. I was wearing jeans and a tank top and wanted to rip the jeans to shreds. They aren't mine, so I didn't. Instead, I put on The Dress. It's purple and strapless, a tube dress that falls a good six inches above the knees. That's the way it fit when I bought it, back when we lived in Florida and I needed something to wear to the beach over my suit. It was never meant to be worn over an eight-month pregnant belly, I'm pretty sure of that. With my tummy like a melon (see photo above), it's short. Very short. But I was desperate and hot and certainly didn't expect to run into a priest.
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We sat there sweltering in our house, me laying on the couch like I was in a coma. The phone rang. Would we like to have some watermelon at my parents' house? Drink in some AC? I didn't bother to change; headed straight for the car. We arrived fifteen minutes later, threw open the door and there he was, taking my grandma's confession. The new Spaniard priest in town heard there was a Catholic Ecuadorian in the area and came to visit. It was too late to leave; he had heard us walk in. I stood behind him, not sure what to do. My mom's eyes were wide*. My poor sweet grandma, mostly blind, was waving me over. Being mostly deaf as well, she was yelling. Come meet my granddaughter! My granddaughter is here! Jennicita, why are you lurking in the corner? Come meet the priest! I stepped forward and stretched out my hand, smiling like an idiot.
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He asked if I was Catholic or if I was "like my mother" (his euphemism of choice for Going-To-Hell.) I assured him I was south-bound. He looked as me as if I had told him the pope lives in Rome.
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*I assumed that she was embarrassed, but she says she wasn't. Which means that what her expression really meant was Ha ha hahaha!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

He was posed just like this on those watermelons.

My senior year of high school, I got re-allergic to the cold. It happened the weekend I went to Eau Claire to visit my sister. Picked up some black boots at Saver's (which added to the frequency with which people called me Olive Oyl - although hers are brown, I must say we did share a resemblance) and a red and white polka dotted dress, knee length. I came home from that visit and noticed that my fingers were swelling up; my legs were covered in a rash. I thought maybe it was the clothes (and yet did not want to take off the boots.) A few days later I realized it was there to stay. The frozen food section left me covered in spots; a lick of ice cream swelled my tongue so much I slurred like a drunk. I sat in the high school library looking for colleges to attend and my fingers were so swollen I couldn't even type. I looked at the thermostat: 77 degrees. I knew I was in trouble. I closed the page of in-state schools and looked for a book instead. I grabbed a giant hardback off the shelf and flipped it open. There was a painting of a guy lying on top of a pile of watermelons in a truck. He laid there all contorted, long black braid resting on top of a cut-open melon. Cacti and dunes around the highway. This is it!, I thought. I will go to the desert.
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Then I heard that he was definitely headed north: this certain Matthew J Goodfella had decided on Eau Claire. He was in a ska band and had the reflexes of a jungle cat. A year earlier his sister had made him write to me and my sister made me write him back; soon I was rushing to my friend Lu's house after school to check my email (and eat mountains of ice cream - she didn't mind my slurred speech.) We would lean over the monitor together and giggle about the clever thing he had said and try to think of the proper aloof response. In the end I couldn't do it. I tossed the application and packed my bags to go north. Headed to college with a hibiscus, glitter eyeshadow, a euchre deck, a bucket seat from an S-10 Tahoe, and a coat that wasn't near warm enough.
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We got married a few years later; me in a poofy dress, he in a black suit. I remember being startled when it came time for the vows, having never paid particular attention to the words before. Standing at the altar is not the first time to listen. I looked at him with his little calla lily boutonniere. He took my hand.
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A few moments later, he had scooped me over his shoulder and was carrying me down the aisle, a ring on my finger; tulle everywhere, like a spill of white cotton candy. And now seven years have passed and my heart still leaps in my ribs when it's almost time for him to get off work. I look forward all day to nightfall, when we sit on the porch looking at the fireflies. I remember how they hovered above the grass at the reception, sparkling little twinkle lights on the outskirts of the tent. Now they drift above the cornfields, the summer heat almost palpable around them. The babies are asleep upstairs, two little blond heads with combed hair and brushed teeth, bare toes. One more on the way; my belly a round little watermelon. He reaches his hand to feel his son move.
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My heart quakes.
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So glad I didn't head south; so glad that my curiosity over that sideburned boy was greater than my dislike of red spots. So glad we're a pair, a set. So glad that wherever we head next, we get to go together. Happy anniversary, my love. I adore you; I'll gladly take your hand and go where you're headed.
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I think when I uploaded this photo I just wanted to say how Loli likes to lay on the cool cement floor in this heat. I had nothing much to say. (Well that's never quite true, is it? Saudi Arabian houses, chickens taking dust baths, mannequins, Stonehenge, short men in knife fights, salami sandwiches with mustard; something always makes a person think of something, right?) So the disconnect between the picture and the words remains and that's just fine I suppose. Things remind me of him. I like that.
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Tamayo's watermelon painting is better anyway.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I loved you from the start.

I woke up that morning and brushed my teeth, and the sight of the toothpaste foam made me gag. I froze and caught my reflection in the mirror - wide-eyed, looking back at myself. My next thoughts were of a peanut butter sandwich. I hate peanut butter sandwiches. 7 am and I wanted one. I rushed downstairs to where I had a pregnancy test hidden away from a year and a half ago. It was still there, in the Chinese vase. I unwrapped it, hands trembling. Waited two minutes. Saw the pink plus sign. I went to the yellow room, soon to be her room, and knelt down and prayed. The kind of kneel where you can't get low enough, where you start on your knees and end up with even your elbows on the floor. I cried and said thank you and worshiped him. Then the wait began, and then finally, at last, the day came when we met our baby girl. So small. She looked into my eyes and I held her. She knew she was mine; I knew I was hers. And now, today, it's been an entire year. A year of dressing her in little dresses and tights, combing her hair, making sure her bow stayed put. A year of wrinkle-nosed smiles and little hands that clap when they're happy. (Or sometimes angry - when she notices herself doing that, she shakes her head no no no and shoves her hands down in indignation, as if they've betrayed her.) A year of monkey hugs and sloppy kisses, burrowing little blond head that looks for just the right place to rest. I thought that if I loved another, my heart my burst. I thought there could be no more room left. But from that first moment I knew of her, I felt my heart expand and fill and expand again. A neon heart made of those light tubes used in gas station windows, glowing bright pink, barely fitting in my rib cage. Wings on it too.
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I raise a glass of whole milk to you today, babygirl. May God be gracious to you and bless you and make his face shine upon you.