Drop me off in New Orleans

My nephew turns 18 tomorrow – coincidently the age I was when we first met – and in a few short months, he will take up residence in my favorite city, New Orleans.

I don’t know why I was so surprised when he chose the Big Easy as his college town, I mean, who wouldn’t. I guess I thought she was my city and my city alone to love. But it wasn’t until today that I realized that our love for the Crescent City was genetic when he asked me for my father’s (his grandfather’s) trumpet.

The first and only word out of my mouth was a resounding no.

And from the look on his face, I could tell that this wasn’t a word he heard often – and was especially not expecting it the day before his birthday.

I decided to interrogate him on his intentions, hoping he would say something ridiculous that would help my case in denying him his capricious ask.

“Why do you want it?”

“I want to learn to play it.”

And like the great flood from Katrina, the memories of my unrelenting nagging and begging of my father to teach me to play this unforgiving instrument came back to me. I remembered his notes on my sheet music, where he drew eight sets of three circles, representing the finger buttons, and shaded the ones I was supposed to depress to hit the notes Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si-Do, all written in his meticulously neat, all-cap handwriting.

While my nephew continued to give me reasons of why he wanted his grandfather’s trumpet, I poured over music books and opened folders like a mad-woman…until I found it. Exactly the way I remembered it. He wrote it on the back of my sheet to “Spanish Eyes.”

“This is how he taught me,” I showed him.

I saw the excitement on his face and we both ran to the closet where my mom hides things, my dad’s trumpet being just one of those many things. I’m not sure who she hides it from. Would-be thieves. A cleaning lady with severe musical inclination. Me. My nephew. We all know where you keep it, Nola. (Yes, her name is really Nola.)

He stretched his tall body to pull down that black case I spent my entire childhood coveting. And when we opened it the horn was just as golden as I remembered it. I pulled it out and put my dad’s old mouth piece on it. For a moment I could smell him. I could taste him. And I tried with all of my might to blow through the scale he taught me, while the buttons stuck and my notes got louder with the frustration.

“Tia, it just needs a little oil. I need to open it up and clean the pistons,” he said.

I looked at him and handed him the trumpet. It was always his.

Just like New Orleans will always be ours.

If I could turn back time

Half of people aged 60 and older are online. I read that somewhere when I was trying to figure out why my mother was on Facebook.

As you may recall from previous posts, she is quite a bit of a character. Unfortunately, it does not come across in her online persona, as she insists on being totally demure and subdued. Just the other day she called me in a huff because someone had tagged her in a photo that wasn’t very flattering. So, being the good daughter, I walked her through the process of untagging (and then I kept the photo for myself and posted it across all of my social media networks).

As of late, she’s been using Facebook as a display board for her family photos. Everyday she posts two or three black and white pictures and her dearest 3 friends comment on her youthful beauty or on how much time has passed.

I’ve seen these pictures hundreds of times. My mom was big about show and tell and I didn’t mind being shown and told. I can’t tell you how may hours I spent flipping through crackling albums and boxes of photos – ignoring her every word and making up my own stories and names from the images.

Her latest post, however, was of a photo I had never seen and the catalyst for the most confusing 90 seconds of my life.

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First, I spent some time admiring my outfit. I wondered if it was part of my Beethoven stage, as I figured I was right around the age I began taking piano lessons. And then I thought that pattern on the skirt and shirt was clearly the inspiration for Tetris or Galactica. Then my focus shifted to the actual photo. I thought it was very artsy of them to take a black and white photo in the 80’s when color was all the rage.

After about half-a-minute, I noticed my father on the right, who was totally asleep, next to my mother in the polka dots and mustache and I was like boy they look young. And then I recognized the guy standing next to my mom was her father (they have the same mustache), which was weird because I was told I never got to meet him because he died before I was born. But there he was standing next to me and holding my brother…who is almost nine years my elder.

Wait, what?

I felt myself getting dizzy. I remembered that final scene from “The Shinning,” you know with the photo of Jack Nicholson from the past or the future or whatever that was:

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Before stepping away from the computer to look for an ax, I read my mom’s post where she explained that it was a photo her half-sister emailed from Cuba. And the little girl in the photo was my mysterious half-an-aunt-with-two-arms that is currently wandering around Cuba. (So, just a quick recap I have a half-aunt in Cuba that I’ve never met and a great-aunt with half-an-arm in the States that won’t leave me alone.)

I kept staring her image in the photo. The resemblance is uncanny.

If this woman and I looked exactly the same at that age, perhaps if I found current photo of her, it would be a good indicator of how I will look when I’m 50. So, I trolled my mother’s Facebook page until I found one. And, well…

There she was, in a bathing suit, and she’s hideous.

Blank is like blank: Jesus and my mother

Jesus is like my mother in that they both want me to tell them everything. “No secrets,” they’d say. Jesus and my mother are both martyrs. And they don’t let you forget it. Jesus is like my mom in that they are both a mystery. Also, other people really, really like them, but I can’t seem to jive with either. They love to invite people over, but the only thing they have in the fridge is bread and wine. Our conversations tend to be one-way. They both wear moo-moos and slippers. And they both believe they can solve all your problems with a simple hug.

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