This was so not how I wanted to spend a week of my summer vacation. Just because my parents had to go all “lovey-dovey teenager” all over again does NOT mean that they have to go on a one week tour all over our “Beyutipul Pilipines”(as dictated by the lady at the counter in the flight agency.) Couldn’t they just go on a date like they always do? Or out to dance secretly? Even though it was so obvious. But apparently their 18th anniversary had been planned special, so what’s a girl to do?
So while my parents are livin’ large on some fancy cruise for a week I’m going to be staying with my Father’s mother’s sister’s husband’s aunts. I have no idea how we’re related but I think all those connections make us family. They’re all we have and we’re all they have. It’s a pretty sweet deal really, they’re all as old as the grandmothers I wish I had from both my parents. You know how everyone has two sets of Grandmothers? One from our fathers, and one from our mothers? Well I have neither. Instead I get three spinster aunts who, well…. Never mind. I’ll just have to take this slowly.
Up first we have Aunt Nena. She’s the eldest of the three aunts. Aunt Nena basically raised her sisters and worked hard for her money. She was my disciplinarian growing up. The “Tough Love” kind. But it sure worked. I don’t do drugs or believe in Santa…the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.
Next is Auntie Belle. The middle-child and busybody. When I say busy body I mean if you look it up in the dictionary her picture’s right next to it. Always had a project and always will, so Dad says. I’ve always had to fetch this for her, watch this with her, go there with her, try to not get arrested with her... Never a dull moment with Auntie Belle, so Mom says.
And last is Tia Marzipan. Marze for short (Their mother was feeling extremely hormonal during this pregnancy and thought that this name had character.)And it did. It was a HUGE hit with the hippies including the “groovy and bangin ’” crowd during the late sixties through the seventies until probably the mid eighties. She’s always been the one I could sit next to while I watched Aunt Nena and Auntie Belle go at it. We’d even make cookie bets on it. But she’d always give me half of her winnings claiming they were “too sweet”. Psh…if it ever comes out that Elvis was gay and with proof that’ll be the day those cookies will be too sweet for Tia Marze!
Dad was rounding the corner to their house and as much as I dreaded having to stay a whole week with my Aunts I was also excited knowing that at least it wouldn’t be boring and I’d have some cookies to eat. I’ve only ever spent six days a year with them. Three on Christmas and another three during the Three Kings.
The house came into view and I was surprised that I felt giddy to see them again. And there standing on the porch waiting for me were my three reasons to look forward to and dread the coming week. The house was still as I remembered it. Old and very historic looking. As a matter of fact the city had asked if they could refurbish the place and turn it into another “Historic House”. My Aunts had lived in that house since the War and it was worth more than anything to each of them.
Dad had driven onto the unused driveway and I could hear some of their favorite music blaring from inside the house. As soon as Dad got out of the car, he was greeted by Nena and her famous bear hug. “Oye Miho!” she greeted my Dad smiling her very well dentured toothy smile and then began asking him how well he was and whether he needed anything. Mom got out next and was kissed on the cheek by Auntie Belle. “You’ve put on a couple of pounds Preciosa.” Auntie Belle shook her head at Mom with a smile using her favorite nickname for my mother, “ I’ve heard of this new exercise for women around our ages that will help us lose the weight without even realizing it!” She took Mom by the arm and led her to the house and began excitedly telling her about the times and days the program started. I was last to get out seeing as both my parents were trapped and someone had to take my luggage out before they drove away with it.
Leaning into the trunk I reached down and tugged hard on my suitcase handle when I saw another thin and fragile looking hand reach in and take the other handle ,I looked up to see Tia Marze smiling at me. “Ola Chiquitita.” I leaned over and kissed Tia Marze on the cheek. “Hi Tia Marze.” We both smiled. “Cari, you’re only staying for a week. Not a month.” She said looking at the bulky thing attached to the handles we were grasping with a furrowed brow. Then all of a sudden her eyes became smaller and looked over to my parents with what I call her “Conspiracy Theory Face.”
“They must be planning on leaving you here and making sure they have a nice long vacation. While they sell the house and use the money to build a love shack where no one can find them. Then raise three more kids while they’re at it.” This being said was now a fact to Tia Marze.
“I don’t doubt your mother stuffed some more of your clothes into this suitcase when you packed.” Tia Marze turned to me now with a serious expression.
“Are you hungry Cari?”
And with that we gave my luggage one big pull and it slid over edge of the trunk and onto the driveway. I adjusted the handle so I could stroll it into the house and followed Tia Marze into their cozy historic palace.
As I walked in I saw Aunt Nena come over to me with a huge smile, “Cari!” And then I felt the air leave my lungs. I tried to squeeze her back but it was hard when both arms were trapped in the warmth of Aunt Nena. “Sweetheart ,we will have a good time while you’re here.”
And I could already see myself standing on a stool stuffing dusty things into a closet too high for any of them to reach or lifting something too heavy for all three of them. Combined.
“Cool.” I replied as I was released.
“What is this ‘cool’?” She asked me.
“It’s another word for ‘groovy’.”
“Oh!” Aunt Nena seemed to get it now, nodding at me. “It’s new.”
Just then Auntie Belle came in and kissed me, “Cari!” She gave me a light hug and looked me over, “My you’ve grown.” Her smile growing , “You’ve got your speed bumps y todo!” She exclaimed happily and I felt my cheeks tingle as I looked at my chest. Aunt Nena laughed and walked outside, joining Tia Marze to wave to my parents. In all the commotion I hadn’t noticed how they’d managed to slip away back to the car. Their boat was leaving soon and they didn’t want to be late. Auntie Belle joined her sisters as well.
I was left to myself for a few moments and brought my luggage to the bottom of the stair case. It landed with a thunk! And I surveyed my new crib and sighed. It smelled like home and in the background I could hear the ending notes of Mister Sandman on their ancient record player.
This was going to take a lot of getting used to.