Archive for March, 2012

In Moonlight’s Vision


I sat on the sand and let the moonlight glide over me like honey, while the wind played with my hair and tickled my skin and somewhere down the beach a baby cried with me. I listened to the whooshing of the gentle waves against the shore. I looked back at our duplex and wondered what Mitch was doing. We should have been enjoying the moonlight together; instead we hadn’t spoken since we’d arrived.

Mom had asked me before we left if I was going to stay with him; as if that was such an easy decision to make. I just didn’t know what I was going to do.

I missed his smile so much; it had been so long since I’d last seen his face light up with one of his all encompassing, here comes the sunshine, smiles or heard his laughter.

I’d brought him here every year for the past four years. I don’t know what I expected; a miracle maybe? Maybe I thought that if he was reminded of how happy we’d been here he would want to be a husband and father again. Our son was going to be seven this year and he didn’t know what it felt like to be held by his father. I didn’t know what to say or how to act around him anymore. Anything I said set him off and he’d sit in his room and I wouldn’t see him for days. I’d spoken to him about counseling, but he told me it was his business, to leave it alone. I missed him so much; I wanted my husband back, but I didn’t know what to do to make that happen.

We’d arrived five days ago; mom and dad had kept Mitchie for us. I’d brought him to the duplex and now instead of spending a nice leisurely dinner with my husband holding hands or just talking, I was sitting out on the beach at midnight by myself.

• • • •

     “Why do you keep bringing us back here?” he’d shouted. “Do you want to remind me that I can’t walk out on that beach with you anymore, is that it!?!?”

Tears started streaming down my face, “No! I just…I wanted to remind you of how happy we’d been here,” I shouted back at him. “I just want you to remember how we met and how much we loved it each other, but you’re so wrapped up in feeling sorry for yourself. You’re so selfish Mitch!!” I’d started sobbing loudly, holding my stomach with one hand and the other on my chest to ease the tightness.

“I feel like I lost you when you lost the use of your legs and you don’t have to tell me that I’m being selfish as well, I know I am. All I want is what we had before, but I guess we’re never going to get it back. I don’t want to give up, I want to keep trying to save our marriage, but it’s no good if only one of us is fighting for it. I’m just…I’m done.” I’d turned and walked out the front door. I hadn’t known where I was going; I’d just known I had to get away from there for a while. I’d come back later and start moving my things to the other duplex. I’d ignored him as he called my name.

*****************

  I’d been sitting out here since 8:00. It wasn’t quite chilly out, but neither was it warm. I knew I needed a light sweater, but I felt like a total wuss for having lost control and having screamed at Mitch. I kept trying to understand what he was going through, but I couldn’t and I was too afraid to ask him about what had happened over there. It’s not as though he usually answered me when I asked him questions anyway. Lars had tried talking to him right after he’d come home, but he hadn’t opened up to his little brother either.

I heard a muffled giggle and a masculine voice say, “Suzy, you just get more beautiful every day,” followed by a sigh and then a very passionate kiss.

I lay back on the sand with a sad little smile and rolling over on to my side I allowed the tears to flow and gradually dozed off into sleep.

*****************

     I loved this resort area and had been coming here since I’d started working for Hughes Systems Analysis. I programmed computers, created software and analyzed and upgraded systems and helped new up and coming companies choose and set up computer systems that worked best for them. It really helped that my type of work paid extremely well, because two years ago instead of staying at one of the huge resorts again, I’d bought my double duplex and now rented the right half out to vacationers year round and the left half was always available to friends and family.

At the beginning of the month I’d rented out the right half to the Johnson family from Colorado and we’d already become fast friends. They had another eight days to go on the first vacation they’d had in years. I was supposed to be on vacation, but the company I’d been visiting on the island had allowed the owner’s son to play computer tech and I’d been trying to fix what he’d done.

I’d arrived home after 9:00 p.m. three days running and Milly Johnson had insisted on making dinner every night. Together we’d decided she’d cook breakfast and dinner for the remainder of the week and Saturday and Sunday I’d make breakfast and lunch and we’d grill out together for dinner.

I woke up extra early on the Johnson’s last day to say goodbye and to make sure they got to the airport on time; I arrived home and decided to lay down and catch a few more z’s. I’d finally fixed all the problems with the computer systems at Driscoll Supplies, with the understanding that if that happened again, they were on their own. I’d also had a nice long talk with the owner’s son and he’d applied to one of the colleges. He was going to learn how to program and fix computers and I’d promised to help him in any way I could. I was smiling as I drifted off to sleep.

************

     I was clumsiness personified; unless you put me in front of a computer then I was as smooth and coordinated as a champion ice skater or professional dancer. My family teased me mercilessly, because I was constantly falling over everything and anything. Sometimes there wasn’t anything there and I still tripped over it! Yeah, I know that didn’t make sense, but that’s the way it was.

After my nap, I finally felt rested enough to start my vacation and decided that I’d start my day off with a nice long run. I opened the front door and shot through it without looking. My glasses went in one direction; my towel in another and my forehead hit something really hard. I bounced up pretty quickly (I’d had plenty of practice after all) and stopped abruptly at a crunching sound.

I was nearsighted and blind as a bat without my glasses. “Dear Lord please tell me that crunch wasn’t my glasses?” I prayed out loud.

“No, those were mine,” a deep voice responded.

Looking around at the blurry deep rich greens, bright blues and yellows I asked awestruck, “Is that You God?”

A loud guffaw was quickly muffled and few minutes later a voice still choked by laughter said, “I’m Mitch Michaels and I believe these are yours.” I felt the hard wire rimmed glasses as they were placed in my hand, but the only thing I was actually focused on were the double M’s in his name. Of course the next thing out of my mouth was totally unintelligent. “Ooh chocolate!”

I always found a reason to associate everything with chocolate; to my undying embarrassment, at my last presentation to Nasquk and Assoc., one of the employees had asked a question, but his name, Crispin Pounds, had thrown me off balance and all I could think about was a Mounds bar. I’d had to excuse myself long enough to eat the chocolate bar I carried in my bag. I still couldn’t think of that day without wanting to sink through the floor.

A shout of laughter and the top of a curly, blondish brown head was what met my eyes once my glasses were on.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Gurgles and gasps of laughter and shaking shoulders were all I saw for minutes until he brought himself under control.

Finally with one hand on his stomach and the other wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, he’d straightened up and looked into my eyes. My dark brown eyes met his golden brown eyes, which were surrounded with a darker brown and out loud I thought, “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

He snorted loudly, “How can someone so gorgeous think of candy all the time?” he asked.

“Ah, not just any candy; it has to have chocolate somewhere in the mix,” I blurted out. He started laughing again.

Apparently, Mitch had forgotten to bring a sun umbrella for his little sister and instead of going all the way back to the hotel for it, he’d scooted both of them over in front of my duplex and they’d made themselves comfortable in the shade of my coconut palms, which happened to be right outside my door.

Over the next two weeks we came to know each other very well. He was from Portland, Oregon and had two siblings, his brother Larsen, who was at Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and his little sister Lanie. Their parents had been gone a little over a year and had been only children, so the three of them were all that was left. He was on reserve status with the army for now since there was no one else to take care of Lanie.

I found we had things in common; he was a computer programmer, and like myself, loved to cook and run. He started running with me every morning. He’d carry Lanie on his shoulders, when she wanted to tag along, and sometimes she’d sit in front of the condo with Mae and Carl (they were the duplex’s caretakers when I was gone), while we jogged up and down the beach; the good thing was, he didn’t fall over everything so he was able to help me up…a lot!

He seemed to go into shock when I showed him all the pictures of my family and there were quite a few of them. I’d made doubles of all the ones I had at home in Chicago when I’d decided to buy this duplex, that way I had all my pictures here whenever I came to the island for work or just to vacation. There were ten of us, including mom and dad and I was the youngest.

We found ourselves hanging out together for breakfast, lunch and dinner and before that first week was up we knew that something special was happening. We couldn’t be sure that the romance of the balmy tropics wasn’t playing with our senses so we attempted to play it cool. Every night before we went our separate ways, we’d walk barefoot under the moonlight just talking and of course there was lots of laughter, usually me falling on my face as we walked said beach. Those nights were magical, even if for some reason he started tripping over his own feet. I loved how he looked, his hair and eyes glowing in the moonlight and I teasingly called him my fairy king; he’d called me his hot chocolate princess and we’d both blushed. One night after a particularly embarrassing fall, he helped me up and didn’t let go of my hand and before leaving me at my door he’d held me and kissed my forehead. He’d said, “I never really noticed the moon before, but you’ve made it a thing of beauty.” I’d had to work really hard to keep my sigh back.

Two weeks after our meeting I took Mitch and Lanie to the airport. I’d fallen in love with him, as well as his little sister and it was so hard to see them go. I held on to her trembling little body as she sobbed and clung to my neck and Mitch had held on to the both of us. I cried all the way home.

After my two months were up, I cleaned up both sides of my duplex and set a ‘For Rent’ sign on the right half and met with Mae and Carl to make arrangements for weekly cleaning until I returned; this was the first time I hadn’t looked forward to going home.

************

     I’d been back in Chicago for three weeks and I had never been so miserable in all my life. The company started sending me chocolate flowers and chocolate covered fruit baskets and finally the boss came into my office and asked me out right if I was thinking of leaving. I just cried while he awkwardly patted my back.

I arrived home that evening tired, miserable and out of sorts. I walked into the kitchen and right into Mitch’s arms. With his hands cupping my face he told me he’d realized that it wasn’t the weather in Portland that had him feeling so miserable, but the fact that he missed me so much. He’d known that I wouldn’t want to leave my family, so he’d applied for a job at Hughes Systems and had moved himself and Lanie over, lock, stock and barrel. I just held on to him and cried; mom cried with me and dad coughed and claimed he’d gotten an eyelash in both his eyes.

We waited a year, at mom and dad’s request, before getting married. During that time Mitch and his family learned what it was like to be part of a huge family and they loved it. We made so many wonderful memories and thought that our wedding day was the happiest day of our lives, then five months later we discovered we were expecting and Mitch held me and cried with happiness.

Three months before our son’s due date, George, Mitch’s best friend was killed by sniper fire in Iraq. Without talking it over with me Mitch had himself taken off reserve status and put on active. He’d attempted to explain his reasons to me, but I was so angry and afraid that I wouldn’t listen.

Six days after our son was born, Mitch was shipped out. I’d had a difficult birth and was still in the hospital.

I held on to him and cried, “Take care of yourself my fairy King. I love you!”

“I’ll be back before you know it my hot chocolate princess,” he’d responded.

I sat in the wheelchair and watched until the car that carried him away from me had disappeared from sight.

I was so lonely in spite of having all my family around. The few months he’d promised stretched out and became three years. I’d faithfully written to him seven times a week and had mailed letters out every other day. Sometimes I received replies right away; sometimes it was weeks or even months before I heard anything.

The three years he’d served he’d been back home two times. The visits had been brief and uncomfortable. He hadn’t smiled or talked much; his eyes cold and hard. The worst part of it was that he’d treated me like a stranger and he hadn’t touched or held either Mitchie or myself once. Our walks on the beach in the moonlight seemed light years away.

June 15, into the first month of what would have been his fourth year I received a visit from his commanding officer. My heart stuttered and he caught me before I hit the floor.

“Lieutenant Michaels isn’t dead ma’am, but he is paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors say he’ll never walk again. I’m sorry. He’s at Walter Reed in Washington and will be ready for release in a couple of weeks. If there’s anything I can do for you please let me know.”

I waited for him to leave and then I cried for hours holding Mitchie. I cried for us, for me, but mostly I cried for my husband. I was happy he was alive, but I wasn’t sure he would be. I wanted to leave right away to be near him, but Mitch said he needed to rest and he’d see me when we came to pick him up.

Two weeks later, Lars and I drove down to Walter Reed to pick up my husband, but he only allowed Lars in the room and refused to see me. Lars had argued with him, but to no avail. I’d waited patiently until he’d been loaded up in the van and tried speaking to him, but he hadn’t responded. He finally spoke to me the night we arrived home. His temporary nurse had helped him get in bed and was out for the evening. I finished up some paperwork I had and had kissed Mitchie goodnight and made my way to bed. I’d climbed in bed after my shower and with relief I’d laid my head on his chest and put my arm around him.

His body stiffened then, “Get out. I’m not sharing a bed with you,” he said quietly.

Three days later I ended up moving all my things into the second guest room, but I refused to give up and chattered the way I used to. I tried pretending everything was normal, but after I’d bent down to kiss him and he’d turned his face away, I called Lars. With his help and the company’s we’d been flown to St. John. Every year, when I’d reached my limit I tried again and hoped that this time a miracle would occur, but I’d come to the realization that this would be the last time. I’d taken my vows seriously and I would love him until the day I died, but inside I felt like I was already dying a little each day and pretty soon I’d be worthless as a mother and a daughter. It was time to let go.

************

     I woke up to the sun in my face and the start of a nasty sunburn. The ground beneath my ear was soft and warm and it had a heartbeat. I sat up abruptly and looked down into Mitch’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup eyes. “How did you get out here? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” I was panicking and tears were running down my face as I ran my hands over his face, arms and chest and suddenly I realized he hadn’t protested once.

“First off, since you never came back I called Mae and she and Carl came down to help me look for you. Second, I’m okay and when we found you I didn’t want to wake you, so I had Carl carry me over here, so I could lie next to you.” After a short pause, he said quietly, “Can I ask you a question?”

I’d been struck dumb, he hadn’t spoken so much in the last four years and all I could do was nod.

His eyes were wet as he asked, “Do you still love me? Can you still love me in spite of these useless legs? I won’t be able to kill bees for you or take spiders out of the house and I won’t be able to change light bulbs for you or run down to the corner store for Snickers Bars and when you run and fall down I won’t be able to pick you up. Can you look past the wheelchair?” The last question was gruff and the tears were falling down his face.

I almost punched him! I was so angry. “You…I…you stupid idiot!! How can you ask me any of those questions?” My eyes were sparkling with tears and anger.

“I can kill my own bees and spiders and I was changing my own light bulbs before I met you. And I’ll miss that you can’t run on the beach with me and your helping me up after one of my idiotic spills, but it’ll be okay as long as I know you’ll be waiting for me when I get back. “

My bottom lip started trembling and I turned my face away as the tears I’d been holding back flowed freely down my face, “I love you so much and I never stopped; I can’t. My heart hurts when I think I’m gonna lose you. I always thought only cheesy books said stupid things like that, but it’s true. You’re part of me and you always will be.”

His big warm hand turned my face back to his and he kissed my forehead and eyes. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a jawbone of an ass and thank you for not giving up on me. I don’t know how I’m going to make it up to you for the last four years, but I’m going to try. I promise.” His head lowered as he gently kissed me.

“Hey boss, I’m going to town to buy some groceries…boss, boss! Oh they’re finally kissin’ again Mae. Put the sun umbrella over them. We’ll be back in an hour.”

We never even noticed they were gone.

*************

Feel free to visit the site and read what the other writers have posted. They’re really good!

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Tortilla Memories

     I woke up this morning missing my mama so much and with tortillas on the brain. I dreamt all night long that we were in her kitchen side by side preparing a meal for the family. The smells and flavors were so real that I swear to you I had butter and tortilla breath when I woke up.

     I tried for the first two hours of my morning to get the tortillas out of my head, but after a very hard struggle and a call to my sister to distract myself, I dramatically threw myself on the floor and screamed, “You’ve won tortillas!! I shall make you and I will endeavor to finish making all eight-dozen without eating the first. Darn you, darn you all to heck!!” My husband Eliseo clapped his hands from his position by the back door and excitedly exclaimed, “Yes! I’m calling the kids over. They can bring frijoles (beans) and carne (meat). Make plenty cariño!” and he was gone to make phone calls.

     I grinned and quickly vacuumed and dusted; not much needed doing since I cleaned seven days a week. Eliseo and Tomas, my brother-in-law, set up the grill, tables and chairs in the back yard. They were humming and laughing; I loved how having family over made my husband so happy…so okay, I was pretty happy myself.

     I took out the flour, baking powder, butter flavored shortening and salt and warmed up some water for the tortillas. I love my tortillas a bit spicy, so I also added a dash of black pepper. After I’d mixed all the ingredients together, I kneaded the dough for a while, then covered it and let it rest for a bit while I started to prepare the pico de gallo. Pico is a staple in my family; a meal is not a meal unless accompanied by a nice fresh, zesty pico. I’d diced the onion and fresh jalapeño and chopped up the cilantro and tomato and had quartered the lemons before starting on the garlic. The first slice into the garlic brought out the most wonderful scent that always reminded me of my mama’s kitchen. If they bottled this scent and called it Eau de Garlic, or as my eldest daughter called it, ‘Eww de Stinky Garlic’, I would wear it every day; yeah, I loved the aroma of the pungent garlic that much. Can you just imagine the awesome scents I’d be wearing? Oh yeah, I’d smell like a Mexican kitchen 24/7.

     The phone rang, momentarily distracting me, and my older brother Neto informed me he’d be bringing some diet coke for me since I’m diabetic and an assortment of other drinks and wondered if there was anything else I needed. Wow, all this because I was making tortillas? Anyway, I gave him a list of things to bring and got back to my tortillas.

     I turned up my music and started rolling out tortillas to the beat of TobyMac’s Get Back Up. I’d give the dough a good roll, give it a quarter turn, tap my feet a couple of times and repeat. I rolled out six before placing them on my nice big comal (griddle) and no sooner did they start browning, then I was gently enveloped in the scent and back in my mama’s kitchen.

***********

     I was seventeen years old and had finally started to work this year over much protest from my papa who said I was way too young to be out in the working world. I’d arrived home from work really tired and had just wanted to crash. Working at Lee’s Electronics was a tiring and torturous job. I worked on a line making lights for semi trucks. I stood for four and a half hours, took a thirty-minute break and stood for another four and a half hours making these lights. The pieces were so sharp that I always ended up going through 6 pairs of gloves per day.  The gloves were little protection against the sharp edges and by the end of the day my fingers were swollen, the tips all cut up and my hands and feet were hurting badly. I couldn’t believe I had actually made it to the weekend and boy was I ever looking forward to it! My mama and papa had invited my brothers and sisters over for the holiday weekend. We had four whole days together and would be able to have family altar together the way we used to when everyone was at home. Mama had already had all the guitars restrung and the piano tuned and papa’s beautiful dark red congas were all shined up and the skins had been replaced.

  ***********

     It felt like I’d barely closed my eyes when I heard mama calling from the bottom of the stairs, “¡Ya estan aqui! They’re here!”

     “Hurry up sleepy head,” my little brother Roman called excitedly on his way down.

      It had been several months since we’d all gotten together because even though we all lived in the same state, there just never seemed to be enough time to visit each other.

     We lived in a huge old house with eight bedrooms, so there were always bedrooms available for sleepovers. Even though my brothers and sisters had married and moved out mama refused to change the rooms. She’d said the bedrooms were for when her hijos came over to visit and for whoever might be in need of a place to sleep. The pastor called our house, “The Rest for the Weary Inn,” with mama as its angel.

     Papa and mama’s favorite room was the family room with French windows that papa had built just for her. Mama loved this room and spent most of her time in there and had placed her keyboard and all her other instruments in it.  It faced the big backyard and led right out into the big stone patio. Papa had built a wooden playground set for the grandkids and had added a small pond with Koi fish. Mama said the back yard was a dream come true.

***********

     There were screams of pleasure as my nieces and nephews, along with my sisters and sisters-in-law came rushing in the door. Everyone was hugging each other and there were kisses galore going around the room and mama was doing her cheek pinching routine and you could hear my sister Nelli’s youngest complaining, “Not so hard Abuela! You’re gonna break my face.” Mama also loved to bite cheeks, but this she saved for my brothers and sisters. My sisters were squealing as they attempted, but failed to escape being chomped on and my brothers just went straight up to mama and waited their turn, so they could hug the stuffing out of their mamacita.

     As always my brothers began an arm wrestling contest to see who was strongest and while mama set out supper for everyone papa brought out the hard stuff for everyone to drink…big glass bottles of Coca Cola.

     After hours of eating, talking, and reminiscing the kids were starting to yawn and mama herded all her chiquitos (little ones) to the room she’d prepared and put them all to bed. I was so tired I called out goodnight and went upstairs to curl up on my bed and I was dead to the world until morning.

***********

   Friday and Saturday were busy. We went to the zoo, hit the museum, and had a cookout at the Highwell Forest Preserve and Saturday night we took in a concert at the park. And every meal was spent trying to out cook each other, but mama won every time. At night before we hit the sack, papa would get us all into the family room and he’d take out his Bible and we’d have family altar. He’d read a story and he’d explain what the story was about and how it applied to the present and to us. Afterward, we all grabbed an instrument and we sang before closing with a prayer.

     Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful and mama woke everyone up at 7:30 singing her loudest. She’d knock at our doors; sing a verse and say, “Well, how does the next one go?” And if we didn’t start singing right away she opened the door and let my nephews pounce on us. My brothers deliberately couldn’t remember the verses, so the attack was on.

     Mama loved it when we went to church as a family and every night she would pray that her little lambs that had gone astray would somehow; someway find their way back. We joked that if one wanted mama she could be found on her knees any time of the day or night.

     As everyone readied themselves, mama made a big breakfast of tortillas, huevos con chorizo (eggs with Mexican sausage) and papas (potatoes) and plenty of jalapeños and then we were off to Temple Emmanuel.

     The worship songs were mighty powerful and prepared our hearts and minds for the coming message as we sang Jesus Lover of My Soul, How He Loves and Beautiful One. I had to admit that they went so perfectly with it.

     We enjoyed the message Pastor Randall brought based on Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  The message was powerful and you could have heard a pin drop amidst the occasional ‘Amen!’

  Right after the pastor had dismissed everyone with a prayer, mama took the microphone from him and announced, “All of my kids are to come to my house after this service and I mean all of you. You hear me?” Everyone laughed and Pastor Randall invited himself, his wife, the deacons and their wives over as well. Mama was so happy she was practically floating as she walked out the front door of the church.

***********

      As usual, we didn’t have only tortillas, it was full out carb  attack  fest. Mama  made refried,  refried  beans, arroz  rojo  con  aceitunas  (red rice with olives)  and  papas  con queso  y  salsa (potatoes chunks sautéed with onions, teensy bits of garlic and bacon and huge  chunks  of  sharp  cheddar and homemade salsa) and  ground  beef enchiladas with tons of cheese.

     Papa came in from out back where the older men had been playing dominoes and stood behind mama and tried to snatch a, fresh off the comal, tortilla.

     “Ay Marina, mi amor (oh, my love), all those pobres hombres (poor men) out there are so envious that I have una esposa (a wife) that can cook como un angel (like an angel).” Yep, that was my papa speaking what we call Spanglish, a combination of Spanish and English.

    With her cheeks flushing and her eyes sparkling, mama said, “Basta ya Antonio, you’re embarrassing me!” Papa just laughed and hugged her tightly from behind. I rolled my eyes, “Oh for goodness sakes consigan un cuarto (get a room), will ya?” Mama giggled like a teenager, the way she always did around papa.

     The kitchen was pure chaos with the kids trying to filch tortillas and twelve women looking through the fridge and the cabinets for ingredients. Pretty soon our Tuscan/Mexican flavored kitchen didn’t feel so large anymore. The large island papa had built for mama, in front of her black antique stove, and every other bit of counter space available was being used as all the women busied themselves grating massive amounts of cheese, made pico de gallo, rolled out tortillas, cut up lemons and olives, browned the ground beef, made salsa, and sweet potato and apple empanadas (pastries) and smashed the beans before refrying them.

     Mama had tried to make her refried beans healthier since papa’s heart scare, so now she used either a little bit of olive or canola oil to refry the beans. Mama had always fried two pounds of bacon and would leave half a pound back to use in the beans later and the rest she’d use for other things. All the fat that had been left she had used to fry and refry the beans. She would add salt, pepper, onion, minced garlic and cilantro and she would refry those babies to within an inch of their delicious lives before she was satisfied. I’d kid her that Pepe, Julian, Simon and Mateo (the names I’d given some of the beans), were going to press charges at Bean Torture and Hostage Headquarters for their mistreatment. She would always say, “Grab a clean spoon. Now taste. Well?”

     “Eh forget Pepe, Julian, Simon and Mateo. We’re eating this!” I loved playing this game and anyway, mama needed a taste tester, or so I told myself.

     This was a very Mexican family, in spite of our being 4th, 5th and 6th generation Americans. The women cooked, cleaned, laughed, told secrets and hugged each other in the kitchen, while the men sat outside and played cards and dominoes, played their guitars and harmonicas. They were also in charge of grilling the succulent pieces of arracheras (skirt steak) that mama had been marinating in lemon, salt, pepper, garlic and cilantro for the past three days. Of course they also talked football.

     My brothers were avid Dallas Cowboy fanatics and sometimes during games I’d wonder if they’d gone into labor with all the groaning, yelling and screeching going on. Yup, they were hardcore fans and I always thought it was hysterical that when they talked about a certain play they’d always say, “I can’t believe we made that stupid play!! What the heck were we thinking!!?” They always acted as if they were part of the team. I’d given up trying to understand their minds, because they couldn’t really understand mine either. They’d sworn off Super Bowl parties after the last one they’d gone to. Little brother said super bowl parties were just an excuse to eat and talk and no one actually understood or watched the game.

     The backyard was now full of men, playing games, singing and grilling arracheras. Now this is what made my mama happy, having a house full of people.

     We were finally done preparing all the food and together we womenfolk had rolled out about 200 tortillas; quite a feat for twelve women in one kitchen. Mama had the men take the tables and chairs out of the store room and set them up on her large stone patio, as well as set up the tents so no one would get sunstroke and had them prepare the chimineas and torches for when it got darker. When my mama invited you over for lunch she usually meant; lunch, supper and possibly breakfast as well.

     The entire family sat down to eat and before anyone could touch anything mama said, “If you touch anything before the blessing, I’m uninviting you to my house!” Papa just shook his head and smiling began to pray, “We thank You Father God for the privilege of family and friends and for the gift of same. We thank You for the food on our tables and the roof over our heads, but more importantly we thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ. Father, we know that every morsel we put in our mouths, every article of clothing we put on our backs and the jobs that we have, that enable us to take care of our families is only possible through Your love and amazing grace. We thank You for the time we get to spend together in fellowship, because we get to lift up and encourage each other; and all this because You love us. In Your precious name we honor and glorify You Daddy, Jehovah Jireh. Amen!”

     All around the table you could hear the heartfelt ‘Amens,’ and then a plaintive voice, “Mommy, I hungry! I eat now?”

     It was a wonderful lunch; the food as usual was perfection. We sat and ate and lunch slowly passed into supper and still the feasting continued.

     The sun had gone down and two of the deacons had long since gone home. My sisters-in-law, sisters and nieces were putting the kids to bed in whatever bedroom mama had assigned them.

     It was past midnight when Pastor Randall got up and stretched wide. “Ah, this was a perfect day. I think heaven is going to be like this.” He and his wife Livy, lived a block over from our house and were offering beds to anyone who might need one.

     Mom looked up at everyone and sighed in pleasure, “Before anyone else leaves, let’s have a song! Cari,” she called out to me, “what would you like to sing?”

     I’d been listening to the same song for days and I quietly asked for ‘Give Me Jesus’ by Fernando Ortega. My older brothers Bernie and Neto grabbed the congas and a harmonica and my younger brother Roman, his guitar. My sister Margarita passed out the shakers and handed mama and Nelli each a tambourine, then grabbed the harpsichord for herself. Dad, Roman and I began singing and when we got to the chorus we split up into three-part harmony and everyone else joined in.

 

Give Me Jesus

Verse 1

In the morning when I rise

In the morning when I rise

In the morning when I rise

Give me Jesus.

Chorus:

Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus

You can have all this world

But give me Jesus

Verse 2

And when I am alone

And when I am alone

And when I am alone

Give me Jesus


Chorus


Verse 3

And when I come to die

And when I come to die

And when I come to die

Give me Jesus


Chorus


Tag

You can have all this world

You can have all this world

Just give me Jesus


     We lost ourselves in the music, the words and the feeling of the song; it was so beautiful and when the last note had faded away, I opened my eyes and saw tears and the wonder of knowing how much Jesus loves us on everyone’s faces.

     We sang three more songs, ending with another of my favorites, the Happy Song by Martin Smith and every instrument and voice rejoiced. I really think heaven will be like this!

***********

    I was startled back to awareness as my husband planted a huge kiss on me and cuddled me close to him. I looked up at him smiling and thanked God for giving me a God fearing man who’s first love was God, because that made him a better husband and father.

     I’d met Eliseo on my 19th birthday and a year later we were married. He had been the associate pastor at our church and had taken over when Pastor Randall had retired eight years ago.

     The time that we had spent together that Sunday had been so wonderful that pastor had continued to do it every Sunday and now Eliseo and I continued that tradition taking turns with my sister Margarita and her husband.

     My brothers and sisters with their families had moved closer to home and now we all attended church together. I learned through experience why mama had spent all her time on her knees for her children and just as God had blessed her faithfulness, He had blessed mine. Our children were all in church, not because they felt forced to be there, but because Christ was the center of their lives.

     My parents had been gone a few years now, but the love and fellowship we enjoyed not just with each other, but also with friends and neighbors was because mama and papa had shown us that with Christ in our lives we could love everyone.

     I looked out my kitchen doors and sighed with pleasure at the sight of my brothers, sisters, their families and my own, as well as friends and neighbors gathered there and my eyes filled with tears of happiness. I looked at my husband and kissing his nose said, “Let’s go eat,” and hand in hand we walked out into the sunshine.

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Tortillas

3 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

7 tbsp shortening or cold butter or 3.5 oz. of canola oil

1 c of warm water

1 tsp of black pepper (optional)

1. Wash your hands really well first, because you’ll have your hand all up in this. (smile) And also warm up your comal (griddle).

2. Mix together your flour, salt and baking powder and black pepper.

3. Add your shortening and hand mix until the flour starts looking kind of crumbly.

4. Slowly add your warm water. Add water 1/4 cup at a time until the dough has become stretchy, but not stickly.

5. Make your testales (I have no idea how you say this in English), shape the dough so that it looks like a mushroom cap. You should be able to get 12 large or 18 small out of this.

6. Now using your rolling pin begin to roll out your dough. Make sure you flour the surface a bit before placing your dough on it. Now put the rolling pin in the center of the dough ball and roll up and away from you. Pick up the dough and give it a 1/4 turn and repeat. Continue this until the dough is the size you want and round.

7. Place on your comal (griddle) until you see little round pockets forming on the surface. Turn it over and brown the other side. You should see pockets on that side as well as it browns.

8. Don’t be disappointed if your first tortilla looks like a star, a frog or something alien. Mine looked like…well, never mind!

Enjoy making these, but if you want to cheat you can go to your local store and buy tortilla flour, then all you have to do is add water, but that takes all the fun out of it. 😉

PS: Rolling them out to music gives you a rhythm to work with and makes it much easier to roll these babies out. Try it!

Pain Can be Funny! or Laughter the Best Medicine

I had an interesting day yesterday. I’d slept a total of 2 hours the night before and it was all my fault, because even though the doc had told me to take painkillers if needed for the pain, I refused. I’ve seen way too many friends addicted to painkillers and I don’t want that to happen to me. I finally managed to get out of bed at around 7:30, with a minimum of trouble, and after answering natures call, I thought, “What the heck, I’m gonna go ahead and take those painkillers and maybe I’ll get some sleep!”

I got back into bed and decided to try laying on my right side for an hour or so and let’s just say that when it’s your right side that hurts don’t tempt fate and like a big dummy lay on that side. While it only took me a few minutes to lay down, it took me two hours to get out of bed. I struggled for about half an hour just to roll over on my left side. I laid there and cried for those two hours until, clenching my teeth, I literally had to throw myself out of bed. I landed on the floor in screaming agony and right in the middle of the scream I started laughing. LOL! Oh man was I in pain, but I have to say that I thanked God that I was alive to feel that pain. I guess the biggest reason I was laughing, was that when I fell on the floor all the stuffed animals I keep on the shelf above my bed fell on my face. I’ve had them since my great-nephew Jewie (Marcus) was 3 years old. We named them together and the little red stuffed fish he named Miss Red fell in my mouth head first and just about choked me. I was planning to make fish for supper last night, but I never thought I’d start the day eating stuffed fish.

Anyway, after laying on the floor for a bit, managed to roll over on to my left side and from there on to my stomach so I could get to my knees. Now I don’t believe in out of body experiences, but I swear I could see myself on the floor with my rump sticking up in the air surrounded by stuffed animals and laughing like a banshee.

I struggled for a bit, but finally managed to get up on my feet with an occasional ‘oww’ and ‘arghh’ and ‘holy Jehoshaphat.’ I laughed between each sharp pain, but I was so grateful that at least I had feet to get up on and hands to support me and an awesome God to help me through this.

All I can say about yesterday is, I’m so glad I can laugh about stuff like this, because when I laugh I feel lighter and happier and I feel like I’ve beaten the poop out of the bad stuff. So whenever you’re going through something that makes you feel yucky and sucky, try and laugh at it. Maybe like me, it’ll make you feel better and you’ll be able to clearly see that your situation could be worse.

Okay, I think I’ll try the sleep thing again. Goodnight everyone. Sleep well.

Jessica Gregory: Alan and the Bully/A Baby’s Miracle

Hey readers,

Just wanted to introduce a new writer in my family; my niece Jessica Marie Gregory. I hope to have some more of my family posting stories on here really soon, I hope!  I want to make this a family blog and without further ado, here’s my niece Jessica!  Thanks for reading.

 From left to right: Amanda Gregory, Nick Reynolds, Jessica Gregory, Steven Reynolds.

My name is Jessica  Marie Gregory. I go to West Aurora High School  in Aurora, IL. I’m in 12th grade, so that means I graduate this year. (Yay!!) That’s my Aunt. LOL! 

I like to play sports, but I don’t play for any teams. I like to read and recently discovered a fondness for writing. I’m tall and I can be kind of weird, but weird can be a good thing.

(And I love my Aunt’s cooking!) That’s my Auntie again. LOL!!

 Jessica doing the wave for her cousins and myself. LOL!!

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Alan and the Bully

The bell rang and the third grade students at Gregory Elementary School lined up full and ready to burn off their newly digested energy. The line leaders led the children through the doors that led from the lunchroom to any child’s paradise, the playground.

Kids ran and screamed at each other playing and having fun.

“Hey! You! Yeah, YOU! Bet you can’t catch me!”

“Yeah?! Bet I can!”

Ryan ran to some kids and yelled “HAHAHAHA! You guys don’t have friends! Wanna play? NOT! I don’t want to play with you! No one does!”

Alan saw how Ryan was making fun of the boys, so he decided to go and ask them if they wanted to play.

Alan walked over to the kids while Ryan stared at him. Alan looked at the kids and said, “I want to get a big game of tag going. You guys wanna play?”

The boys, glanced at Alan then back down to the ground, answered yes. Ryan looked sadly at Alan, so Alan asked him if he wanted to join in too.

Ryan yelled “No way! I don’t want to play with you…or them!” pointing at the boys he was making fun of. So, Alan and the boys walked away to go play tag.

Alan and a bunch of kids played tag for the remainder of recess. The bell rang and they all ran to go line up to go back to class.

The next day they went to recess and Alan saw Ryan sitting alone on the swings so he got on the swing next to Ryan.

Alan asked “Why are you sitting alone here? Why aren’t you playing? Its recess!”

Ryan replied “Well, I don’t wanna! None of these kids are cool…”

“Well, I’m cool. Wanna play with me?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Alan jumped off the swing and clapped his hands and asked “What do you wanna play?”

Ryan said “I don’t know. What do you wanna play?”

Alan put his finger to his lips and wrinkled up his face and after a few seconds replied “Let’s play catch with the football!”

Ryan nodded his head in agreement and Alan took off running to go find a football and Ryan chased after him.

Alan and Ryan played catch for a bit. Then Alan said “Let’s get some more boys and we can get a bigger game!”

Ryan said “Okay.”

Alan went to the boys that Ryan had been picking on the other day and asked if they wanted to join, but seeing Ryan with Alan, they shook their heads no. Pointing at Ryan they said “He’s gonna try to hurt us if we play!”

Ryan wanting to impress Alan, his only friend, said “No, I won’t hurt you. I pinky promise!”

The boys looked at Ryan’s outstretched pinky and wrapped their pinkies around Ryan’s and said “Ok, we’ll play.”

Alan, Ryan and the boys all ran to make a circle and threw the ball around to each other.

Alan, seeing how much fun they were all having said they should play again tomorrow and they all agreed.

While the boys ran to line up Alan grabbed Ryan’s arm and pulled him back to where he was in line.

Alan, smiling from ear to ear, said quickly “Do you want to be my friend, Ryan? You’re really fun to play with!”

Ryan looked at Alan and wasn’t quite sure if he was being for real, but replied “Yes, I would like to be your friend.”

Everyday for recess Alan and Ryan would meet up and get a group of boys together to play games and Ryan finally had a friend, so he didn’t have to pick on others.

******************************

A Baby’s Miracle

     A young mother at a grocery store received a phone call from her husband. He was out of breath and almost screaming into the phone that their two-year-old son was on the brink of walking.

     The mother ran out of the store without putting anything back. She rushed to her car almost crying with excitement. She had almost given up hope that her son would walk after the spinal surgery, he had to have last year, didn’t seem successful.

     She pulled into her driveway barely turning off the car before jumping out and running full sprint to the door. She threw the door open as she struggled to find her camera that was somewhere in her purse. She burst into the living room where her baby, face wrinkled up and red, was in full concentration. She whipped out her camera and hit record just as he made it onto his feet. Her composure exploded, replaced by a waterfall of tears. She tried to hold the camera steady not wanting her trembling to ruin the shot. She looked up at her husband and smiled brightly, her heart beating harder. Her husband stood behind their son, arms stretched out and stared at his son’s legs, waiting to catch him if he fell.

     The baby dropped to his butt and his parents applauded. The young mother stopped recording, jumped up and ran to the freezer for ice cream, her son’s favorite treat, to reward his hard effort. She gave her baby his well-deserved ice cream. Her husband put his arm around her and they both wept. They smiled and kissed then looked at their son with watery eyes and big smiles knowing there was hope for the future.