Do Little Girls still Dream about Getting Married?

“A Wedding dress is both intimate and personal for a woman–it must reflect the personality and style of the bride.”— Caroline Herrera

Lucille has long wavy brown hair that when loose, cascades down to her tailbone. Today she has it arranged in a long thick braid that swirls around her head.  Baby’s breath adorn it and there is no denying that she looks ever so radiant in that hair style. Her face is powdered and she wears a little dab of blush on her cheeks and mascara on her eyelashes. She is pretty, to begin with, but today she looks ever so beautiful.  It’s her wedding day.

“Lipstick later, after you’re in your dress because we don’t want it staining it accidentally,” says Nicca.

Six women stand in the room. It is the room that mom always keeps locked.

“Too many pins and needles that could pierce little fingers,” is all my mother would give us as an explanation.  We were never allowed in there.

Today we stand at the door looking in. Next to Lucille stands the seamstress, Ms. Rose to everyone except us. Mother is there to help Lucille get into her wedding gown. I have seen my mother do this countless times before, but every time the admiration comes from new people so the whole experience feels different every time.

“What a beautiful piece of material this is,” my mother had said the day the mailman brought the box containing the white material. But mother said that about every piece of cloth she ever worked with.  I have seen her hold all her pieces of material with reverence and then after that, seen how my mother’s beautiful eyes glow like beacons on a dark night at sea. That glow always made her face look younger. After that initial reaction, mother would never expose that beautiful material again in our presence until it was unveiled on a day like today.

The dress is laid on the floor with a crinoline arranged inside of it. Wearing only her stockings and undergarment, Lucille is made to stands on a low ladder. Two ladies hold her outstretched arms and from up there she slides the bottom half of her body smoothly into the skirt of the wedding gown.

“She looks like a mannequin there standing like that,” my sister whispers to me.

“I know,” I say. “I want to be a bride too someday,” we both giggle.

Mother proceeds to help Lucille with the sleeves, helping her insert one arm first and then the other in slow motion.

The embroidery on the sleeves and on the bodice, with the pearls and small beads in the shape of happy tears and the boat neckline that fits her perfectly, all these alluring points elicit compliments mingled with tears directed at the bride.

“Oh Lucy,” exclaims Lucille’s mother, “you look so beautiful in that dress. Good choice! Look at that everyone — what a beauty this daughter of mine is.”

“Yes, beautiful Lucille,” the others repeat. They can’t seem to come up with other words besides beautiful.

“She looks like Cinderella,” my sister and I agree, “just like a princess.”

My mother stands behind Lucille buttoning the long line of silk buttons. Pride swelling on her face as she hears the others complimenting the bride.

Someone kneels in front of Lucille and helps her to slide her feet into what seems to us like tiny glass slippers. Lucille looks down at her shoes and then straightens up. Her motions exactly like those of Cinderella in the movie. She looks at herself in the long mirror someone rolls in front of her and with her hands on her cheeks, tries to conceal her delight.

“No crying please,” warns Nicca, “that will ruin your makeup and it will stain the dress. No, no, no!”

But Lucille is not crying. She is happy. This is the day that she has been waiting for. She is on her way to marry the man that crawled into her heart a little at a time.

“Oh, happy day,” she says with a smile, and forcing her eyes off the mirror, she looks around the room. She finds my mother standing by the door and extends her hands out to her. My mother walks up to her and she and Lucille clasp hands.

“You look beautiful,” mother says to her.

“Oh, Ms. Rose thank you. The dress is even more beautiful than in the catalog. You are a real magician with those hands. Thank you.”

The wind is still as the beautiful bride walks out our storefront door. She has lipstick on her lips, a bouquet of lilies in her hand and a long tulle veil on her head. Escorted by her mother, Lucille walks the short distance from our house to the church. She walks erect, with a radiance emanating from her soul and she demurely acknowledges the well-wishes from the onlookers.

My mother holds our hands and walks us closer to the church. We see Lucille let go of her mother’s hand and clutch onto her father’s arm. The women who walked with her from our store disappear inside the church and then a procession of young women, all wearing clothes of the same color line up behind Lucille. The bride and her entourage disappear inside the church as the happy wedding bells toll loudly announcing the ceremony.


The Fabric of our Lives


That evening there were twelve kids at our lawn party. The grownups were noisily conversing, or arguing with each other, as it had seemed to us kids, to notice that the littlest boy was eating away at the candy from the colorful bottle he found next to the ketchup and the relish on the food table. Some of us had already gotten used to seeing that plastic bottle sitting on tables at every party that it made us think that not having it meant a lack of proper hospitality to our neighbors.  On one similar occasion, we had been made to understand that we were only allowed to have one tablet for the entirety of an evening. The tablets contained in the bottle came in all different colors and each color was a different flavor. Leonora and I were fond of the color purple and we each took one of the grape flavored tablets when offered.  The tablet wasn’t caramelized like hard candy and neither did it dissolve easily in our mouths. Yet its sweet flavor was released slowly enough to entice even the young palate of children. The part about these being for heartburn and sour stomach, never registered as anything other than grown up talk, as none of us knew what having a sour stomach or heartburn even meant.

Leonora and I lived nextdoor to each other on a street closest to the beach. Never did a day go by without I going over to Leonora’s house, or she coming over to mine. Our houses were separated in the middle by a green mesh fence that was removable. Long iron poles with hooks at the top and at the bottom held the mesh in place. The mesh ran all the way around the four corners of our yards. Our families each raised chickens and they didn’t want our chickens to roam too far away from their respective coops. This fence was a good fence. At times it acted as a great net for when Leonora and I played badminton and also for secretly calling out to each other when we didn’t want anyone else to hear us calling. A few simple kicks in the right place and our suzus would ring out with secret messages to one another. Some messages would say ‘meet you at the library or at the park in 10 minutes’, or ‘I’m angry or sad’, or just plain-old ‘wanna come over’.  We referred to our fence as our very own Morse-code device.

Our parents were friendly to each other as well, but they didn’t have a way to calling out to each other like we did. Our mothers would stand close to the fence and talk and laugh with each other, but that’s all they would do. Except that on some special occasions like national holidays or long weekends, we’d shu all the chickens in after their morning strolls around the yard, lock the coops and roll back the fence on the side where we shared a green lawn. Our parents loved to have cookouts. They would set tables to sit our two families and sometimes they’d even invite one or two other families. Then there were the other tables on which they’d place the food and drinks for that day. Both Leonora and I liked it when our families did this, as then we were allowed to stay out longer than usual without having to think about whose turn it was to do the dishes or to empty the trash cans or tiresome decisions like that. We would eat and drink as much as we wanted and we’d play games as long as we could.

The food was always very good, but it always disturbed us to see our parents and all the other grown-ups eat too much and drink too much of everything.

“This is an amazing party,” the other kids would say at regular intervals, and then we’d move on to continue playing our childish games.

I really don’t remember when or who it was that introduced our family to our first bottle of whatever that was, but I remember that the introduction was followed by  “It’s what they take in such and such a country for heartburn and sour stomach”.  Since then, that good old bottle of whatever that was has been an integral part of all our celebrations.

Minutes later, Mrs. Garcia was running behind Mr. Garcia who carried little Marvin curled up and unconscious in his arms. In her haste, Mrs. Garcia left her shoes behind in the yard. Mother found them and had me and Leonora run after Mrs. Garcia to return the shoes.

The couple and the boy were nowhere in sight. Stopping by their house revealed to us that home was not where they had headed to with their child.

“Let’s go to the hospital,” I said to Leonora.

The Macondo hospital wasn’t  far from where we lived, so holding on to one shoe each, we raced each other to get there. A full day out in the sun and now the exercise found us gasping for fresh air when we arrived.  We gulped down a big breath of air to replenish our starved lungs but copious amounts of  Dettol, Bleach, pee and Pledge furniture polish scurried in instead. It wasn’t a pleasant smell.  Neither Leonora nor I had ever been in the emergency room before, so the unfamiliarity of the smell and the place had us feeling light-headed and weak at the knees. We determined to take short sporadically paced breaths and sat there and waited.

People came and went in the emergency -room, yet no one seemed available enough for making a quick inquiry about the whereabouts of The Garcias.  We waited for a while longer thinking that perhaps The Garcias were being held up in consultation with a doctor, but they never emerged again.

“We’ve been here long enough already” Leonora reasoned after a while, “new patients have gone in and have left already. Perhaps The Garcias didn’t come here after all.”

On our return home, we had no energy for running.  An unfamiliar odor had impregnated our nostrils, and it seemed to have penetrated all the way up to the farthest recesses of our brains causing us to walk with lethargic movements. The early evening sea-breeze felt good on our foreheads but we refused to let it into our lungs for fear of what that salty combination would smell like. We each still carried a shoe in one hand just like before, but for some reason, the shoe too came to reek of the smelly emergency room. We held it with a little trepidation then.

The adults had cleaned the place up well, put all the garbage in bags and left-over food had been properly distributed among the families. The tables were folded and returned to the shed, and the mesh fence had been hung back to the poles like before. There was no news of little Marvin or his family. The women had collected all the tablets that were scattered on the ground and they noticed that the yellow tablets were fewer than the other colors. No one dared say what this could mean so they said nothing for fear that the possibility could be true.

That evening the party disbanded with a shadow hanging over every adult.”Please God,” they prayed, “don’t let this be true.”




In the Home-bound Train

Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes of routes… and with accidents!

Young people in latest fashion loiter the narrow streets, chatting, socializing. A couple of kids on skateboards here and there and an occasional cyclist now and then fool the mind into thinking that this is a small busy town in the outskirts of Paris perhaps. Middle age couples stroll by hand in hand and yet older couples, judging from the way they are dressed, hurry along en route to somewhere important. Sitting next to the window of the restaurant it’s hard to tell that we are two floors underground a busy train station. The imagery was all created with intention. This is Paris. Wrong. This is Musashikosugi, a station a couple of stops away from Tokyo Station.
Yesterday I boarded a clean and polished train from my suburb and embarked on an hour-long ride to meet an old friend at a posh restaurant newly opened. This station is exactly half way for the two of us. It had been 4 years since Hiroko packed house and moved away to where she is now. But it has been over 20 years for me since I visited this station. I have good memories of Musashikosugi. Memories of Lulu and Rocio and Monica and Elena and the gang of Nikeijins, second-generation people with Japanese roots, visiting their parents’ homeland for the first time and like me, hoping to learn the language afresh. We were all new to this country back then and enrolling in Japanese Lessons here was what brought us into each other’s lives at this particular station. The station was unpretentious and rather quaint and inviting then and we roamed its corners after lessons so as to prolong our time together.
But now, the place has been bulldozed and in place of its quaintness vulgar high-rise buildings and underground cities have been constructed. There’s no stopping this trend. It’s all hip and good. No matter who we are and how much we know of this station, we relish the novelty and bask in the exaggerated reality of the area at the expense of the quaintness that gave the station its character before.
So, I went to Musashikosugi to meet an old friend for an early dinner. We got lost in our chatter trying to summarize four years into a few hours. It was really nice seeing her and hearing about all the exciting things that have transpired in her life. I also updated her about things going on in my life.
But while we chatted there was a big accident at precisely that train station. It stopped normal train traffic for hours. But since life was dream-like under ground, we were totally unfazed. Not until we were ready to say our goodbyes and head our separate ways, did that reality become part of ours as well. Infuriated for the delays, thinking only of myself, and how this inconvenience was going to steal me of my sleep, I joined in the commotion and tried to find an alternative commute back to my normal life. All to no avail. But in the process of letting go to the moment, I inadvertently remembered something that I had read online a couple of years before. I will share it with you. There is a lot of insight to it and it does a better job at expressing my thoughts today when I consider how close I came to being a victim myself in that accident. I could have been just another one of the passengers pulled out of the wreckage and you wouldn’t have me to tell you this story today. I am glad I’m still here but as of today, I am living my life worthy of several others whose lives have been cut short by that terrible accident.
                     “The Train of Life
       Life is like a journey on a train… with its stations… with changes of routes… and with accidents!
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side.
However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.
As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends,children, and even the love of our life.  Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.  Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize that they vacated their seats!
This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship with all the passengers…requiring that we give the best of ourselves.
The mystery to everyone is:
We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way – love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.
It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty — we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.  Reap success and give lots of love.
More importantly, thank God for the journey!
Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train!”
On my return to my home, I had to make several detours. It was very inconvenient.
I am now closer to home but not quite yet, I messaged my husband that evening.
I wrote those words as I sat inside the train which slowly became crowded with exhausted passengers also trying to make it back home after a full day at the office. It was way past my usual relax time at home. I had a marvelous time with my friend but by that time I just couldn’t wait to slip into my pajamas and to hit my pillows.
I confess that yesterday I didn’t take a book to read as it just wouldn’t fit into the little bag that I chose for my outing. So the next best thing for me to do was to text a few lines to friends in a conscious effort to not fall asleep and possibly miss my stop. The girl sitting next to me swayed from left to right and her head occasionally touched my left shoulder. She carried a book bag. She was a student so I figured that she must have had a full day of studying and socializing and more than me, couldn’t wait to hit her pillow at home.
We are all on our way home…
My experience yesterday made me look at those words from a different angle and once the train started moving smoothly once again, I wrote my last message for the night to my husband: Finally, I wrote, now we will all be able to get home before this night turns into tomorrow because when tomorrow comes it will already be yesterday’s news.
Next stop is the end of the line for me. See you soon honey.
  “Next stop is the end of the line — your hometown.  Throw off everything and get off.”— Noriko Tsubota

Continue reading “In the Home-bound Train”


in English and in Japanese. A poem that awakens the child within.


Even though my mother
is big and grownup,
My mother’s heart
must be small.
‘Cause, my mother said,
It’s been all filled up with little me.
But, even though I am little
and just a child,
My heart must be big.
‘Cause my heart
can hold my big mother
And still have room for lots more.
                Misuzu Kaneko (real name Teru Kaneko)
お母さま は

This Old House

Aww what a mesmerizing sight, I heard myself saying in a voice that wasn’t my own. All the hues of red and brown and Crimson right before my eyes, again that was not my voice.
And this feeling, how can we be flying like this and not feel the autumn chill.  I remember thinking that.
We were gliding over a red barn surrounded by trees. I was not alone. I could feel my companion’s presence but couldn’t see her face. In a weird way, I knew I didn’t need to look. I already knew it was Valerie Moore.

I opened my eyes slightly and saw the silhouette figure of my mother in the dark.
“Risa, I told you that rain was predicted for tonight and asked you to lock the windows. For once I’d like to get a good night’s sleep without having to be bothered by things that I specifically ask you girls to do. One of these nights someone is going to come through that window and take you away quietly. Spare yourselves and me of such an awful ordeal or I’ll buy a lock and those windows will stay closed forever”.
Mom said all that in one go. That was just like her. Always saying things the grownup way. Only she would have the stamina for such a discourse in the middle of the night. Mom was talking to Risa but Risa didn’t budge.

Feeling exhilarated from the dream I was just dreaming I tried not to listen to her words for fear of losing the feeling I was trying to hold on to in my autumn dream.
Valerie Moore was my childhood penpal. We started corresponding before the end of the school year in Third Grade. This particular evening I had just received a letter from her. Valerie lived in Wisconsin. She had a cherry orchard and she had a pony she called Cubby. She and I were 8 years old and both of us had birthdays in September.
Every letter she wrote to me was riddled with eraser holes and consisted of ugly pages carelessly torn out from big writing pads. She told me about learning to milk their cows, and about driving a tractor and about picking cherries.
I have never been cherry-picking and much less never milked a cow in my life.
This time she told me about fall coming and described a foliage scene behind her farm that it stayed in my mind all evening only to resurface in my dream that damp rainy night. In fact, the words I had uttered in my dream had come directly from Valerie’s letter.

The stairs leading up to the attic were dark and narrow and cold. They were enclosed in a small upward-going tunnel and they swerved round so that you couldn’t see if someone was coming down or going up until you were right smack in front of them. It was void of day light and lacked a light switch and even a light bulb for that matter.
Risa and I shared a room up there but I had had no say in the matter. My mother, suspecting my sister to be up to something, used me as a bargaining condition.

“…only if you agree to share the space with your sister,” mother bargained assured that Risa would soon give up the idea. And when Risa said ok without a moment’s hesitation, mother couldn’t go back on her word. And so it was that I ended up sleeping in the attic.

Risa chose the attic because of the way it felt so disconnected from the rest of the house. Perhaps it was because the stairs were completely encapsulated, but once upstairs one could not hear anything going on downstairs. And vice versa. I didn’t like being upstairs but once upstairs I dreaded going down those stairs. I always got the distinct feeling that I was about to bump into a ghost.

We had two beds. Mine was closest to the stairs and Risa’s was next to the windows. Mom let me have a small table next to my bed and on it I kept a small glow-in-the-dark lamp. But the lamp hardly got any real light from outside or from the one dim light bulb that illuminated the room. In order to get any use of the glow, I had to wait for Risa to be in the room for a few minutes before going upstairs. Once under my covers, Risa would turn off the light and then I would get my glow. Good thing was that I fell asleep right away even before the lamp lost its glow.

There were no partitions between our beds so Risa spent her allowance on thick silk ribbons that she thumbtacked to the ceiling boards; I mean lots and lots of ribbons. She made it so that from the top of the stairs, one couldn’t see her bed and also from my bed I couldn’t see her bed. The ribbons were of all different colors and they cascaded from the low ceiling all the way to the floor. During the day I loved looking at the ribbons swaying with the wind, but at night the ribbons grazing against my face or any part of my body, sent shivers down my spine. They scared me.

That night, the rains came strong. There was thunder and there was lightening.
The old house moaned, the old house groaned; the old window blinds rattled uncontrollably. Shrrrrrrooweeee shrrrrrooweeeee rushed in the wind through small openings on the window frame. Oh that howling; how angry that wind sounded. I needed my mother but I was afraid to descend the stairs.
I called out to Risa but she paid me no mind. Closer and closer to her bed I went until I was right above her. She laid on her side, still as a corpse. I could see the shape of her body and even her hair but her face lay hidden under the blanket.
“Can I sleep with you,” I whispered in a groggy voice.
“I’m sssc– scared, ” I moaned still trying to sound strong. I touched her shoulder to shake her but there was no shoulder where a shoulder was supposed to have been. I ran my hand over her body but there was no body there either. And scary as that was, I snatched off the light blanket only to find that two cushions laid where Risa was supposed to have laid.

At that revelation, my eyes got forced open. These didn’t feel like my eyes. The area around my eyes was being held wide open by cold fingers that even my eyeballs felt cold. I couldn’t manage a blink. My mouth flew open as if the ligaments in my neck had been wound too tightly. I screamed but the scream was only coming from inside my head. My voice had deserted me. Almost without thinking I scurried over to the stairs and stomped down the dark stairs as if the ON button had just been turned-on inside me. No time for knocking. I flung the door open. I got to mother’s side of the bed and yanked the covers off of her. I still couldn’t get my eyes to blink or my neck to release the pull it had on my open mouth. I started slapping mother. This woke my father too. He jumped out of bed and turned on the big light in the room. As if this was the cue that I had been waiting for, a loud insistent wailing bubbled from within me. I started to shake uncontrollably and burning tears splattered from my eyes all at once. My voice was incoherent and husky so with exaggerated hand gestures I tried telling them about Risa. But my parents couldn’t understand. I dragged them to the stairs and pushed them towards the attic. Mom got to the top first.
“Risa,” called my mother in that voice she used to let us know that we were in trouble.
“Risa get out here this minute. Risaaaaa! 

But there was no Risa…

Five Teenage Boys I Want You to Meet

Hershey kisses and cotton candy and bubble gum is what my house smelled liked at the end of the evening.

Right after consuming the mouth watering fish-meal that dad labored so hard to catch, they switched gears as if it were their life long mission to indulge in a sweets-binge. First, they started with marshmallows on the grill. Then came chocolate, toffee and chips, then jumbo brownies and colas, and on and on they gobbled. They had a good tummy-fill with intervals of laughter. And by god, I don’t know how they could.

It was a late Halloween party they came to celebrate. I was happy to indulge them. My Halloween decorations hadn’t seen the light of day in years. In fact, the only reason why these boxes and the telltale signs of what lay inside sat next to the front door, was that I was getting ready to donate it all to the church bazaar. Bryan sensed this perhaps and used it as a good excuse for his party plans. Athirst to give my old memorabilia a final farewell too, I decided to go along.

They called it a Halloween party but no one dressed up. The house though, looked splendidly halloweeny in the middle of November. Lucky for me, all my old posters kept their splendor intact. The boys marveled at it and even took pictures which they posted on their social media pages eliciting replies from other friends green with envy. The front door held a warning to the effect of “enter at your own risk”. Our car had scary monster faces on the windows. The trees outside in my yard had pumpkins and skeletons and spiders hanging from them. The yard was dark but for the few demure Halloween lights. And the couch and the table and chairs awaited their warm bodies to come and repose in them, but no one did because it rained!! With umbrellas in tow, they paraded outside and admired the hanging creatures up close. I guess that that gesture is what warmed my insides.

In the wee hours of the morning, even before the rooster arose, Dad had left his warm bed to set out to catch the biggest fish he could find. At around 2:00 dad called to inform Bryan that his big mission had been accomplished. That he was bringing home the biggest one and that he would prepare for him and his friends a nice fish dish fit for kings. And that’s just what dad did. But from the very start, that fish meal was plan #2.

As plan #1 the boys had decided amongst themselves that they would go to the store and load up on meats that they wanted to eat; they were aiming at a hot-pot meal which is very popular here when the weather gets cool. Well that is what they said they’d do but they only got as far as shopping for sweets…Boys!!

If it hadn’t been for dad’s plan #2 and my plan #3 they would have starved. They attacked the fish like barbarians! Truth be told, had this dish been garnished a little more to please adults, 6 adults would have had enough with that amount of fish.

Lucky for them as they were done devouring the fish, the first batch of hot chicken breasts went from grill right to their plates. A hearty salad and wild-rice followed. And then the peppered pork steaks made their brief appearance. Gone in no time!! Yes, I know:- A lot of food!  And then like I told you already, the store-bought treats were what made their hearts sing. Go figure!!

I don’t know at what time they went to sleep but when I awoke in the morning I realized that this time they laid on the futons I had prepared for them, and that wet towels, which prove that they did have time for showers before hitting the sacks, lay on the floors.

My famous pancakes, eggs and sausages were consumed without much ado. They ate and then asked for a ride to the station because it was still raining. Off they went with the gaiety of youngsters with not a care in the world. Who cares what their report-cards say; they are alive and living!

And where were they off to in this weather you ask? Well, girls had invited them to a dance event and sure enough they didn’t want to disappoint those girls. They gel-led and mousse-d their hair and applied deodorant and cologne.

In the car, as I taxied them to the train station, I had to roll down the window, and upon returning home their cologne was all I had left to prove that 5 fifteen-year-olds had spent the night safely under my roof.

…and I thought my house would be reeking of boys. Wrong!!

How do you put up with allergies?

Not asking for sympathy; just sharing.

And yes, it’s ok to laugh…

How are you today?

As for me, I’m getting ready to face the new season with a little trepidation of sorts. It’s funny (actually, there’s nothing funny about it really) how you can be excited about the arrival of a new season and at the same time dread the same.

I worked hard on my garden last year and the thought of spring visiting me and my garden has had me in a yippee-ki-yay mood. Yeah, it deserves reiterating for optimum impact: I’ve been ever so excited about Spring this year even disregarding the memory of allergies that accompany it until the pang that is rampant in my chest (I mistook it for excitement at first) explodes into uncontrollable sneezing. But unlike the relief one feels after a sneeze, this time the relief never comes. And worst still is the hazy lethargic feeling in my head that though silent, sounds so noisy and itchy inside.

So yes, I have a real love/hate; hate/love (?) relationship with spring.

Not my most dignified-self to want to be around with but yet still my most authentic self!! I have no other.

I hope you’re spared. I honestly hope that allergies aren’t part of your day in day out routine. I certainly don’t wish this on anyone.

With a head that feels like an apartment where the guy upstairs walks up and down on creaky floors all day long, a red nose that resembles a leaky faucet and sensitive ears directly connected with your nostrils and palate, (we know they’re all connected but bet you’ve never “felt” it). Today even the antics of my beloved Don Quixote can’t bring me relief. Can’t get any reading done right now. Darn!

In hopes of conquering spring allergies, last year I started a couple of regimens, so add disbelief to the pang I feel in my chest and you’ll have a better idea of how delirious this feels.

But now I’m wondering if the exertion that comes with every sneeze qualifies as exercise. Perhaps I should ask Dr. Oz? I’d argue that it qualifies. Because at the end of the day my muscles are sore. So let me sit here and spend the day exercising… I’ll emerge healthier for it!!

Skies are cloudless again today. Quite picturesque but a curse for those like me. I think I’ll go gulp down some hot tea. Perhaps that will numb my nostrils somehow and bring some quiet in my head.

Incidentally, in this part of the world, mouth masks are an accepted item with no diminishing qualities to the dress code. So I’ll make sure to get me an ample supply.

Writing to you today was the highlight of my day. Thanks for allowing me to release this way.

Hope yours is a pleasant one. Count your blessings. Good Night. 

Engineers Love Circuses Too

Growing up in the outskirts of a sleepy Town, Tyra and her family have had the misfortune of having their house burglarized several times. Once it happened in the middle of the day when her dad was at work, her mother was out on market-day and all the children were in school. Mother would be the first one back home and the scare would take her over to a neighbor’s house to wait until the bus brought the children back home. Another time it was while they were celebrating a party and the doors out back were left unlocked. And twice already when the family was fast asleep.
There never is a good or better time to have someone come in to rummage around in your private space but to have someone in your home while you are asleep has to be the worst time. The scariest too.

After something like that happens, you become keen at spotting whether or not something has been touched and intentionally left behind and somehow everything you touch smells different. Your sense of smells becomes amplified and you know what you know.

That’s exactly how Tyra felt that Wednesday morning in October as soon as she woke up.

She looked around her room. She could smell it. Strange. Everything was like it had been the night before except for that strange putrid smell.

She went down the stairs where her family was getting ready for the day ahead. Strange again. There was too much commotion for a Wednesday.

“I knew it, I knew it,” she blurted out, “what did they take this time?”

“Who?” they all replied in unison.

“What happened to good morning,” her mother chirped as she planted a kiss on Tyra’s forehead, “I’ll have to get a bag of peanuts at the store this week. Oh isn’t it exciting? They’ll have the tent up by the end of the week.”

“ and the parade will be on Saturday,” Luna interrupted, “I’ll wear my new skinny jeans and the purple top that I got for my birthday.”

“What happened? Nothing stolen? ” Tyra still didn’t get it.

“The Circus, silly. The Circus is in town. That’s what happened. Hurry up, or we’ll be late for the bus.”

Like a thief in the night, the Circus had come to the Town of Macondo. Yes yes, that was exciting. But in her mind, only thieves moved around at night.

Tyra was 9 years old with a cultured nose. Their house was the last house built nearly three years ago in a newly developed area. The Circus used to come to this town every year but the three-year hiatus, brought about by the recent economic decline, had caused her to forget all about circuses, clowns, elephants, and peanuts.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday zoomed by with new found positive vibes. The stench from the animals which when mingled with the salty sea breeze become exacerbated slowly became less of a bad stench to those living in such proximity to the circus grounds. Tyra stopped dabbing Vicks Vapo Rub on her nose, with ambivalence at first and then fully determined to stop the practice when her school friends started likening her to smelling like their grandmothers. The last thing she wanted was to smell like her own grandmother who, while sweet and caring, smelled like old pee and Vicks.

“What are we going to do with you and your detective-nose,” her mother would tease, “perhaps you’ll grow up to be a smell-connoisseur,” she’d add.

This always confused Tyra because she couldn’t get a straight answer from any of her teachers about any such profession. And even mother didn’t offer an explanation when Tyra questioned her about it. So Tyra would just dismiss the question. She didn’t like asking too many childish questions because she hoped that her family would stop referring to her as the baby in the family.

That Friday the excitement was hard to curtail. October was a good time for circuses as the air wasn’t as humid as it was the rest of the year. Sunsets came too early though, so the parade was scheduled right after school. This was a safari parade at its best. The animals, and oh what animals, wore festive decorations. There were horses and ponies and zebras. There were tigers and camels and monkeys and dogs. The horses wore bells on their legs that jingled as they pranced along and huge ribbons decorated their tails. The acrobats that sat on the horses looked like Belles straight out of a western movie with their pleated long dresses and plumed hats. They waved and blew kisses at the crowd.

The elephants, all 6 of them with their smiling faces and long trunks walked on their hind legs and rested their front legs, on the waist of the elephant in front of them. They wore fancy belts around their big ears and these were attached to big round rubies and sapphires clustered like grapes that dangled in the middle of their foreheads. And on their legs they wore neon anklets. They got on all fours and went around in circles at regular intervals, much to the oohs and awes of grownups and kids alike. Only the elephant at the head of the group had a long ivory tusk and on that elephant sat a girl with a sequenced outfit and a top hat. There was an elegant gold and red cart full of puppies dressed in little girls’ outfits and this was pulled by two young cows. And a couple of monkeys rode in a caged trailer pulled by someone who impersonated The Terminator. The clowns provided the music and the girls on the unicycles looked like tall Christmas trees with LED lights that moved like disco lights. It was quite The Parade of the year and everyone came out to enjoy it. Only, except for the dogs and the monkeys, the animals weren’t real. They were all engineered by the acrobats themselves who believed that a circus was no place for wild animals. The dogs each had their respective owners as did the monkeys and no animal was ever in any kind of danger of abuse or mistreatment.

The next day and the week that followed people lined up to enter the circus tents. Once settled in, they would take out their bags of peanuts. They’d eat some between taking pictures, and talked and clapped as they were entertained with funny antics from the clowns and animal tricks and acrobatics.

Long after the Circus had left, in every corner of the sleepy town, people could still be heard talking and reliving the excitement. The burglaries became less and a new sense of camaraderie was born. All thanks to the Circus.

A Letter to The Universe

Dear Universe. God. Let me call you God. I want to talk to you today.  My name is Rudolph. I’m an orphan. Well, not really, but that’s how I feel. I’m embarrassed to come to you with my petty request when I know that you must be so busy with all the other problems that are going on in the world. The truth is that I feel lonely. The teacher in school told us that when we had problems, whether big or small, we should find time to write a letter to the Universe. I will write my letter but I really don’t know where to send it. She also said that we should do things out in stages and to gradually move from one stage to the next when we write. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I have also worked on an outline so first I want to tell you about my grandma.

My grandma comes to my room every night to kiss me good night. I am already nine and a half years old and my grandmother still treats me as if I were a little boy. She insists on kissing me every time she sees me. I guess she must really love me a lot because sometimes when she’s kissing me and hugging me she hugs me so hard that I can hardly breathe. And many times I have heard her calling me her little orphan. On those times I sometimes see her eyes fill with tears. When I ask her why she cries, she just holds me close and kisses me some more. So that now I don’t want to ask her about that anymore. But I do have other things I want to ask her about.

Recently the other kids in my class have been telling me that I’m an orphan because I don’t have a mother nor a father. At home my grandma has some pictures of me as a tiny baby with a young woman whom she says is my mother. I don’t remember my mother. And neither do I remember my father. But my grandma never ever mentions my father.

Grandma used to tell me that I look just like grandpa when he was my age. We even have a whole album of grandpa pictures as a boy. But recently she doesn’t even mention grandpa who died before I was even born.

Grandma is the only relative I have. Or at least the only relative I know. Well besides my mother. Grandma used to read me letters that came in airmail envelopes. She said those were from my mother. Sometimes there were birthday cards inside the envelopes and sometimes there was even money. The letters made me happy. They smelled like bubblegum wrappers even though there was no bubblegum inside. And the stamps on them were rather pretty as well. But recently there are no letters and no money.

To tell you the truth this is the first time I’m writing a letter to a real person. Well, we practiced writing letters in class one week in school and we all addressed it to Mr. Phillips, the principal. I’m sure that it took him a very long time to read all the letters he got. I want to write a letter to my mother to ask her if I really am an orphan.  And to ask her when she ‘s coming back. I’m a big boy now and there’s a lot that I can do. I think I’m missing my mother although I don’t know exactly what it feels like to have a mother. I just figure it must be the same way that having a grandmother feels.

My grandma is good to me but she’s already getting old. I don’t know exactly when my grandma sleeps because she’s always up when I get up and nowhere near her bed when I go to sleep. She wakes me up early in the morning and makes me rush to eat my eggs, toast and banana breakfast. Then she shows me where my lunch is in the fridge for when I come home from school at lunchtime. Then the two of us leave together. I go to school and she goes to work. At school, when the bell rings we all have to go back home at 11:30, eat and return to school by 12:45 sharp for the afternoon part of school.

When I get home to eat my lunch, grandma is not home. I eat lunch alone. But before I eat I always change from my school shirt to an old T-shirt that grandma sets out behind my chair. This changing of clothes makes me dizzy but I do it because it helps grandma. I air out my school shirt and put it on again before returning to school. So, all in all, I change shirts twice a day; once at lunch and again after school.

When I come home after school I come straight to my room to change from my school uniform to my ordinary clothes. I put my white shirt in a hanger and clip my trousers to the clothes line on the veranda facing the side of the house where the sun is still shining. My school shirt, if it passes my grandma’s sniff-test and it doesn’t smell too rancid, as she takes to calling it, I wear from Monday to Friday.

Here at home, it’s just Grandma and me. She used to work at Mr. Sharp’s in the big white house next to the school grounds. Then, I used to go to meet grandma there for lunch. We would eat lunch together then. But since you made Mr. Sharp die, she has had to work at a different house. A little far so that she cannot come home to meet me for lunch. She works for Mrs. Vargas now.

Mrs. Vargas is the Manager at The Macondo Bank in Town and Mr. Vargas is a Taxi driver. They have 3 kids. Maurice, the youngest one, is in my class. He doesn’t like to study and says that he will go into the taxi business like his dad when he grows up.

God, I don’t want to be a bother to you but I want to ask you to help all the people who live here in Macondo, but most especially I want to ask you to make me a big boy soon so that I can help my grandma so that she doesn’t have to work so hard every day. I don’t know what I would do if my grandma got sick and died. So please God, don’t think of taking her from me anytime soon. But please turn me into a big boy a.s.a.p.

I do my homework at the library every night and Ms. Gina helps me to review my spelling words and sometimes helps me memorize my multiplication tables. The man at the Taco place next to the library is a good friend of my grandmother. Every evening he calls me to go into his place and he and his wife serve me Tacos and orange juice. His name is Mr. Cholin. I want you to send him a tortilla making machine because sometimes when I’m eating there I hear him say to his customers that he is out of tortillas. If you send him a tortilla making machine he could make more tacos for all the people who come to his place. They’re really good tacos.

God, I know that my problems are nothing compared to what the kids in Aleppo are going through. But I promise you this — I will study hard and work well and I will do my best to help people like the people in Aleppo when I get big so please make me big soon.

Thank you, God.

Yours truly, Rudolph.