1. reciprocal action or influence
2. the process by which different things affect each other or change each other.
This morning I woke up to Ken tapping my ankle.
“Can you take me to work?” he asks.
It is NEGATIVE 30 degrees in our room. I am freezing and delusional.
“Can you take the car to work?” I say in a mumbly morning voice.
“Then how will you get to work this afternoon?”
“You could come home for lunch. We’ll eat lunch together,” I say.
“…they’ll let you do that right? A lunch break?”
I’m sure he knows I’m half asleep, making up nice notions of lunch so I don’t have to get up for breakfast. I will turn to ice out there– I just know it.
“Remember how I’m leaving early today so we can go Christmas shopping? So… I can’t take a full lunch break.”
“Oh. …k,” I say as I go from curled-up ball to straight-leg position. This is, of course, signals that I’m on my way to getting out from under the covers. It takes me a few minutes to move again. And then a few more. And eventually my teeth are brushed and I have another layer of pajamas over my first layer and tacky pocahontas moccasin boots with gigantic sweatpants and my hood is up and I look close to death. Out the door we go. I shiver in there until the engine warms up. We’re off.
On the way, we see her!
It’s the Tamale Lady.
The road to Ken’s work occasionally includes a little lady with a wagon, a cooler full of homemade tamales, and homemade sign. The interaction with this lady is half the experience, though the tamales are real good too.
“She brings in a lot of business in the wintertime,” Ken says.
I bet she does. I am already planning a visit on my way back.
I’ve only met her once, maybe twice, but she talks as if she remembers me instantly.
“Ooooh! Como Esta? Bien?” she says.
I cant show you on a keyboard how she says this. I’m sure she doesn’t remember me but she smiles with all her wrinkles and her little eyes seem to recognize me as a friend. It feels great. I love interacting with latin people because there is something faintly familiar there– the insta-friend hospitality and the food=love thing– it’s like the south. There is home in those little eyes. I don’t know how to express this in English, much less spanish, so I just beam out a:
I then proceed to use every spanish word I know,which totals to about 9, and try to use them in this tone like by the way, I appreciate you. I am happy to see you today. I am still in my ridiculous pajamas but she doesn’t seem to notice so I forget too.
“Ooooh mucho frio!” she says to me.
I look at her hands trembling as she reaches for her tamale list. A pair of pink gloves lays in her wagon next to the cooler. I guess she sees me notice them because she starts using those beautiful rolling words to explain that she would wear those gloves except that they don’t fit under the plastic glove she uses to pull the tamales out of the cooler. I understand what she is saying though I don’t know any of the words she is using. Does she think I speak spanish? No, she can’t possibly be fooled– my accent is horrendous. I wish she would just wear her pink gloves. They would only touch the corn husks and nobody eats those anyway. She doesn’t really need a plastic glove.
“Si. Mucho mucho frio,” I say, looking at all the snow and ice around her knowing I can’t understand how cold her hands must be all morning, maybe all day out here.
She shows me the list but I already know what it says.
“Dos,” I say as I point to cheese.
“Uno,” to pork
“Uno,” to chicken.
I’m glad she uses this list because I never learned the word for pork.
“Oooh quatros!” she says. Man I love this lady.
She slips the flimsy plastic glove onto her aged hands. They are beautiful like my Mamaw’s. She reaches around for those tamales, knowing which flavor is where though they all look the same, and bags them up in a brown paper bag– like the kind I used to take my lunch in. She folds down the top of the bag and then reaches for a second one to put them in. This is new, must be a winter thing to help the tamales stay warm.
They are $1.25 each so I know I owe her $5. She doesn’t tell me that though, just smiles her genuine wrinkly smile and hands me the bag.
“Gracias Hermana,” I say.
Hermana is one of my 9 words. It means sister and it’s normal to call people sister in spanish, which is kind of like being Mormon and kind of like just being real, genuine people who are trying to care about each other. I hand her $5 with one hand and then a little extra in the other hand– so she knows I’m giving her this second part on purpose. She doesn’t pretend she doesn’t want it. She doesn’t get embarrassed and shove it off like oh no you don’t have to do that. Is it an American thing to react that way? I’m glad she doesn’t react that way. She just beams again and says thank you and some other beautiful words in Spanish.
“Feliz Navidad!” I say.
And I walk away just loving that woman and anticipating some masa goodness for second breakfast.