Brown Paper Packages

taco picSo, Sean and I started our Saturday morning by walking down to Jo’s Coffee shop on South Congress as we often do.  We ordered our coffees and as I was feeling pretty hungry I ordered two Pappas, Egg and Cheese tacos to match Sean’s order.  We said hello to our new friend Nichole who was once again sporting her red silk kimono and joined her at the large community table to eat our breakfast.  After finishing my first taco, I decided I’d been overzealous in my ordering and wrapped up the remaining taco in a brown paper bag and shoved it down in my backpack to bring home to Al.

I read a little and did some writing warm-ups while Sean sketched various people from around the shop.  Jo’s has a different vibe on Saturdays.  The regulars are there, but there are more families and small children and impolite dogs who bark, bark, bark.  At first the energy is inspirational but eventually we feel the itch to move on and today we have errands to run anyway. So, we packed up our stuff and continued up the hill.

I wanted to make Mexican Wedding Cakes and forgot the vanilla last time I was at the grocery store so we headed to the Farm to Market store which is too expensive to go to on a regular basis but I was willing to splurge to save the time of dragging Al’s big truck out of the garage to go to the HEB.  I spent ten dollars on a bottle of organic vanilla and even the cashier double checked the outrageous price but I was being lazy and I paid for it.  The cashier asked if I wanted a bag. I considered just throwing the bottle in my purse but worried it might leak so I said yes and she wrapped the bottle in small brown paper sack.  I shoved the sack down in my purse not realizing that brown paper sacks would cause problems in my near future.

Sean needed to go to the bank so we walked further up the hill than usual.  Beyond the bank there is a middle school and some barber shops but the shops become more spread out and less appealing so the bank was to be our last stop before heading back to the apartment down the hill.  On our way to the bank, we approached an elderly man with a bushy gray beard in a wheelchair.  He had a cardboard sign in his lap and the words written in Sharpie marker said something about needing any kind of help anyone could offer.  I remembered my leftover taco and said hello to the man and his friend standing next to him.  I told him I didn’t have any cash, which I didn’t, but that I had a taco in my purse and would he like to have it.  He said he would, so I opened my purse and took out the brown paper sack and handed it to him.  We exchanged God Bless You with Have a Nice Day and Sean and I crossed the street to the bank.

As we left the bank, I noticed the man and his friend were gone.  I mentioned to Sean that this was the first time I had ever uttered the phrase, “I have a taco in my purse,” to anyone.  We laughed.

At home, I tidied up the kitchen and started chopping pecans for my cookie dough.  I followed the recipe until I got to the line that read, “Whip butter and sugar together and add vanilla.”  I went to my purse to retrieve the vanilla and dug around past the sunglasses and Kleenex and various pens and pencils. There was no brown bag.  A realization started to dawn and so I checked my backpack and there it was, wrapped in brown paper… the taco I thought I had given to the wheelchair bound man.  “Oh no!” I shouted to Sean with wide eyes while slapping both palms to my cheeks.  “I gave the vanilla to the homeless man!”  “What is he going to do with ten dollars’ worth of pure organic vanilla?” Then, I mimed tipping back a bottle and taking a drink and planted my face in my palm while Sean laughed.

Dances with Rain

The Weather Channel had a picture of a cloud and lightning with raindrops in the 7 o’clock slot last night.  We’ve been praying for rain all month and now it’s getting critical.  I read in the newspaper that our small town only has minute’s worth of water in the tower it uses to supply the fire hydrants here.  It’s dry and we’re approaching the fourth of July.  Common sense would indicate avoiding anything with a spark but odds are someone is going to do something stupid.

So, we’ve been praying for rain.  We’ve hung our hopes on that little icon of a thunderstorm.

After a hot sunny day with temperatures at somewhere near 105 degrees, the sky clouded over and then the wind picked up, a lot.  I went outside to check the sky because I’m one of those crazy people who goes outside when a storm is approaching.  I could smell it, ozone in the dry air.  I could feel the humidity rise around me.  The scorching wind was building and dust was puffing up from the dry grass as debris blasted across the yard.  I scrunched up my eyes to protect them then threw out my arms and turned full circle as I was joined by my son and his girlfriend.  “Can you believe it,” I asked.  “It really might rain.”  We were joyous, giddy really.  I grabbed their hands and we ran to the driveway and danced in a circle and then my husband and younger son joined us.  “You’re doing it wrong,” my older son said.  “This is how you do a rain dance!”  He slapped his knees and did a little jig and then slapped his shoulders in a crisscross and kicked out his heels.  We tried to copy his steps and ended up laughing and spinning around in the wind with our arms outstretched, palms open to the sky.  In the suddenly cool wind, I felt a single drop of rain hit my palm and evaporate.   It was there and then it wasn’t.  I prayed for rain and I received a single drop.

The purple sky soon lightened to gray; the wind died and the sunshine returned.  The ground was still as parched as before the storm and we all returned to whatever we were doing before the wind came.  I received a single drop of rain and the memory of a joyous random dance with my family.

El gato es hilarante or Just Laugh

My friend brought his 5-year old daughter over last weekend.  I met her once before when she was three.  Her family speaks only Spanish at home and since she hasn’t started school yet, Spanish is her only language.  She has beautiful long black hair and big brown eyes, but the most striking thing about her is her smile.

 “Oh, hello,” I said when I saw her. 

“Hola,” she said with a sparkling smile, as she hugged her father’s leg.

I remembered she liked my cats the last time I saw her, so I asked, “Do you want to see the kitties?”  She just looked at me expectantly with those dark brown eyes. 

I searched my brain for that dusty file marked High School Spanish Class, and came up with, “Mira, gato?” (sight, cat).  She giggled, “si” and took my hand.  We found the cats lounging on the back deck.  She let go of my hand to pet the marmalade one.  “His name is Smiley,” I said.  I pointed to the cat, “Smiley.”

She giggled again.  “Smiley,” she said.

We wandered the yard, her hand in mine.  I named the things I could in Spanish.  She responded, “si” encouraging me.  She counted the chickens, “uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis.” 

“In English?” her father asked.

She was silent, so we helped.

“One,” we said.

“One,” she replied. 

This continued up to six because we have six chickens including the rooster.  We all laughed and applauded when we were done.  She looked at us as if we were aliens; adults celebrating the fact that we can count to six.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to teach someone to speak, and how fun it is to learn.  As I stumbled through Spanish baby talk, she didn’t judge me, she just giggled at my mistakes.  She patiently followed as I lead her across my yard naming my own things.  How strange I must seem to her, a grown woman speaking like a two-year old. 

“Donde esta’ gato,” I asked.  She shrugged her shoulders and gave me the universal, I have no idea face.  I returned the shrug and the face.  We laughed.  Isn’t it cool that laughter is universal?  When all else fails, just laugh.


Kate calmly walks to her car and removes 4 crates of eggs.  She gathers up the women and we walk in the dark all the way out to the road.  Lisa whispers, “What are we doing?”  “Just wait and see,” I say. 

The road is still hot from the heat of the day and Kate opens the first crate of eggs.  She palms an egg then winds up like a pitcher on the mound and yells at the top of her voice, “I hate so and so!”  The egg whistles through the air and then lands smack on the hot pavement with a hilarious squelching sound.  We all laugh until it hurts at the sound.

“Come on,” Kate says motioning for us to gather round the egg crate.  “It’s someone else’s turn.”

We grab handfuls of eggs and line up across the deserted, dark country road.  “On the count of three,” Kate says.  And so, on three, we all hurl an egg in to the air cursing whatever is making us angry at the moment.  The cursing stops and is followed by – SQUELCH.  We laugh from deep within our gut.  “I hate actors!” Andrea yells.  “Teenagers drive me crazy!” screams Lisa.  “I agree!” I say.  “This is awesome!” cries Kate.  Squelch, Squelch, Squelch, and Squelch.

Soon, we are laughing so hard we can’t breathe.  Our laughter draws curious husbands and kids and so the moment passes.  It’s a memory I will never forget.  Thanks Kate, for teaching us to laugh till it hurts.