Selected Published Essays
I am sitting at a round table across from a pretty brunette, 24, with a ponytail set high on the crown of her head that flips from side to side when she’s expressive. There’s a blackboard in the room and windows to the parking lot sea below. (I’m in Silicon Valley after all.) The girl wears boxy eyeglasses not too different from mine, though mine hide wrinkles. Hers look like a prop, what a model might wear, like a hat.
It’s a sliver of a diner in a white American suburb: metal and cracked granite, red leatherette stools, three large fans in constant motion. The smell of grease from the grills brings them in, the comfort of that smell. The lack of perfection. Every store in this affluent town sells jewelry, clothes, or beautifully confectioned pastries.
One by one, every girl in the queue to the chapel reaches into the basket by the open double doors and plucks a head covering, a round doily the size of a yarmulke pinched with a single bobby pin that does not discredit the sweetness of the tulle and the lace. I attach mine, and I walk in.
The D.J. at the end of the room has been instructed to open with “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and to play tía Adelaide’s old favorites. I look up. You can’t avoid looking up. The ceiling is as tall as a palm tree. We are in Casco Antiguo, the old, colonial quarter of Panama City where buildings date back as early as the 1600’s. My American husband and I took an Uber so as not to drive the narrow brick roads in the dark.
The cast starts on her instep, covers her lower leg, ends four inches past her knee. It covers almost half of Penny, who is four. Our granddaughter will be fine when the bone heals, six weeks in an “Elsa Blue” fiberglass cast the color of princesses dresses. I am heartsick.
“Grandma,” Penny whispers to me in the kitchen, “I’ll teach you yoga today.” Penny at four is the younger of my two granddaughters, the one who everyone says takes after me. I look at Penny who has cupid lips the texture of rose petals, and I try to imagine, what was I like when I was four?