Tuesday, June 16, 2009

La Hermana Fea

We went to two birthday parties this weekend..Saturday's event was for Josie - La Hermana Fea, and Sunday's gathering was for Mr. Clyde.They were both casual dinners, but two parties in one weekend is, for us, a full social calendar. Who am I kidding...two parties in one month is pushing it for us. But it's not that we are anti-social, not at all. It's more an inertia thing...once home/stay home. And too, we don't have children, so we are not used to the constant soccer-game-fundraiser-school-carnival-track-meet-play-date schedule that would pull us out of the house on a regular/nightly basis. No children, we have dogs. And though we have created a full, albeit imaginary, life for our dogs, in truth, they (and we) are happy to be at home.

On the other hand...and there always does seem to be yet another Shiva-like hand with me...birthday celebrations are special. They are not just a reason to get together and eat and celebrate and laugh, though they certainly are all of that. Birthdays, for some of us, have become a creative challenge, an opportunity to (once again) take it over the top/cross that line/make an event. Past birthday events have included an All About LRC Photo Gallery, our annual 24 hours of drinking-splashing-relaxing at a local resort, an Iron Chef competition, Las Vegas, and this year's wonderful wind-blown trek into the bowels of the Grand Canyon. With several birthdays approaching that end in zero (i.e. 50th, 60th) the pressure is on to organize something outrageous/memorable...maybe because the "0" birthdays make us thankful to have survived for the past ten years...or maybe they give us hope that we will live for yet another decade...or maybe just because we like to have an excuse for a big-deal party. Whatever the reason, the cogs are turning, the clock is ticking...time will tell.

But back to the parties this weekend. They were not of the sparkly production number variety - extravagant/competitive/exhausting. They were both simply gatherings of friends, with good food (Chito always makes good food), lots of laughs, and interesting stories. F'rinstance...we learned that Dr. A once received a marriage proposal from a betel-nut chewing Bhutanese yak-herder because she ate red rice with hot sauce for breakfast...we learned that someone is writing a book called GPS for the Mother's Soul...we learned that, for a golfer, anything golf-related is an appropriate and appreciated gift. Interesting stories, sure, but hands down, the winner of them all was (hmm, apparently there was a competitive aspect to this weekend's events), The Tale of Josefina.
Josefina was born in the Ukraine, emigrated in her early years to New York, met and married a Puerto Rican man, and, though she spoke very little/bad Spanish, moved to Puerto Rico. Poor Josefina...she was cross-eyed, badly. El doctor operated and straightened one eye, but the second eye remained untreated and misaligned. Poor Josefina - destined to see the world from two angles. But no, no, no...don't feel sorry for her. She was, according to her granddaughters, the meanest grandmother on earth. She played favorites among her grandchildren...but not subtly. She loved the grandson (the brotha from another motha) because he looked like her beloved son, and she loved the eldest granddaughter (our beloved Chito). She adored these children...and she told them so. Maybe she looked at them through the straightened eye. If so, then she used her crooked eye to see her other grandchildren, for they, the other two granddaughters (the sistas from the same mista), were not her favorites...and she told them so. She made bowls of pudding for her two favorites but served Jello to the others. She hugged and kissed her beautiful Chito, but pinched Josie's cheek and told her repeatedly that she was ugly. Why? Why was Josfina so mean? Was it because she was cross-eyed, was it because she could barely speak the language of her family? Who knows...she died several years ago, still cross-eyed, and nearly bald as well. And guess what...it was La Hermana Fea who was the one most loyal to her. Happy Birthday, Fea!
A curious coincidence how both parties ended this weekend. After telling the story of Josefina, Chito pulled out her laptop computer and we stood around her looking and laughing and oohing and aahing at old pictures of cross-eyed Josefina, and the sistas and brotha when they were children. Then we gathered our things, and went home.
On Sunday, as the party was winding down, somebody asked Vanessa-Molasses The Teenage Beauty if she had seen her picture on the wall of fame near the front door. She went to look, we heard a scream, an "Oh my God," then a laugh. We all joined her, huddled in groups, and looked at the pictures on the wall - pictures of Herman-Iden at various times in their life, with old and new friends. And we all made fun of/commented on/comforted Vanessa-Molasses about her childhood picture on display and the size of her forehead. Then we gathered our things, and went home.
Happy Birthday Josie and Bill!
For Josie's birthday, Chito has asked me to make a creamy, gooey birthday cake. Making Josie's birthday cake has become a tradition, so I wanted to do something a little special. I made a version of the Coconut-Chocolate-Mango Bavarian Cake posted on Tartelette several months ago. I must say - it was both delicious and beautiful. Thank you, Helen!

No comments: