Making polvoron was as much a part of my childhood as Mama’s absence was. It was a tradition, then a rite of passage made more poignant by my mother’s brief visits home. With each return came the knowledge of a new step in the polvoron process, and with each new step came the promise of my mother’s permanent return – her homecoming.
The heel is where the success—or failure—of a sock rests, at once mysterious and intimidating. Many a knitter has advanced toward the heel, wits intact, only to find the perplexing combination of knit stitches, slip stitches, wraps, and turns too much for the nerves.
Perhaps it was the Vicodin, but I faced my virginal heel experience with a casual bravado.
When my family and I light joss sticks, prepare food offerings, and burn paper gifts (mostly replicas of clothes, houses, and cars) for our ancestors in return for blessings such as wealth and good health, it has always seemed to me that what we do approaches worship not so much as it does a highly pragmatic, reciprocal relationship tempered by remembered bonds of love and affection.
There is a home video, made when you were about nine. You watch your nine-year-old self lead your aunt (behind the camera) off into the house, blithely walking past your mother as she sits on the couch. Stop, you want to tell the girl onscreen. Reach out and touch her!
My great-grandparents once had a homestead near Burns, in the shadow of an extinct volcano named Glass Butte for the obsidian flows on its slopes. The land is part of a ranch now and there’s nothing there anymore, if there ever was much of anything. But I wanted to see that scrap of nothing which is, when it comes down to it, one of the reasons I exist.
Don’t expect the conversation with your friend to extinguish your anxiety; your anxiety won’t go that easy. It’s braided and baked into you, part of your dough. She won’t have any magic words to change that. Honesty doesn’t trump anxiety. What it does often do is reduce it down to proper proportions, make it a more manageable size.
1. Spend your entire childhood and adolescence in Australia reading books from the northern hemisphere. Pretend that you understand the following things: mint jelly; tobogganing; conkers. Dream about snow. Dream about roasted chestnuts. Dream about mince pies. Dream about Christmas tree forests, the heavy scent of pine and cold. Dream about Christmas sweaters, the uglier the better. Dream about opening presents in front of an open fire. Dream of deep, long, dark nights, and the hope
I. Tradition I always wanted the kind of holidays you see in Publix commercials, ones stuffed with family sitting around a mile-long table that’s covered with dishes all lovingly made. I imagined waking on Thanksgiving to frosted windows and a house already warm from the oven. Aunts and uncles and cousins would stagger in throughout the day, some early enough to watch the parade while the air slowly turned savory; some just in time…