Do as I say, Not as I Do

sadness-1325507_1280photo credit: MariangelaCastro; Pixabay

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Some children have no access to good lessons in story-books but even those who are blessed with story-books are sometimes misled by the actions of adults. What are we teaching our children?

The little girl in my story is placed in a precarious position by her own mother. Though she doesn’t know to verbalize what she’s feeling, we can sense her embarrassment. Can there be a happy ending to this story? Would it kill us to behave differently?

***

“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 she were thick-as-thieves. She knew exactly what that Mrs. looked like.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Manzanilla, but I’m just following the 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, a volcano was 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 stolen 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 nobodies. No one bothers to know more, but to me, of all the inconsistencies that I’ve 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 displaying every aisle in the store.

We are dead, I think, then I hold my breath. 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 thinking I’d rather stay with the chickens than with her.

Moments later she comes to call me in for supper. “…besides, it’s time for the chickens to roost,” she soothes.

I begin to cry.

***

Thanks for reading.

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.

**

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.

Kids see Things that Adults can’t see

by Selma

“Today I am a round blue thing mommy. What am I?” said little Donny. As soon as he posed the question to mom he hugged his legs firmly and started swaying from left to right and back again; he laid curled up like a little fur ball on the floor. Sure that he had mom’s attention, he stopped swaying to receive his mom’s response.

“Hmm, let me think,” said his mommy, “are you a furry, round blue thing?”
Mom thought that perhaps he was pretending to be the little blue furry kitten pictured in his story book the night before. Why would anyone think of painting a kitten blue anyway, she remembers thinking.

“No. No fur on me”, laughed Donny, “keep guessing mommy.” He swayed to the left and again to the right and then stopped, eagerly awaiting mom’s answer.

“Well, are you a round blue thing that enjoys being kicked around?”, his mother asked.

“Mmhn. Maybe. You can kick me around but that’s not what I am for”, said the boy with his eyes dancing on mommy’s face.
Mom was sure that the little boy was talking about the nice blue ball that his grandparents had recently sent for him. But, right after thinking that, a more recent image arose in her mind: “No ball kicking inside the house,” dad had said in an authoritative voice. Dad was bent over picking up the shattered pieces of the broke lamp. “Balls are for playing outside; not for inside the house — things get broken and hurt”, dad had punctuated. Dad’s reprimand had made Donny cry but he never kicked his ball inside the house again.

“Hmmn are you a round blue thing that likes to bounce up and down then?” asked mom.

“No mommy. I cannot bounce. God didn’t make me for bouncing. Just for rolling.” replied the little boy.

“No?”, Mommy said in surprise. “You’re not your new blue ball?”

“No mommy. I’m not that.”

Mom looked away from the magazine she was paging through to get a clue from the things he was playing with at the moment. No mention of round blue objects in the story books he had around him nor anything blue in his vicinity. He was playing with his toy cars but those were not blue. Mom couldn’t decide what to say to him.

“Well, I’m afraid I will need you to give me a clue because I cannot guess what it is you are today Donny”, she said.

“A clue?” He was intrigued . He got off the floor and walked to where mom was sitting. “Well, daddy loses it every day and he cannot go to the office without it. So every day he spends a lot of time looking for it. It’s daddy’s very important thing.”

Well, John is always misplacing his keys, that’s for sure thought mom, but Donny specifically said that he is a round blue thing. Keys are not round, mommy thought.

“I give up Donny. I cannot guess what you are”, she said at last. Even with his clue, she really couldn’t guess what he was pretending to be today.

“Mommy, today I am the little round blue marble on daddy’s keychain. The one he uses to start the car with.” He said this and then he folded his arms feigning anger, or perhaps that was pride on his face?

“Oh my Donny. You had me on that one. I would never in a hundred years have guessed that today you were the little blue marble on daddy’s keychain”, she ruffled his curly hair. “Now it’s mommy’s turn to ask you a question. Why is it that you are a round blue thing today?”

“Because today I am that little blue marble that’s hanging from daddy’s keys. The End”, said Donny. He emphasized the ‘the end’ just like mommy did at the end of every story she read to him.

And with that mommy knew that there was no point in her prodding him for more clarity. Today her son was feeling like a little blue thing that was very important to his daddy. It was no use trying to play detective or psychologist. Kids know what they know.

There is no Love in Violence

“Domestic violence rarely affects only those directly involved in the abusive relationship.” ― Asa Don Brown
Short of stepping on Curly’s tail, Becky stormed into the living room, slammed the screen-door shut and hurried to her room.
“What?” her mother asked from the kitchen, “back already? Did you forget to take something?” her mother continued.

Becky didn’t answer. Her footsteps were heavy as she went up the stairs. She closed the door to her room, pressed the play button of her CD player and turned the volume on high. She got inside her closet and sat on the floor on the corner closest to the window. The evening was pleasant and the sound of the birds on the tree outside the window was silenced by the sound coming from inside her room.

Her mother finished rinsing off the dinner dishes and wiping her wet hands on her apron, rushed upstairs to see what the matter was with her daughter. She knocked on the door with the secret code they had settled on for the month, but no tap-tap, the code of acknowledgement, came from inside the room. Mother knocked the same way again and again, but again Becky didn’t reciprocate. Mom turned the door knob and realized that the door was locked from the inside.

“Becky, open the door. Let me in. Becky, what happened? Did something happen with you and Margo?” Mom was getting worried. This was so out of character for her daughter.

She waited a few more minutes and knocked again. “Becky,” she said, a little more impatient this time, “talk to me. Open the door.” Becky got out of the closet, lowered the volume on her CD player and unlocked the door. Then she sat on the floor next to her bed. Mother knocked again and this time Becky reciprocated by tapping on the side of her bedroom table with their coded tap-tap. Mother turned the door knob and entered the room.

“Honey, did something happen to you over at Margo’s house?”
Becky hugged her knees and looked away from her mother. Mother followed Becky’s lead and sat on the floor next to her daughter.

In the short year that they have been neighbors, Becky and Margo have become best friends. They walk to and from school together, they spend endless hours playing outdoors and talking on the porch-swing, they walk up to receive holy communion together at Sunday Mass and apart from the fact that each girl has their own house chores to do, they are inseparable. Once or twice a month Margo’s mother has invited Becky to come along as Margo’s guest for a family dinner at a sort-of-nice restaurant in town. The dinners always left Becky a little perplexed but she dismissed the feelings Because she could not find the appropriate words to form the thoughts about the feelings, even in her own head. This being the case she never got around to saying anything about this to her mother. When mother would ask, Becky would talk about the food instead of the feelings she would bring back from the dinner experience with the Romanos.

“Yes, I decided to sneak in on Margo instead of calling out to her. When I looked in through the screen door I saw Margo kneeling on the floor. She had her hands stretched out infront of her and I saw her daddy loading her arms with heavy books.”

“You mean that it was like some kind of punishment?” her mother asked.

“Yes, exactly. It had to be. Margo looked sad and scared but she had her arms stretched out and her daddy kept putting book after book for her to hold in her outstretched arms. At one point, Margo got tired so she relaxed her buttom on the back of her legs and her daddy hit her on her back with a book,” replied Becky suppressing fresh tears that burned to come out.

“And you saw all that? ” her mother asked holding her daughter’s hand with one hand and wiping a tear off her own face with the other.

“Yes. But the worst part is that Margo saw me looking. I think that I will never be able to face her again. I am embarrassed to have seen what I saw. And I am sure that Margo is embarrassed for it as well.” Becky’s words punctuated the conversation and a long silence, thick as a morning mist, permeated the room. Her mother didn’t know what to make of the situation. And she didn’t want to say something out of place without thinking things over first, so mother and daughter just sat there on the floor.

In the year since they have been neighbors the mothers have not become close. They have exchanged pleasantries but unlike the girls, their relationship hasn’t advanced beyond that. For starters, Mrs. Romano, Margo’s mother is a career woman. She works from 9:00 – 5:00, sometimes later and like the rest of the neighborhood, Becky’s mother refrains from approaching Mrs. Romano to allow her the space she and the neighbors think she needs. Come to think of it, besides attending Mass with her family on Sundays and the occasional dinners out in town, Mrs. Romano seldom participates in anything in the community. Mr. Romano, on the other hand, works from home. According to Margo he is a translator of German Novels. He is at home all the time and it is he who attends to Margo and her younger sister when they return home from school. He is very polite yet reserved with the neighbors. He attends school meetings but doesn’t socialize with anyone at school. According to Becky, the Romanos move to a new town every two years or so and before coming to Macondo, they lived in Los Alamos. Apart from that, no one knows anything else about the family.

*****

“The abuser does not believe, however, that his level of authority over the children should be in any way connected to his actual level of effort or sacrifice on their behalf, or to how much knowledge he actually has about who they are or what is going on in their lives. He considers it his right to make the ultimate determination of what is good for them even if he doesn’t attend to their needs or even if he only contributes to those aspects of child care that he enjoys or that make him look like a great dad in public.” ― Lundy Bancroft Bancroft

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.”