BERTA ISABEL ARIAS
Live, Laugh, Love
The small group of middle aged women began to arrive at the pool, glad that their class coincided with the unusually warm January morning. They greeted each other and proceeded to stake out their spot, laying out towels on chairs and putting their water bottles on the small tables.
At the deep end of the pool, the aerobics instructor waved a hearty welcome to her six regular students as she set up her portable boombox.
“Whose turn is it to pick up the rubbish left behind last night?”
“That would be me,” Roxanne said, grabbing assorted pool toys and other items floating on the water. “Hey, this is a nice pair of goggles. Anyone want them?”
“Just put everything in the Lost and Found box over there,” a woman shouted to her.
The sweet song of birds playing among the branches was interrupted by a muffled skirmish that was taking place under a large pine tree. Squirrels seemed to be fighting over a dark object.
“I’ve had it with the squirrels in this neighborhood,” Nadia said as she slowly entered the water. “They run around on my roof all day long and the patio is strewn with their acorns.”
"Billy shoots at them with his BB gun” another woman said. “I know it’s probably not the right thing to do but they are so annoying.”
“And there are dozens of them here in the pool area,” Nadia chimed in. “I bet some of them even carry rabies. It’s dangerous for all of us.”
“Look at them. They’re probably fighting over some toy left in the pool. Oh, look! The red tailed squirrel got a hold of it. And he’s off and running with it. I wonder what he found.”
Never could the women have imagined.
The previous evening, in a secluded home in the neighborhood, under a shimmering moon, by a roaring fire
shoes were kicked off,
a black sports bra was carelessly tossed on the lawn.
“Lord, I hope it’s not holding an animal between its teeth.”
“I think squirrels are vegetarians.”
“Ladies! Let’s go! We only have forty minutes!” The aerobics instructor jumped in the pool after cranking up the speaker.
Agile, strong bodies arched, bent, stretched, embraced and entangled, blissfully unconcerned with anything but each other.
The red tailed squirrel sprinted along the top of the black metal fence railing that surrounded the pool area followed fiercely by other squirrels. Their playfulness mesmerized the women while they exercised.
“Ladies, focus!” The aerobics instructor yelled out again over the din of the music. “Hand weights up! One, two, three, four…”
Deep into the night, the two bodies rose and fell with only the night sky and dying embers watching. .
“God, I hope it’s not a dead bird or something” groaned one of the women, splashing water as she exercised in a circle.
“Nadia, squirrels don’t eat other animals!”
“I hate to differ, but they do eat other animals.”
Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ played in the background.
The class ended and the women began to exit the pool, all still fascinated with the red tailed squirrel’s antics and with the dark item grasped firmly between its teeth.
“Well, whatever it is, I bet the squirrel will take it to a nest.”
They shared the softest of touches and the firmest of grasps.
The red tailed squirrel now seemed unconcerned that the other squirrels wanted its treasure and skillfully climbed the drain pipe at the corner of the pool house building. Red tail quivering, it reached the roof and made a sharp left turn to continue the run across the eaves when, suddenly, its small body was jerked back by what it was carrying.
“Ahh, look!” Roxanne said, squinting in the sunlight. “The little guy’s treasure is stuck up there on the edge of that pipe.”
Lips barely brushing tendrils of hair at the nape of the neck, they both trembled with emotion.
“It looks like some type of cloth. You know the woman who lives a few blocks away who watches her three year old grandson during the week? I heard her say the other day that he had left his sun shirt here.”
Nadia laughed. “Well, kiss that shirt good-bye. Look at the squirrel tugging at it like crazy to get it loose. By the time he’s done, that shirt will be in shreds.”
Gardenia and tuberose and body sweat deliciously blended…
Convinced that the mystery was solved and that no one had to be afraid of a dead animal on the roof of the pool house, the women began gathering their clothes and towels to leave for home.
A loud gasp, interrupted their task. Everyone looked at Roxanne, pointing at the pool house roof.
… as deep moans and heavy sighs intermingled with the rustling of leaves battered by a sudden burst of powerful winds.
More gasps as the women finally saw the squirrel’s abandoned treasure for the first time.
They fell into each other’s arms…
Now unfurled and gently blowing in the wind like the flag of a pirate ship was a black brassiere, hanging loosely from the drain pipe by one of its straps, taunting the women, attacking their moral sensibilities.
“What the hell?”
“Where did that come from?”
“It’s outrageous! We need to get that down!”
… into languid, peaceful sleep.
The black sports bra continued to wave from its perch on the drain pipe, ignoring the women’s comments, refusing to give up the prior evening’s secrets.
And a red tailed squirrel snuck away with a new treasured item that had been carelessly tossed on the lawn.
En mis sueños, ando por el monte,
Verdes paredes me llaman a las cuevas de mis indios.
Nobles ojos guardan el silencio de su historia.
intoxica con su belleza.
No me deja dormir,
En mis sueños, ando por el monte.
In my dreams, I wander through the hills,
Green walls call me into the caves of my amerindians.
Loving eyes guard the silence of their story.
intoxicates with its beauty.
I cannot sleep,
In my dreams, I wander through the hillside.
What is a golden birthday?
I don’t really believe it exists.
Or does it?
Years ago when my now fifteen year old granddaughter was turning eight, she introduced me to the golden birthday concept.
I remember telling her that I knew of golden anniversaries but had never heard of a golden birthday. My granddaughter quickly explained that a golden birthday occurs when how old you become coincides with the date of your birth day, as was the case with one of her best friends whose birthday was on July 8th and she was turning eight years old. That birthday celebration then, was extra special, which translated to a bigger party and more presents for the celebrant.
It wasn’t difficult to understand my granddaughter’s sad demeanor as she told the story since her birthday falls on the first day of the month. Clearly, Fate had made her miss celebrating her own golden birthday when she turned one and knew nothing about golden birthday.
Mila perked up quickly, however, when I acknowledged the cruelty of it all, not only for her but two other grandchildren who had already celebrated their birthday without knowing it was a golden birthday.
I asked her to give me some time to think about a remedy to the situation.
And that was the birth of the Tenth Birthday Extravaganza for my grandchildren.
Since my oldest at the time of that conversation had just celebrated his ninth birthday, I decided that my version of the golden birthday would be to allow each grandchild to choose a destination for an eight to ten day trip with me.
The fun I’ve had with each of the tenth birthdays!
My oldest chose exploring Arizona, from the Biosphere and Kartchner Caverns to Petroglyphs Preserves and the Grand Canyon.
My only granddaughter (and inventor of this golden birthday idea) chose New York for its museums, art galleries and theater performances.
Grandchild number 3 chose North Carolina via Savannah, Charleston, and the Outer Banks with wild horses and surfing.
Grandchild number 4 chose viewing pandas, museums, Japanese gardens and U.S. history in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
My youngest chose....
Ruse or not, I am glad my granddaughter told me about the golden birthday celebration since the result has been to create memories none of us will ever forget.
What a hoot each trip has been as I’ve spent days in one-on-one time with each of these special people in my life.
I wonder what our next grandparent-grandchild adventures will be in the decades to come… and perhaps the golden birthday will be a tradition continued in future generations.
The 1999 Time Capsule | December 30, 2020
For those old enough to remember, 1999 was a year full of anxiety as well as awe as the peoples of the world contemplated the beginning of a new millennium.
Would the year 2000 lead us to oblivion or to a better world?
Selfishly, I remember being happy that I would have less to correct on tests where my French and Spanish college students were required to spell out the year. After all, two thousand, in French deux mille, is so much easier than mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf for nineteen ninety-nine. It is easier as well in Spanish. Two thousand is dos mil rather than the cumbersome mil novecientos noventa y nueve.
While I enjoyed this simple pleasure, some embraced the possibility of a renaissance of all that is good in humanity as if the collective sins of nations could be washed away when our respective world time zones moved us into the year 2000. The Age of Aquarius. Meditating yogis. Alternative medicine. Conservation. All were dominant themes in 1999.
Still others braced themselves for the end in some cataclysmic financial destruction of the modern society we had all come to know. The Y2K Bug was a computer flaw that many thought could cause problems when dealing with dates beyond December 31, 1999. (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/Y2K-bug/) Thankfully, this disaster never materialized...
Further complicating the millennial existential dilemma, people took sides as to whether the millennium began on January 1st, 2000 or January 1st, 2001. (https://www.timeanddate.com/counters/mil2000.html) The controversy was a topic of conversation at dinners, bars, parties, and was a preferred theme for term papers in philosophy classes.
In what psychologists call the human brain’s predisposition to highlight big, round numbers, the countries of the world decided that the beginning of the millennium was January 1st, 2000. I remember watching many of the televised worldwide extravagant and culturally themed celebrations as the clock struck midnight and each country welcomed the new year.
I and my two other siblings and their families succumbed to the appeal of the classic case of round number bias and planned a New Year’s Eve party at my sister’s home in a suburb of Chicago on December 31st, 1999 overruling our brother’s constant reminder that we were a year too early for such a celebration. Still, even he eventually got into the spirit of things as we asked my son-in-law to build some sort of time capsule for each of our three families which we would bury in my sister’s back yard for twenty years, leaving something representative of 1999 inside.
As planned, the capsules were dug up at the end December, 2019 but our hoped for get together to collectively see what treasures each of us had left in our containers did not materialize. Life had moved my nuclear group from the Chicago, Illinois area to northeast Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana. Then the COVID19 pandemic kept us from being able to get together until December of 2020 for the grand opening.
As excited as we adults were to see what each of us had left in our capsules twenty years earlier, it was nothing compared to the anticipation of the five grandchildren born in that time frame who now saw the capsule as a mysterious family treasure chest.
However, reality seldom matches our imagination, and our experience with this event proved to be such a case in point.
As we gathered in my older daughter’s backyard deck by a wonderful warm fire from their chimenea, my two sons-in-law struggled with a huge wrench to twist off the cap that sealed the capsule. The cap did not budge with the ease that we all expected.
After about thirty minutes of trying to muscle the cap open, between laughter and frustration, everyone had an opinion about the situation. The grandchildren worried that it wouldn’t open at all, denying them the treasures inside. I was fearful the utility wrench would fly out of one of my sons-in-law’s hands and hit someone causing a concussion. My older daughter wanted to lather the top of the capsule in oil to ease opening. The Rottweiler ran back and forth in excitement at the commotion in his backyard.
In this brief hiatus during which we all contemplated next steps, my younger daughter and the son-in-law who created the capsule said that the stubborn cap’s refusal to open was a sign that the past should be left in the past. In hindsight, we should have listened to this very wise suggestion.
Had we let the capsule be, we would all still have our own romanticized idea of what lay inside the twenty-year-old time capsule just as in Schrödinger’s thought experiment, the cat in the box can be considered both alive and dead until the box is actually opened.
In the case of our 1999 family time capsule, what we found inside much to our surprise…
Hmmm. I should not give away family secrets. Anyone interested will have to ask each of us personally. Let’s just say that we should have left the past in the past.