This morning I asked my sister if it was okay to have hot dogs and saimin for dinner tonight. It's Dad's birthday so we're skipping our usual Tuesday fare of carnitas and fresh-made tortillas pressed by Iliana's busy little hands. I know that changing the menu isn't a big deal, but today it might be. I mean, it is. After all, this is Dad that we're talking about.
“See you next year!” we call to one another, jittery with equal parts Christmas break excitement and Christmas party sugar. I still laugh really hard at the joke, though I am becoming aware that the other girls are not laughing quite as much. We're in seventh grade, after all. We are supposed to be growing up, our senses of humor with us. Or something.
This year I get a pink Le Clic camera. I immediately load a disc of film into the back of the plastic case, delighting in its slippery newness.
My sister gets a blue Le Clic because Mom insists on getting us matching presents. Celine gets blue because she refuses anything not blue. She owns blue, as if that's possible. I get whatever other color there is because I'm not particular, only that's not quite it.
Mom doesn't have to tell us to open our gifts at the same time anymore; we've learned for ourselves the lesson of a spoiled surprise. There are few surprises these days anyway, since Celine and I are both relentless and clever about guessing our presents. Sometimes Mom just laughs at our pre-Christmas antics. Sometimes she get truly angry. This year she is more angry than amused.
On the first of November, the internet was aflutter with the news that Brittany Maynard ended her life. And sure, I read the articles with as much voyeuristic interest as the next guy, but the timing of it just kind of gutted me, I guess.
After all, it was also the third anniversary of my mother's death.
"Mom, what do I write here?" I pointed to the line on the emergency contact form, blinking back tears I didn't want her to see.
She glanced at the rectangular card. "Retired," she said impatiently. I wrote the word in tiny, smushed together letters.
I felt a strange heat in my cheeks as I continued filling out the form, the rest of the information second nature by then. I wrote Supervisor in the space asking for my mom's occupation, directly under my dad's new title. Wrote the phone number for my cousin's flower shop on Castle Street.
I missed you today. You know, more than normal. Ian took the day off work so he could chase Iliana while I went to a doctor's appointment. You know that pain I keep getting in my hip / leg / whatever? It' been coming back more and more, and a couple of weeks ago I found a lump. I know. I was pretty scared, especially when I got an electric jolt of nerve pain when I pressed on it. I know that if I had Neurofibromatosis they'd already have found it, but lumps and nerve pain still freak me out.
I know you'd totally understand.
My mother was sued once for making a complete stranger impotent.
It's not that she was an ugly woman; my mother was actually quite beautiful. And to hear her tell it, she certainly didn't hinder my father's lascivious libido. She loved to share giddy little factoids about their sex life, telling her stories, over and over again with the same exact inflections and the same exact hand gestures each time.
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