Some years back our rooftop air conditioning unit became dysfunctional. It would only take $17,000 to replace it. I don’t think so. Growing up as an Orange County girl I lived where weather didn’t exist. Once, in acute delirium, I stepped away from California to a place where people were known to use the expression, “There’s a front a comin’ in.” Well, in Orange County we don’t say things like that, we just recite the mantra, “Thank God this isn’t Minnesota…they are still shoveling snow!” Back to the dysfunction. We have developed amazing adaptive qualities. We didn’t replace the unit and we have been living without A/C ever since. When anyone in the house complains of the heat I point to the pool. There’s your relief.
Here in Northern California summers can usher in those triple digits. This may be sacrilege to some but I pay homage to the heat. As long as it’s hot that means it is not winter. A high temperature is just the ticket for me. Less clothes to have to wear. I do not go swimming in January. Winter, bad. Not winter, good. That vision of Minnesota. Ugh. Besides all you have to do when the heat persists, assuming you do not have a pool, is step into any Safeway. The refrigerated air inside makes it possible to hang and preserve a side of beef…in the aisles.
Winter is full of foreboding. Always battling cold symptoms and such. Bone-chilling air. Three sweaters layered. Summer serves as respite from the cold and we do not miss our air conditioner. A $17,000 cache could pay for the fun provided by multiple trips to New York City (see NYC).
102 degrees…and climbing. Splash.
Spanish for the weeping woman. In Mexican folklore, La Llorona was known to pass through the streets crying over the fact that her children were gone and she was weeping as she went. La Llorona appears as a spirit.
I spent two days in a psychiatric hospital some years back. Psychosis sent me there. It really wasn’t scary, really. It was a very quiet place. Therapists, nurses, counselors. All poised and ready to provide for the residents. Those of us there in need of respite.
My Llorona came to me in the form of my roommate. A woman in residence for undisclosed reasons. Undisclosed to me anyway. She cried. Under her covers. Consistently one entire morning. Enough already. As we were summoned, it was time to eat, I stepped near her bed and urged her to move. Anything to shush her crying. I went on my way, because I do not like cold reheated food.
My La Llorona quit crying and joined us at breakfast. I do not believe that lost children had anything to do with the weeping displayed by my La Llorona sharing space with me at the psych hospital. Who knows? I suppose it isn’t always important what triggers tears. Just make sure breakfast isn’t sacrificed over weeping.
My exposure to Spanish came first from the spoken word in my home. In my earliest years I recall hearing it often. My mom came from Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to California in the 1950s. She demonstrated courage and resolve as she gained skills in her second language.
Mami became the domestic goddess extraordinaire. She took care of her two daughters while she cooked and baked. Her knack for producing perfect meringue which graced the lemon pies was not lost on me. To this day lemon meringue is my pie of choice. She sewed, knitted, and embroidered. She painted. She sang. She served as the self-ordained landscaper. Carefully choosing plants and trees to adorn the front and backyard. She did the mowing.
The days she and I spent at the beach were the highlight of my visits. Mami loved the ocean, the seashells she collected. Swimming was not her calling but she appreciated the crashing of the waves and the sea spray. Proving to be much smarter and more cautious then her daughter (who dismissed the importance of protection) she always wore a wide-brimmed straw hat while urging her wayward daughter to do same.
I have lost the one person in my life who understood the lyrics to the song, Las Mañanitas. It is a traditional Spanish song offered at the celebration of a birthday. I would place a phone call to my Mami and when she answered I would regale her with a serenade of the song native to her birthplace.
Mami outlived two of her sisters. Her own mother reached her early eighties. Longevity seemed to favor Mami, with one caveat. In the last few years of her life dementia robbed her of her speech. Phone calls were very difficult to maneuver through. Though I could speak to her in Spanish, it was never quite clear which language she was using. It all sounded like gibberish to me. Sigh.
Mami you have been given release. I will see you again one day.
This was the statement I made to my supervisor in a telephone conversation. She was in charge of district-wide testing of all ESL students and I was one among the staff members responsible for administering these tests and working the follow-up clerical tasks. Clerical work has always tested my resolve. This annual testing ritual was met with mixed emotions. I enjoyed interacting with students. Paperwork, on the other hand, was torturous.
I had commandeered one classroom which served as the holding place for piles of tests. That is to say I carefully arranged test forms by grade level and assigned each pile a different desk top. And then I stared at each pile. I stared for a couple weeks. All of us working this cycle of testing had a deadline. I knew the deadline. However, that did not make a dent in the staring binge I had launched into. I was to use a certain protocol to detect anomalies, correct them and record data in a binder. Ugh.
My work was not progressing. I had elevated staring at the piles to an art form. They were right there on the same desk tops that I had placed them on nearly four weeks prior, undisturbed. I called my supervisor.
“What was that process … I think I forgot step 4a … You mean there is no step 4a …What happened to it?”
Ultimately, I had to confess. “Sometimes I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.”
The supervisor roared with laughter. I collected the tests, took them to her office and she finished the clerical ordeal. Sometimes.
Do you long for a mindnumbing clerical job? Do you pine away for some task that keeps you at your desk for eight hours a day? Well then, step right up into what proved to have been the way in which I spent each workday for two-and-a-half years. Santa Ana, CA was home to the Orange County Registrar of Voters. In my life during early 1978 to mid-1980.
Imagine the pleasure of working around the clock on election nights. That was when I wasn’t discovering second-hand smoke. Smoking policy was quite different in that era. The largely female-occupied office space was populated by over half the workers puffing away. The woman to my right, two women behind me and my supervisor two desks down.
I was hired with the title “Temporary Extra Help” which translated to no benefits, no benefits, no benefits, ever. Over two years of no benefits…and low pay.
A smoke-filled, very large office. Oh we had windows, but they didn’t open. Sad faces dotted the landscape of this place. My fellow workers seemed to send a message. Didn’t bode well.
So, after my two plus years of fielding phone queries, using the files to file, and the microfiche to microfiche, I left. I thought I would die there at my desk. After all some of the women seemed to have already arrived at that destination.
Time to leave the clerical pool.
As in the colony of feral cats that use our backyard, front yard, and outdoor furniture to defecate in, spray on, and sun themselves.
The previous owners of our property left me canned cat food and instructions regarding feeding the cats. You are kidding me, right? You don’t really expect me to feed wild cats, do you? That was 21 years ago. The colony now consists of six cats…I think. We see them parading around “their” domain. I have to say that they look pretty good. Fur that appears to be a reflection of the healthy and steady diet provided them by a neighbor on the other side of the fence. There hasn’t been a litter in years. There is an organized group in the area whose mission it is to spay/neuter the ferals and return them to their spot. I could do without the return.
But poop, and urine, and spray aside, there is one disturbing activity that these ferals are responsible for. They kill birds. This morning I stepped outside to retrieve our trash bin when I noticed a cat on the driveway. One of the ferals. It dashed away the moment I saw him and that was when I saw the bird on the cement seemingly lifeless. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was a dove. We have had two doves — I am not sure but I think a dove pair mates for life — taking up residence on one utility pole in our yard. I love their unique call.
Dammit! Damn those cats! The dove was still alive but badly mauled. I couldn’t throw it away in its condition. I placed it in a bucket and covered it. When I made another trip to the bucket, it was certainly dead.
Feral cats beware. I am on to you.
I feel a special kinship with Shirley Temple who was born 90 years ago. She was born in Santa Monica Hospital, the same hospital I was born in 26 years later. Child stars are cute, precocious, and generally quite talented but I think Shirley was uniquely gifted.
Gertrude Temple already had two sons. Throughout her pregnancy she hoped for a girl — hope was realized. At about 3 years of age Shirley was occupying space in dance class where she was discovered.
I have all of her young childhood movies. I am cueing one right now. I am not much of a singer but that doesn’t prevent me from belting out “On The Good Ship Lollipop”.
I scrutinize her tap moves. As far as I am concerned she exhibits flawless execution. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson served as Shirley’s partner as they navigated the “stair dance” in the movie The Little Colonel. One of the most impressive tap numbers with the two dancers holding hands — a controversial scene for the time.
I did not receive dance lessons at the age of 3, 5, or even 15, I began my tap lessons in college at the age of 20. Today I teach tap classes to adults. Thank you Shirley for the inspiration, the delight of watching you, and the joy.