Li’l ‘no-boy

01a81974bb45c8ea5aaf8732963ae160c7e5dfa549Photo credits: Mira Kempoainen, Unsplash

There was a bright light coming in through Alicia’s drawn bedroom curtains. She sat up on her bed and looked over at Chuckie. With her face turned toward the brightness her feet found her rabbit-slippers. She picked up the stuffed rabbit and together they drew close to her window to investigate. Then she saw it — Snow!

Dragging Chuckie by the ears Alicia ran down the hall passing her parents bedroom. She got under the long curtains of the porch door and looked out. She saw lots and lots of snow. It blinded her. The snow stretched, thick and white, across her yard and covered every house and tree like a thick layer of white cupcake-frosting.

Still holding Chuckie, Alicia crawled out from under the curtains and dashed to her bedroom once again.

Minutes later she stood by the locked front door. There was a trail of clothes from her bedroom to the door.

“Good morning Alicia,” her mom chimed from the kitchen, “and where are you and Chuckie off to this fine morning?”

“Mommy, mommy there’s tons of snow outside. Chuckie and I need to go outside to play.” Her mother looked at her and smiled.

“I know,” Mom said, “but you’ll need more than snow boots and jammies if you want to go outside,” mommy kneeled next to Alicia. “And you’ll need breakfast to warm up your insides too. It’s cold out there.” Alicia looked down at her favorite Beatrix Potter pajamas and leaned into her mommy.

“But I’m warm already,” she demurred. “Chuckie and I just wanna go outside to play.”

“Aunt Rebecca is bringing Brianna over to play in an hour. The two of you can go out in the snow then, but first, we have to get you ready.”

#

When her aunt and cousin Brianna arrived Alicia was dressed in her blue and green snowsuit, boots, scarf, knit cap, and mittens. She ran out to meet them.

“Look at my snow,” Alicia boasted, “it’s the prettiest snow I’ve ever had.” Brianna, who was already in second grade looked at her and rolled her eyes.

“Nah ah,” said Brianna, “it’s not your snow. It’s everybody’s snow.” She held three-and-a-half-year-old Alicia’s hand and led her slowly through a heap of snow to the nearest tree in the yard. Alicia’s feet moved slowly as they threaded down the path to the tree. With every step she took Alicia looked back at her footsteps. When they arrived at the tree Brianna kicked the trunk gently with her boot and a light shower of sparkling flakes rained down on them.

The girls took turns kicking the tree,  giggling when snow sprinkled down on their faces. The girls’ mothers stood by the front door watching them and talking with each other.

Brianna and Alicia circled the tree and continued kicking it from all angles until all the snow around the trunk was flattened.

Slowly, Brianna picked up a handful of fresh snow and rolled it up into a ball. She flung the snowball at Alicia who paid her no mind as she continued kicking the tree, content with the sprinkles that landed on her face.

It would be more fun if I had someone to — Brianna was thinking to herself when — Plop! A snowball landed at her feet. She looked over at Alicia but her cousin was leaning against the tree trunk; her mittens were off and she was sucking her thumb.

Plop! Another snowball landed at her feet. Brianna spun around. Plop! Yet another snowball. This time it hit her in the arm.

“Hey!” Brianna shouted. Alicia pulled her thumb out of her mouth and ran up to her.

“Wanna go back inside?” Alicia asked. Just then Brianna saw a figure in a purple snowsuit like hers peek out from behind another tree. The figure waved shyly.

Brushing the snow from her sleeve Brianna stomped her right foot in the direction of the other tree. “That’s not nice,” she said, “you can’t go around throwing snowballs at people.” Not understanding, Alicia looked at her cousin with big eyes.”

“Wanna go inside?” Alicia asked again. A snowball whizzed past Alicia’s head.

“Hey,” Brianna shouted again. This time their mothers came closer to see what was happening.

“Oh, that’s Luna, the new neighbor,” said Alicia’s mother, “Luna is seven, she can’t hear.”

No wonder she didn’t stop, thought Brianna, but she sure can throw a snowball.

“Go over there and say hello,” suggested Brianna’s mother. Alicia ran ahead in her hurried little steps. Brianna walked slowly. Luna picked up another snowball – she had quite a collection of snowballs at her feet – poised her arm back, ready to throw it.

“Stop!” Brianna called. Alicia stopped running and looked back at her cousin. “Stop,” she said again, but his time Brianna used her hands. She smacked the inside of one hand down quickly on the inside of the other hand.

Luna stopped mid-throw. “It worked,” said Brianna as she caught up with little Alicia. The cousins clasped hands. Luna lowered her arm and came out from behind the tree with eyes peeled wide.

“No ‘no-ball?” she asked in her frail voice. “No figh’s?” Luna’s fingers danced as she talked.

“No.” Brianna pressed her thumb and two fingers together.

Luna’s eyebrows disappeared under her cap in surprise. She shrugged.

“Wanna play in my snow?” said Alicia. She walked up to Luna and stooped down to touch the snowballs by Luna’s feet.

“Wait,” said Brianna, “I have an idea.” She searched with her squinting eyes and found a stick. She picked it up and with it she drew three circles, one on top of the other in the snow. She looked up at Luna. Luna smiled.

“ ‘No-man,” Luna said fluttering her gloved-fingertips like falling snowflakes. All three girls clapped and laughed. Luna and Brianna set to rolling snowballs; Alicia took to transporting all the snowballs over to her tree.

The new friends rolled and laughed until their snowballs almost reached their waist. With much giggling the girls managed to get one snowball on top of the other.

Alicia copied them and placed one snowball on top of the other too. She made a row of snowmen. She delighted in kicking the tree and seeing the sprinkles fall on them.

The two girls studied their snowman. “Li’l ‘no-boy!” said Luna. They slapped their knees laughing.

Alicia’s mother approached them. In one hand she had an old sombrero and a scarf; in the other a carrot and a small box of raisins. Giggling happily the girls tied the scarf around snowboy’s neck and placed the sombrero on his head. Brianna and Luna took turns twisting the carrot into place on snowboy’s face.

The girls divided the box of raisins. Once again they took turns pressing raisins on his face. First, they each inserted an eye, then together they worked on his mouth.

Luna held on to two raisins which to Brianna’s surprise she pressed on each side of the snowboy’s head. Once complete, she looked at Brianna and said, “Ears,” and she tapped on her own ears.

Brianna thought for a moment then decided, “sure, why not! This snowboy has ears.” The girls jumped with glee. Alicia went over to them and clapped when she saw the happy face on Snowboy.

“How about these for arms?” Brianna’s mother offered them sticks. The girls chose two good looking ones and set to twisting them in for arms. “Now gather around snowboy you three. It’s time to take a picture.”

**This article was previously published in Medium as ‘Snowboy’. Perhaps you’ll choose to leave me a comment here? Perhaps you’ll choose to share? I hope so. Thanks for reading. Blessings, Selma.

An Unduplicatable Experience

Photo credits: Christina Sicoli, Unsplash

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I’m the mother of two little boys who are now in their twenties. I don’t do much mother-ing anymore, but the fact that I’m still a mother will stay with me until the end. Here’s a comparison make on the subject of motherhood. I hope you enjoy it.

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MOTHERHOOD IS LIKE FLYING SOLO

“Oh, if they weren’t so cute, I’d send them back and get my refund,” some tease.

“How is it that they smell so good? I roll in the same field and end up smelling like a cow while they — they smell like morning dew,” exclaim others, “hahaha.”

These people are talking about their children…

Those not yet in the parent-club do some eye rolling and utter ‘as ifs..’ But for those already smitten by the likes of children the puppy-love faces with the knowing raised-eyebrows are priceless. So what is so mystifying about children, or better yet, what is so mystifying about becoming a parent? I’m here to help shed some light on the subject.

Being a parent is like going on your first solo flight — repeatedly — as every day brings new emotions similar to those, I’m told, as flying solo. I embrace that notion, somehow; the somehow comes from the obvious realization that children do not come with instruction manuals. Still, let me try to demystify the idea of parenting.

Ideally, a child enters your world after a nine-month pregnancy, and it is then that you become a parent.
The average instruction period for flying lessons is ten-weeks. Ideally, at the end of those lessons, you’re ready to take your first solo flight.

For soloists the anticipation of that day is similar in its uniformity but different in its meaning as undoubtedly learning to fly is an exciting experience unduplicatable. Well, with all the ‘elements of planning’ that are required in giving attention to sequence, the application of motor skills and coordination, the crucial simulations, and let’s not forget, all the confidence building that is required, a pilot-to-be is prepared for his/her solo.

The same ‘elements of planning’ are required of parents-to-be. The difference being that unlike flying, the brain of a parent-to-be cannot simulate the experience until the moment the experiences start happening. And I say experiences because new ones arise daily.

I want to put you, my reader, in the driver seat. From here on, let me talk to YOU.

When you arrive at the airfield, you envisage everything you studied and worry that you might be forgetting something important. You want to check your notes but the instructor is right there commanding you to breathe instead. You manage a smile and a nod.
You climb inside the plane and you breathe in deeply. Now you’re on the pilot seat. You methodically complete the checklist of the plane’s controls. That was easy, you think.

You might feel the urge to look over at the seat beside you only to find it empty. You glance out the window on your left and see your instructor standing in the distance. You wave but she doesn’t see you. You breathe again. The only noise in the cockpit is the purr of the engine and a voice over the intercom. You are alone.

You touch your headphones, waiting for a signal from the control tower. All clear for takeoff, you may proceed, says the voice in your ears. At that moment, your breathing steadies, your brows furrow in concentration, and your feelings of anxiety leave you.

You start the engine and release the brake. Next you open the throttle a little, you feed more gasoline to the engine. The propeller whirls faster. The plane starts moving forward. You taxi onto the runway, facing into the direction of the wind. You wait. A voice from the control tower comes through your headphones again. Permission to take off, it says.

You open the throttle wide. The plane accelerates down the runway. On your right sits a stick — a control. When pulled back it lifts the nose of the plane; when pulled forward it drops the nose of the plane. You also know that to increase speed, you need to push the stick forward. Your right-hand rests on the stick.

The plane is now traveling fast. You can feel it trying to leave the ground. “This is it,” you say to yourself. Ever so gently you pull back on the stick. You see the nose lift while the ground suddenly drops away beneath you.
You are flying!

In the ten weeks of instructions, you have been told many things. One that you need to recall for this solo is: go no faster than eighty-five miles an hour. You know the plane has a maximum speed of twice that speed, yet you stay within the eighty-five miles.

You are constantly watching your airspeed indicator. You see the small clock face slowly creep up: 20, 30, 50. You know that if it drops below fifty-five miles an hour, the plane will stall. The airspeed reaches 60 knots, you ease back on the throttle. You cannot see the runway anymore, only sky.
You are flying!

You and the plane climb to five hundred feet. You’re on top of the world; or at least high enough to make your first turn.
I repeat: It is time to make the first turn… A turn? Yeah, you knew that was coming. You’ve simulated turning, remember? Now get turning. A turn!
You wipe the sweat from your hand on your trousers and immediately return it to the stick.

You push it gently to the left. The wing on the left side drops, the plane makes a turn, or bank as you have learned to call it. Everything is going well, but there are so many things to think about that you hardly notice the view. You breathe in slowly.

After making three more left banks, you’re on your final approach. The voice from the control tower gives you the all clear for landing. Landing! Crap, you think, now you have to land this thing! You glance over at the the seat next to you, again, you find it empty. Your brows furrow. You reduce the amount that the throttle is open. You can feel the plane begin dropping. Not too fast. Not too steep an angle, you remind yourself. Come in too high and you’ll overshoot the runway; come in too low and you’ll fall short.

Your brows are still furrowed but your breathing is stable.
You brace yourself.
The runway comes rushing up toward you.

When the plane is inches from the ground, you close the throttle restricting power from the engine. You pull back on the stick to raise the nose. The engine power dies. The wings no longer support the plane; the plane drops.
You make a perfect landing! YOU make a perfect landing!

Nice landing, you hear over the radio. You grin.
A feeling of exultation cascades over you as you ease down the runway.
You come to a complete stop.

Parenting is like that!
Everyday! Unduplicatable!
Only, you never stop the engine.

Enjoy your flight and don’t forget to take in the view!

**

This article was first published in Medium under the title of ‘Motherhood is like Flying Solo’. If you enjoyed this post kindly leave me a brief comment and/or share with others who you think might enjoy it as well. Thank you ever so kindly. Blessings, Selma.

Fall Reigns Supreme

by Selma

Isabella was waiting for “something” to point her in the right direction with a self-hate habit she had been fighting with for a long time. Then a simple act of kindness from someone who had always been there in her life made her feel worthy of love. It was subtle.

Yet in that subtleness she found her resolve to change. As they say, when you’re ready, the universe conspires to bring you the change you need. Please read. This is the story I entered in a recent contest. Let me know what you think.

Fall Reigns Supreme

Thank you, Mr. Ramclam

by Selma

To Sir, with Love and Appreciation.

People come into our lives for a reason. Some enter to teach us lessons about life, others to teach us lessons we need to learn about ourselves. Yet others are paid to teach us the lessons we need to learn in order to find the meaning of life. When done from clear-sighted earnestness, teachers deserve the prize for conjuring cohesion and purpose out of students. For me, one such person was my English Literature Teacher in High School. There were others who set me straight, but none more timely than shy Mr. Ramclam. And though he might never read this I want to send this letter out to the Universe where it will be turned into blessings for my dear Mr. Ramclam wherever he might be. Thank you Sir.

Concurrently, I have included a letter that I read today from a twitter thread from someone placed in my life today to teach me a lesson. I'll name her: Marylee MacDonald, through whom I came to know about brainpickings.org. Thank you two for the timely present. Sending out blessings to them as well.

The letter by Mr. Camus brought tears to my eyes today.
Born to an illiterate mother who was nearly deaf and losing his father in WW1, Albert and his older brother faced a dim future. It was then that a teacher by the name of Louis Germaine took the young Albert under his wing and nurtured the boy. Well, that boy went on to become a philosopher and the youngest recipient at the time of the Nobel Laureate. He then went on to write the letter I quote above.

Today I pay homage to Mr. Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) for causing me to think of my Mr. Ramclam.
To borrow a line from the great master : I embrace you with all my heart. Thank you Sir.

Siblings–A force of Nature

Is your family close? What’s your relationship with your siblings like? 

In my family of origin, I’ve always been the outsider. I’m the oldest of three sisters and the one who no one “includes” anymore. And that is sad.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this happened and when. But now that I’m an adult and more comfortable in my ways I’ve come to embrace sibling rivalry as a force of nature.

I’ve stopped asking whys, whens, and hows and being comfortable with who I am has never felt better. I am not my sisters, and they are not me!

But if you were to return to the place where you grew up and were to ask people there how they remembered you, I wonder what that would be like. Might there be something we could learn from that? I wonder.

#

Sandra, the middle one, had always been the healthiest of all three sisters.  She was all about pleasing and about standing out. Typical for the middle child, you might say. But really?

Pleasing and standing out came easily to her. She was outgoing and she had a bright disposition. But despite that great fact, somehow, she couldn’t hold on to friendships for long periods at a time. Perhaps underneath her desire to please, she was too clingy and insecure? Maybe.

Personally, I’ve come to believe that she put too much of her self-worth in her petty acquisitions. To this day, that hasn’t changed.  I used to feel bad for her. Now I don’t bother thinking about it.

We are all different from each other; never better than each other.

If you were to go to Macondo today and mention us, people there would remember Sandra as the wise one; the one who was more tomboyish, the one who would take on a dare without thinking out the consequences first, the one who would think out good ways of making money on market day.

Sandra would be the one who would climb the trees the fastest and descend with the biggest coconut or the biggest avocados wrapped up in her skirt. The one who would not cry at the dentists’ or at the clinic when we’d get our shots.

I, on the other hand, would be remembered as the sick one.

I developed asthma as a child and missed a lot of school on account of that.  School was where I wanted to be most of all, but I never complained about being absent because it gave me the wonderful opportunity to get on with my passion for a good story book.

And when Sandra would come home from school and start a fight out of nothing, I would let her win. Always. I let her win because I felt bad that I couldn’t be there to keep her company at school as big sisters should. Instead, I  was at home hogging the attention of our parents AND reading to my hearts’ content.

As for my youngest sister, she would be remembered as the one who got away with a lot. We were instructed to keep a watchful eye on her and to cater to her needs because we were told, that’s what big sisters did.  And we did.

So when Terry became rebellious and arrogant, was that her fault? And when she surpassed me and Sandra and left home before we did, was it her upbringing that brought that on? I cannot say for sure.

As of now, Terry has been married and divorced three times already. She is in a relationship with a younger man and helping him raise his teenage children.

Sandra married once, divorced and now living the life of a single woman. She has a good job and travels often. She has a nice apartment but claims she’s not attached to anyone or anything.

Me, I’m happily married to the same man for nineteen years.

How come we’re so different in the lives we lead now? What brings about what we become? Though I said that I thought that sibling rivalry was just another force of nature, I cannot help wondering why I’m still the one who never gets invited.

 

What this author so eloquently explains in her piece about learning a language, could be applied to every aspect of our lives. It resonates with me in many levels. Afterall, we are all learning to do LIFE.

When the Chickens Come Home to Roost 

by Selma


“Young lady– obviously, you don’t know who I am. I’m Mrs. Manzanilla from Refaccionaría Manzanilla,” my mother announced in Spanish in a voice too loud for my liking. I wanted to run and hide. The way she said that, and the dignified way she looked when she said that made the poor cashier take a nose-dive into the deepest recesses of her brain. I saw it in the way the cashier tipped her head. She wanted to try to understand what this lady in front of her was talking about. As far as the young girl was concerned, there was only one Refaccionaría Manzanilla in the whole of Macondo and this lady was not that Mrs. Manzanilla. She knew.

She knew for a fact that Mrs. Manzanilla had never set foot into a Save Big Store; that instead, she sent her housekeeper into the store twice a week to drop off a grocery list. And that the necessary items then got delivered to the mansion. And besides, Mrs. Manzanilla’s daughter and her were thick-as-thieves. She knew exactly what that Mrs. looked like.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Manzanilla, but I’m just following protocol of a report from our security personnel. They’ve instructed me to ask you to step aside and to request that you voluntarily return the items that they saw you stash into your two bags.”

“And I say, you are wrong! I have no need to do such an outrageous thing as stealing from a place like this. I demand to see the manager.” The girl makes a phone call.

It was a busy Thursday evening and people were stocking up on items in anticipation of the long holiday weekend. The buzz of the cash machines, the intricate bustle of the happy shoppers and the upbeat tempo of the music in the store, drown the embarrassing tone of the commotion going on in front of me. But in my insides I felt a volcano erupting. I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to be around to see my mother get escorted to the police station.

On my back, I carried an overstuffed rucksack that was ripping at the seams. My mother carried a small buston bag with wheels — just as conspicuous looking as mine.

“Oh I understand,” my mother volunteered, “you see our overstuffed bags and think the worst… well I never! …” she slams her fist on the counter. “We came here with our luggage because we’ve just arrived from a short trip. We stopped in to pick up a few necessities. And you immediately assume that what you see us carrying in these bags are items stollen from your shelves. Well you are wrong…wrong, I tell you!”

Any minute now, any minute now the earth will rumble and swallow me up whole, I think. That will be better than this. I start to sweat cold.

The people in line at the cashier where we stand get directed to a different line. They look at us with scorn for disrupting the rhythm of their shopping experience. But that is all they do. To them, we are nobodys. No one bothers to know more, but to me, of all the inconsistencies that I have seen and come to understand since turning nine, this has got to be the worst.

And people will talk, a nagging voice announces inside my head. They don’t seem interested in the heated discussion going on right now, but someone will remember. 

I start to pray…

They escort us to a room in the back; the office. They ask us to wait.  My mother gives me a side glance and the zip-it-up sign to keep my mouth shut. No need to tell me Mom, I think, even if I wanted to, words have left my thoughts moments ago. All I have now is prayers. And those won’t buy me a pardon… 

Inside, we see a row of monitors apparently displaying every aisle in the store.

We are dead, I think, then I hold my breathe. Just then I notice that the monitors show a lot of static on the screen. I exhale. But the exertion of exhaling, or perhaps it was the part about holding my breath, makes me feel light-headed. I lean on the wall and close my eyes.

I hear the voices of men talking and above theirs I hear my mother’s unwavering voice. I do not know for how long this goes on; I remain fixed on my prayers.

“Come on child, let’s get out of here.” Mother takes my hand and together with my uncle, the owner of Refaccionaría Manzanilla, we walk out of Save Big.  He calls us a taxi.  He hugs my mother and pats me on the head. Mother and I sit in silence in the taxi until we arrive on the front steps of our house. I drop my rucksack and make a dash for the chicken coop. I remain inside until my mother calls me in for supper.

“Besides, it’s time for the chickens to roost,” she says. And then I begin to cry.

Shadow Syllabus

Reblogging because Work, feelings/insights like the ones portrayed here need to be circulated again and again. The Author IS the right voice in the right time. This piece serves to reaffirm our faith (if ever we feel we’ve lost it) in our own humanity. I am glad I stumbled upon this one (via Cheri Lucas) I hope you find value in it as well. Selma

Their Ears, Not Pierced

by Selma

February and March had me busy working on this contest piece. I worked hard on it, submitted and Short Fiction Break Magazine published it. Yay!

I didn’t win the contest but certainly emerged a Winner in more ways than one. I invite you to Please read in its entirety. Thank you. And I’d be thrilled to read your comments to me there… Thank you.

http://shortfictionbreak.com/their-ears-not-pierced/

But, if you don’t want to visit that link, here it is again. Open.

THEIR EARS, NOT PIERCED

“The Heresy of one age becomes the Orthodoxy of the next” Helen Keller

I sit on a bench outside the airport newly arrived on my flight from Asia. Two little girls sit beside me. They’re either twins, or very close in age. Their ears, not pierced. They are wearing dresses that reveal chubby arms with rubber bracelets of many colors. They are completely absorbed in their iPads whose cases match the color of the dresses they wear. They don’t acknowledge my presence and neither does the young mother. She stands swaying from side to side tapping her baby’s bottom with a rhythmic beat as she hums softly. The baby, she carries in a sling. The baby’s hand is all I can see because it is dressed in a hooded-Pikachu-romper. Yellow. The young mother’s gaze is focused on the street and she is obviously waiting for her ride. I close my eyes for a moment and immediately, I’m transported back to a time when there were no iPads.

Both of my sisters and I wanted to sit by the window on the bus. We wanted to look out the window to see the villages go by. We wanted to see the dogs barking and chasing after the bus. But we were too little; the windows too high. More than once people sitting on window seats offered that we sit on their laps. Mom would let us. But the roads soon lulled us to sleep. We’d wake up with our cheeks stuck to the unfamiliar necks of sweaty people; the necks of people whose faces we didn’t ever remember seeing before. Who were these people we’d think and then we’d give out a cry for our mother.

Once I remember being awakened by a pair of hands with rough nails caressing me down the front of my little body under my little dress. The unfamiliarity of the hands alerted my senses and startled me awake. And yet another time a woman shoved me way under her own blouse and had me sucking on her breast like a baby. The salty taste of her skin made me feel like gagging and woke me up with a tremendous start.

Growing up in Macondo my friends and I always saw it as a good place to grow up and a good place for raising kids. There was nothing the townspeople wouldn’t do to help young mothers. It was as if the entire town was involved in the raising of children.

As young girls learning about our place in society, we all agreed that here, mothers did a lot to help their children form lasting friendships by exposing them to other children. Someone was always ready to attest that growing up their mothers were good at making play-dates for them, at hosting parties, picnics and outings. That observation was uncontested. Sleepovers at friends’ homes were unheard of though. For that, mothers here relied on their own sisters and sisters-in-law and employed the assistance of cousins. In my case, sleepovers with my cousins meant a 5-hour bus ride in the company of strangers.

In my mind I can still see my mother carrying one baby boy, a big over-stuffed bag holding books, blankets and baby clothes and three little girls running behind her. The day before the trip we were made to understand that we would be wearing our cousins’ clothes because though he was still too young to notice that he was a boy, society required that mom had him dressed in boys’ clothes at all times. This was mostly as a tribute to dad for having reached that coveted goal of procuring a boy — dad’s trophy.

Girls were produced at a-dollar-a-dozen but boys had to be special-made. So that when a family was blessed to introduce a son into the world, God forbid they’d ever be mistaken for a girl. In those days, no boy-baby ever knew the joys of wearing pink and orange and purple or variations of those colors. So cloaked in that mentality, mom did as she was told.

Those early practices of sharing clothes and riding buses molded us. They taught us that we belonged in a community of girls and that we had each other to rely on when we needed support. Every bus ride ended being a happy time; unhappy incidents, if any, only lived on in our minds.

In the Macondo that I know, there has always been a strong belief that girls have to endure much grief and pain throughout their lives starting with the miracle of birth. Of course there were male-doctors and nuns ready to assist in the delivery of a baby, but neither the doctors nor the nuns had first hand experience of what the pain was like. Epidural anesthesia was unheard of then as it was understood that the price of the miracle was the pain.

“Our main job as women is to carry a heavy banner and to make it look easy. No matter what, you cannot give any hints of how heavy or painful it all is. You do that, and all the other women will continue supporting you. Fail, and you stand alone.” That’s the mantra my friends and I heard repeated often growing up. Thus, when in the throngs of the delivery, wet towels would be shoved into the mouth of the mothers to prevent any sound of agony from escaping into the waiting room.

If a boy popped out, the doctor himself would shout it out in siren fashion:  “…itsa booooooooooooy!!” And this would ring through the town by word of mouth. A celebration, tailored for the father, would then begin and it would continue until the mandatory 5 days of rest for the mother was over. Acquaintances and family alike would drop in on the father to offer a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. A small present that almost always consisted of clothes for the baby — blue, would accompany the well wisher.

On the other hand, if a girl popped out, there would be no such announcement. The doctor would exit the room, seek out the father’s eyes, and just nod a sympathetic nod. At this, the father would lower his head in an apologetic gesture and his buddies, standing at sporadic locations, would read into the father’s demeanor, wave and walk away saying “better luck next time buddy,” under their breaths. The new mother would still qualify for the mandatory 5 days of rest and one day, during that short rest-period, the baby would get her ears unceremoniously pierced to comply with their antiquated belief concerning girls and pain.

Everyone knows that babies cannot fend for themselves. They need feeding, bathing, cleaning up after and more. But unlike other countries where independence is encouraged in boys and girls, here in Macondo the practice of doing everything for the boy would continue. Never allowed into a kitchen, sisters would turn into maids for their brothers. And brothers would take their sisters for granted never really conceding to the idea that what they were doing was unfair.

There I sit out on the bench, thinking all these things in no particular order. I am tired and sleepy but forcing alertness. The tropical breeze on my face, arms and toes titillate my senses. I slip off my sandals, crack my toes, open them wide then rotate my ankles. The girls and their mother are still there. I stand next to the bench, leaving my sandals where I sat, clutch my hands and stretch my arms long causing my back to curve. I proceed to stimulate my body into alertness with my various stretch poses and then as I am in limp-pose with my head touching my knees, I hear the mother speak for the first time.

“Come on girls get your things, dad and grandma are here.”   I straighten up and remain standing. I glance over at the girls as they scurry around trying to fit little feet into their rubber polka-dot boots. Then holding their iPads by the small handle they stand shoulder to shoulder by the edge of the sidewalk giggling softly. Dad gets out of the car and kneels down on bare knees to embrace his girls.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy,” they repeat over and over. They each kiss daddy on his cheek and the next moment one of them is on daddy’s shoulder and the other one is hanging on to one of his arms. With the girls stuck to his body this way, he stands and kisses his wife on the forehead and pats the sleeping baby on its hooded head once. I don’t mean to intrude, but my eyes get fixed on his ears. Dad is wearing earrings. On both ears!

“He couldn’t stay awake for daddy huh?” he says, rubbing the baby’s head again but looking into his wife’s face. “That’s okay,” then he discreetly pinches her on her hip. “I have missed you terribly honey,” he whispers close to her ear. Then sliding the door of the minivan open he places his giggly-bundle inside and directs them to the back seat.

Grandma sits in the middle of the seat so the girls position themselves on each side of her. They strap themselves in, kick off their boots again, raise their legs and the next moment they are staring into their screens again while grandma strokes their hair one at a time. The baby in his Pikachu romper, a boy I come to understand, is strapped into his purple car-seat and off they go back to their lives.

My ride into town doesn’t arrive for another hour. I expected them to be late as usual; only people in Asia are punctual, but they just wouldn’t let me plan on a bus-ride. Too dangerous they said. So I wait. Out here I see people come and go. Teeth flashing in open laughter on the faces of some, mostly the newly arrived passengers and restrained smiles on the others.

“Those girls are studying medicine, and those will become pilots and engineers,” a voice says to me from inside my head.

“Yes,” I say to the voice absentmindedly. “Still in its nascent stage, but things are different now. I wonder if they can feel how much the winds have shifted. I get the impression that Macondo is ready to embrace the change that is being soldiered on by those kids returning with knowing-laughs on their faces.”

“They are the lucky ones,” I reassure my imaginary companion sitting on the bench now. I sigh long and feel a weight lift off my shoulders. My whole face breaks into a smile.

“I’m glad I made this trip. Ten years away is a long time.” I speak the words aloud to my companion again, “I’m one of the lucky ones too!”

I hear the buzz of dreamland calling me. I yawn such a great big yawn that tears spring from my eyes. I go over to the food-stall and get a coffee-smoothie and I plead with my mind to keep watch for just a little longer. I sip my smoothie and wiggle my toes.

“Change’s a-coming”, I inform my toes this time.

An off-duty taxi drives up to the curb; its radio blasting. I recognize the song playing and I smile from ear to ear.

“Oh Michael Buble,” I say out loud, “you and me both. I am feeling good!”

Thanks again. Selma