Not nearly ready to stand at the ready — with brooms and mouse traps — like my mother and twin sister — I hid — and watched — mostly — from under the couch.
My mother had on her heaviest winter coat — in the middle of summer — and yellow rubber kitchen gloves — sopping wet.
My twin sister looked spacey — like an alien — with that old wicker basket — covering her head — strategically secured with duct tape. My duct tape. That’s my neon blue duct tape!
I could hardly barely speak with those two scarves wrapped around my neck — squeezed so tight — under the couch — in the living room — hands full of garlic — like grenades, I thought.
Mosquitoes here are always bad — snakes are worse — but that hellafied summer — we had bats. Tons of bats. Millions of bats. A house full of bats — it seemed.
Actually — it was just three.
And I named them Ding, Ling and Shirley.
Used to get boxes of lemons— from Uncle Billy — my father’s older brother— in Arizona.
He had lemon trees — lots of them.
Uncle Billy had lots of ideas too. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. He was a talker.
He called weekly to tell us What’s What.
NO, you DO NOT need to know HOW I know. All you need to know is your whole house is bugged. Outside too. Street lights and gas meters! HELLO. Once THAT rain starts falling, forget it. And DO NOT be fooled by horse milk. Get camel milk. Gotta get a good freezer, though. One that runs on H2O. Next time, remind me to talk about Mars. And chickens! These plastic chickens. Man boobs ain’t just from soy. I can promise you that!
Super obsessed with Julia Child — I played make believe with a whisk and an empty bowl — watching PBS reruns and snacking — big time — on Doritos — after school.
Glimpsing forward — fast into the future — it seems — and suddenly there we were — front and center — like two Siamese cats, the instructor said — taking a real French cooking class — complete with bright white aprons and checkered pants.
Flush faced from talking to spoons — way too much tasting and re-tasting — my twin sister was supposed to be making a Grand Marnier Soufflé. Instead she found the elixir of life.
Who knew cooking could be this fun!
Then she sprinkled imaginary pixie dust — purple and pretty, pretty, pretty — over her head.
I knew it. I could just tell. Especially when our dad gave us those whistles — those emergency whistles — from Tiffany. Still have mine on a keychain — on a hook — on a wall — so I don’t lose it.
Then he had everything in the house repaired — little things — teensy things — things only he would see. Things — we’d never get fixed.
That outside spigot still drips. He left that on purpose, I think.
Hoped it would move along faster. It did.
So selfish — so foolishly selfish — thinking it was all about me — a cotton candy rain cloud — thinking I was twinkling — in the dark.
Maybe I’ve changed. Not sure, really.
Haven’t yet learned the art of goodbye.
Dreamt about Aunt Frankie last night. Only— she was thinner— in the dream— in a room with delicate curtains—and the windows were open.
Aunt Frankie—my mother’s sister— was a very, very, very large woman — seems impolite to call her fat. Obese.
My sisters and I briefly stayed with her—once—only once—one summer. We were supposed to stay longer — but Aunt Frankie was different. A crocodile, really. We weren’t used to different — like that.
She cooked well. Really well. But, never sat at the table with us. Not ever. Not even for dinner. She preferred that chair — in the corner — sipping from her jumbo-size plastic glass— of juice — that’s what she called it— juice — watching us and commenting— from afar.
I was skinny once, Aunt Frankie said. Sounded like a threat. Maybe it was just a warning.
Made me nervous, though—especially when I stepped on the scale—each night.
Completely forgot to make a wish — last week — so wrapped up in names and cakes from the past.
There were two cakes for our birthday — back then — when we were Baby A and Baby B. Our mother’s cake was like a fairy tale — strawberries and cream — soft and sweet. Our father’s cake was a lullaby — with pretty pink roses piped all along the edges.
Crying, crawling, stumbling, falling — making a mess out of dinner — I remember when we ate in the kitchen sink.
Wore Baby A and Baby B bracelets — forever, it seems — only because our mom did not like those names — Akwelle and Akuokuo — names meaning first and second born female twins — names our dad chose — thanks to Charles — their Ghanaian friend.
Would have been Romulus and Remus — the founders of Rome — had we been boys — names our father loved — names our mother — did not.
Bombs bursting in air — that’s what I see — that’s what I hear— when my mom talks about her parents. Seven children in ten years is a lot. It wasn’t their fault. But, it must have been too much for her. For them. Would be for me.
My grandmother looked vacant — after that.
But — in those pictures — in that box— the one in the back closet — upstairs — she looked happy — once upon a time. The two of them looked happy — together — at first. But, 7 children in 10 years is a whole lot.
And my grandfather was never alone when he drank — every night — around the corner.
Of course, she was tired of it — my grandmother. I’d be tired too. Might even say something — might even do something— not so nice. But not in front of the children — I’d hope.
That wound is hard to heal, says my mother.
Leaves a stain.