Monday, March 10, 2003

Life Imitating Charles Dickens�s Art?

"Great Expectations" is one of my favorite movies. The film is in my top 10, nestled snugly between "Edward Scissorhands" and "Evil Dead 2." Having said that...

This Saturday I was released from work early, around 1400 hours. On the way home, I swung by my parent's house to hang out with my youngest brother, Luis. The two of us went to rent a couple of movies, "The Santa Clause" for him, and "Recess: School's Out" for me. It's a great cartoon; you should check it out sometime. (The movie was good, but not in the same vein as the show.) Believing that my afternoon required no further planning, I settled into my groove on the couch and began to watch the movie.

T.J. was just about to break into 3rd St. School when my mother bustled into the house. For those who are familiar with my mother, (such as me,) her bustling is not at all out of the ordinary. In fact, I encourage it, particularly when it involves the preparation of meals. I gleaned from her rapid-fire Spanish that she was to go to a wedding that very afternoon. The eldest of the three daughters of an old friend of our family was getting married. The ceremony would be taking place at their home, a beautiful house on their ranch.

A word about the daughters: The three daughters were the same respective ages as my older brother, myself, and my younger brother. Forget about Luis for a minute, and my younger sister as well if you happen to be recalling her. Many years ago, my (existing) brothers and I would regularly go down to the ranch. My father worked for them, maintaining the ranch, caring for the animals, and whatnot. The weekend would come around and off we would go with my father. We enjoyed being there; there were cows, horses, and the occasional pig that we quickly learned to never become too attached to. The ranch also had a pool, a Jacuzzi, and a tennis court. Something for everybody, I guess.

Was this word supposed to be about the daughters? Yes, well, the three of them were also around, I guess. You know, whatever.

After a bit of light labor, we would run off and pet the animals and swim and throw tennis balls at each other and run in the pastures chasing after the bulls and make little boats to float in the irrigation ditches and run from the bulls when they realized they were bulls and we were just kids.

And the girls were there.

You know, whatever.

I guess I did get used to seeing them, especially the one my age. And I may have tried to use my diving skills to impress her once or twice. I don't recall if I ever succeeded, but at that age, that wasn't really the point.

Some stuff happened concerning my father, and he stopped working at the ranch for a while. I don't remember how great a while, but it must have been long enough.

By the time things quieted down and my father had settled back into his old routine, the three of us no longer went with him to the ranch, not regularly anyway. We went all Fern-at-the-end-of-"Charlotte's Web"-style on it, deciding that it wasn't cool to hang about on a ranch with a bunch of animals. That was part of it, anyway. But if my dad had a large job that he wanted some help with one of us would usually assist (for a reasonable fee.) But the trips were not for playing then, they became work. Just do the job and leave, maybe stopping for a strawberry milkshake on the way home. If the girls were there, it was a smile, a shy "Hello," and back to the matter at hand.

We stopped going altogether not long after.

So now it is fast approaching wedding time, and my mom is trying to convince me to come along. I am evasive and clearly not thrilled at the prospect. I'm not sure why. True, I have just come from working all morning after a night of the usual gallivanting and after several more nights of not shaving. Mine eyes are not bright, nor mine tail bushy. However, I had gotten ready for my high-school Prom in a little under a half-hour, and I had a bit more time than that to get ready, so I know that isn't the real reason for my reluctance. My mom gives up pleading and goes to get dressed.

My eldest brother's baby daughter is in the hospital, and he wants to borrow my mother's car to go be with his daughter. My mom relinquishes the car, and asks me to take her and just drop her off. I agree, but with the attitude of One who knows that the voicing of the request is more of a formality since there is no other option that wouldn't make One look like an oafish prig.

I drop my mother off and head back to the house to finish my movie.

I'm on the freeway when I force myself to examine things:

I am not going to a wedding so that I can watch a movie.

I am letting my mother go alone to a wedding so that I can watch a movie.

I am letting my mother go alone to a wedding of the daughter of a man who has been a great friend to my parents before any of us children were ever born, a man who's work had been and still is crucial to the orphanage in Mexico where my parents had spent part of their lives, a man who had helped them come to the United States to pursue their educations.

I am letting my mother go alone to a wedding because I am afraid that the little girl that I tried to swan-dive for would see me and think, "Oh, it's the ranch-hand's boy."

The off ramp to return to my parent's house and my paused movie passes by while I ponder this. I do not worry. The next exit will take me to my own house, where I keep my nice clothes and a razor. These items will come in handy, since I have a wedding to attend.

* * * * * * *
I had been to the ranch countless times but now felt alien in my surroundings. All up and down a street that had the deceptive appearance of a quiet country lane were SUV's, BMW's, Audi's, Mercedes, and an Escalade or two. There was valet parking, but I trusted no one with my '89 Toyota Tercel. I parked at the end of the line and walked towards the house.

It was apparent that I had missed the ceremony, but that was a minor concern. I scanned the crowd for my mother. I walked about for a bit before I finally spotted her, standing by herself watching the photographers pose the newlyweds and the bridesmaids. She turned and saw me. Usually when my mother has that look of disbelief, it never bodes well for me. This time was different. She hugged me and said, "I knew you were coming, I just had a feeling!"

We went all around then, my Mom re-introducing me to a whole lot of people who knew me when I was little and my parents used to bring us around. There were comments about me having grown, which I bore gracefully. There was an open bar, and a fair amount of the people I met had already taken advantage of it. I learned then that there is nothing fashionable about being late to an open bar. I enjoyed talking to so many people who had known my parents when they were only a little older than I was. There was also a bonus I should have anticipated: the daughters all attended the University of Arizona and all were in cheer or dance. Oh yeah, hotties all over the place. If I had only been able to stop my mom from telling everyone how I ran into a wall when I was little...

We enjoyed excellent dinner but had to leave shortly after. I didn't get to dance. I did get to meet a crazy old lady. No, she wasn't crazy at all. She was 91, downed scotch and sodas, and called me handsome. If I ever reach 91, I doubt I will be able to even wish I was a cool old woman like her. She said I was a good boy, she could tell. I never really had grandparents, so I was very pleased that she thought so. I was very sorry to have to go so early, I wanted to speak with her so much more.

My mother and I returned home in good spirits. My mother, literally, since she had also discovered the open bar. For the record, the only thing I drank was iced tea. Hey, I was driving, and I'm pretty sure Dante left out the level of hell that must have been reserved for guys who drink and then drive with their moms in the car. It was a shame, too. No one had touched the tequila.

Luis had been wondering why I hadn't come back to finish my movie.

And that was that. Now it is over.

Oh, my mom had presented me to my old playmates, now beautiful young women. Mom presented me as her son, and I smiled shyly and said, "Hello." The girls said "Hello" to me in turn, and then had to go back to being photographed.

And that really was that.

Perhaps, if I had stayed long enough to dance there would be more to this story, but alas.

"It was as if it had never been, and all I had was my memory of it."

Dedicated to Ben Siemon, who told me that I needed to write more.

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