My de-facto husband would be a good husband. He is, effectively, just like a husband. Except we’re not married. It’s not because we’re opposed to it; we just haven’t gotten around to it. When people ask me why we’re not married, I should say it’s none of their business. But I’m usually too polite, so I tell them we’re just waiting for the kids to get old enough to pay for our wedding reception.
My oldest daughter is 13-years old, and uses a string of middle names, adopted like an indian brave, to reflect the talents and traits she’s acquired and exhibited over her amazing little life. She can recite her full name by heart, and it includes (so far): Mussolini, Malone, Miracle, Movie-Star, Mushroom-cutter, Zucchini-cutter, Butter-cutter, Lumberjack, and Barfly. She adds and subtracts names at will. Miracle is probably the most apt of all her names, but that’s pretty heavy to carry. So instead we call her Short-pants.
My youngest is eleven. In an attempt to differentiate herself from her big sister, she refuses to assume a list of middle names. Her impressive memory is musical; she knows by heart the melody and lyrics to number of songs, ranging in genre from The Cars, My Best Friend’s Girlfriend to the theme of Bernstein‘s On the Town. Because she was conceived in Mexico, I wanted to name her Agave, but De-facto wouldn’t have it. She will also answer to Little-Pea, Peanut or Miss Turnstile.
I knew her first, before De-facto. We were friends for several years before she made the sort-of-subtle suggestion that I ought to meet her son. (For this I both appreciate and curse her.) I’m privileged to have a relationship of my own with her; she is as much my friend as the mother of my man. But the thing to witness is her grandmothering. She is expertly inventive in this role – no surprise, as a former actress and a published poet, she is naturally talented at all things requiring imagination. The girls adore her, and so do I.
Every July, this woman steals me away from my family and takes me to the biggest party in the world, the Fiesta San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain. I’ve dubbed her Fiesta Nazi because of the rituals she adheres to throughout the week-long party, and the seriousness with which she urges us to comply. This woman has a favorite barman in every town she’s ever visited, and that’s a lot, since she’s well traveled. Fiesta Nazi spends her winters in Mexico, paddle-boarding with dolphins, gracing us with her festive presence in Paris only from May to August, which is about all my liver can stand.
Short-pants was asked to give a speech in school about someone she admired. She selected (without my prompting) the Pastry Ace. Excerpted from the speech: “She was a rock star in New York for nearly a decade. She stopped abruptly and switched to cooking. Now she’s a pastry chef in Paris. She’s a woman in a world dominated by men, so she’s had to work hard to make her way. She’s a good friend of my mother and the supreme baker of the best birthday cakes.” All this, and more, is true.
And she can dance.
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