Mythili is eight. She’s named after an amazing woman who speaks three languages with the fluency of a native speaker, two of which my Mythili will never know.
I came home a bit early tonight. My oldest, Isabella, named after my sister, walked the eight blocks necessary to meet me after tutoring so we could find her some semi-leather boots that match mine. Isabella is almost ten. She can just about fit into half of my clothes and has a much keener sense of fashion than me. I don’t know how I’d shop without her.
I was home early tonight because my life revolves around cancellations. Cancel the job I’ve loved and lived for for seven years. Cancel the program for which I sacrificed everything. Cancel my private English tutoring sessions on a weekly basis, because for you it is a bonus, a brief education. For me? Just another cancellation of my semi-automatic life.
Time is money. I say this now because cancellations can be golden.
These are the words I heard tonight, as Mythili voluntarily read books to her baby sister:
“Mama, did you realize the Statue of Liberty was built in 1826?” (Isabella)
(Mythili from other room): “1886, I read 1886!”
(Me, in same moment, recalling the specific childhood memory: 1986. Age eight. Trip planned to New York City for grand celebration of one hundredth anniversary [July 4, 1986] of said statue. Mother and father holding my hands in their hands to break to me: “We’re going to have to cancel this trip. Your surgery is scheduled for that week.”)
“Isabella, it was 1886.”
Riona, the Irish queen, as diplomatic as her regal name: “Mythili, where are those boats going?”
“They’re trying to get the best view of the statue. Remember this summer, at Jimmy’s house, we were on the mainland? But then we took the boat from one island to another to get the best view? Remember, Riona? They built the statue on an island.” (She refers to our summer trip, my cousin Jimmy’s house in New Jersey, the pain of my most recent Spanish cancellation so painfully present that the Staten Island free ferry was the only possible way to see Lady Liberty).
This is why we are here. In five years, they will read about the Romans. They will say, “Remember when we went to the Roman theatre in Cartagena?”
They will study Druids. “Remember when we visited Stonehenge?”
They will chew paella. “Remember the gambas?
They will be these small children, grown so grand, their life filled with cancellations. They will remember their parents’ hands on theirs, age eight. How they loved and hated Spain. How they cried, laughed, lived.
They will remember.