Happy Birthday to You

Her birthday’s today. A special bouquet, custom made for you.
“Space is what I need.” is what she said…

Cold, & firm – didn’t even let me in to get my stuff…
Slams the door is all she did…

As I turn around and head back to the car, my grip loosens & I can’t hold onto the disappointment. That special bouquet of pink, yellow & red roses, slips from my fingers and falls into the reflective puddle. It’s stark, cold reflection, is broken by the slow ripples of sadness spreading thru the surface.

“A dreadful, stormy night ahead and the music on the radio is lame!” I say to myself as if expecting a bit of sympathy. Nothing, will be able to soften the mood today – maybe not even music.

OK PowerMix cassette! “Lets see if you can lift my spirits, once again!”

Sure enough a mellow, sad song comes up mid stride…

“I’ve been waiting for you…

Signed with a home tattoo
Happy birthday to you
was created for you.” ♫

“how ironic… I would have done anything for her.”

Sitting back into the bucket seat, I just try to dwell in the sounds of irony…

Pulling up to a red light, I get a pause to contemplate the moment. I put my head back on the head rest & close my eyes for a second. A sudden sensation that someone is watching me, smacked me in the face! I open my eyes and look to the car to my left. Two guys sitting in the front. The passenger with long, stringy blond hair and the scruffy driver with short messy black hair – thinning on the sides and balding on the forehead. Being caught, they quickly look away.

“Hmm that’s odd…” that driver seems very familiar. “I’ve seen his face before…” When I look back the car drives off.

Words, playing me deja vu
Like a radio tune
I swear I’ve heard before…

I drive on as if this smack didn’t hit me. Really, it didn’t mean anything anyway… My attention goes back to the comfortable moment with Duran Duran on my stereo – just trying to dismiss the worst day of my life.

“It doesn’t matter anyway… I didn’t need her. It was all just a fun game of Cat-n-Mouse…” I say out loud knowing its a white lie but trying to convince myself that its better this way.

“I got entangled in her sharp claws but instead of running, I stayed…”

I pull into the Hess gas station and decided to call a few friend to reconnect – you know – see where they’re hanging out. “Ring, ring, ring…” is all the receiver would volunteer. They have all moved on to their own cat-and-mouse games.

“I might as well go home & put these pieces back together again.” I tell myself in a tone of surrender & with the strong desire for this day to be over!

Heading down Military Trail, the traffic is flowing slowly & below the speed limit. I just get lost in the tune of the music & the soothing rumble of my Camaro…

“Lost, in a snow filled sky
We’ll make it alright to come undone”

Trying to obliterate the last few moments, my mind returns to the trip home. It seemed shorter, but glad that it’s coming to an end. As I put my blinkers on to make the right turn onto Purdy Lane, I notice something weird in my rear view mirror.

“Hey! it’s those two guys who were starring at the red light!” What are they doing here? “Have they been following me?” In a split second my mind shuffles thru what seems like a flash of a hundred faces…

Shit! that’s her X!!” I knew I’ve seen that face before – a picture of a weary guy hidden in a drawer…

He’s a tall, lanky guy. Wearing a white t-shirt, beaten & transparent from obsessive over-use. Just a blue-collar guy, with scruffy hair. He seems weary from trying to put his life together again with her. No wonder he wants to get out his frustrations on me!

As I make the turn, he speeds up & tries to ram my rear bumper. I hit the gas to get him to miss & he spins out onto the oncoming lane. My tires, startled by all this sudden excitement, squeal & leaves black trails in the asphalt. He accelerates, trying to catch up, but is at least a few hundred yards behind. Barreling down the road, trying to get away from him, we’re doing 50 on a 25 and Bonnie Drive is coming up.

“Do I turn & pull into the driveway – or – keep going?” I ask myself as if I would answer back – I don’t know what to do… “turning in & stopping, would be two against one – and it will be revealing my sanctuary.”

My heart pounding, I see him gaining distance on me. All I can thing to do is floor it and speed away from him.

I pass a slower car & he gets stuck as oncoming traffic blocks him. A good gap grows between us as he tries to pass the slower car. Finally I reach Jog Road and luck will have it! The light just turned yellow.

My tires squeal around that turn & he, like his future with her – is stuck at the light. As for me, I’m long gone – not sure of what’s next…

“Who do you need?
Who do you love?
When you come undone

Who do you need?
Who do you love?
When you come undone”

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Not Your Usual Kind of Christmas

My mother is a strong, focused lady and nothing will stop her in reaching her goals. In her younger days she worked her fingers-to-the-bone to be successful. She got her degree and even had her own business. She was so focused and so motivated.

She had this dream to get the whole family to the United States and people in her town did not understand why she wanted to leave. They would make fun of her and even call her names.

My mother is a strong, focused lady and nothing will stop her in reaching her goals. In her younger days she worked her fingers-to-the-bone to be successful. She got her degree and even had her own business. She was so focused and so motivated.

She had this dream to get the whole family to the United States and people in her town did not understand why she wanted to leave. They would make fun of her and even call her names.

When we got here, she remained focused. Still worked her fingers-to-the-bone so time to make friends was not a top priority. Looking back, I can see that her tough character & her focus were a way to protect herself from people’s opinions.

But now that we are settling into our new house, it looks like she is ready to try again. She has made friends with a few ladies at church. But again, her tough coat has been misunderstood and there are a few ladies who do not get her level of focus or her motivation.

Yesterday she had an argument with the wife of a deacon. Mom had been asking around if any of the ladies needed a seamstress to make dresses for Christmas. My mother explained “I’m starting a new business…” and the deacon’s wife interrupted her.

“Why do you consider yourself to be better then the rest of us?” She complained to my mother.

“Isn’t a job at a factory good enough for you?” the lady stabbed deep into my mother’s ego.

But I know a ‘job’ is not enough for my mother. Needless to say mom butt heads with this lady and several other ladies from the church group.

But mom just lets this go…

A few weeks back, this lady was doing a collection of unwanted clothes for the poor & needy. My father committed himself to donate clothes. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had donated several bags of clothes, that we did not use anymore.

At the Wednesday service before Christmas, the ladies’ church group made one last request for more unwanted clothes. “There is a desperate need for these items…” was the last plea. Nobody raised their hands, and at the last minute my father raised his. Once again, he committed the whole family.

Now for Saturday service, we dragged a big bag of clothes with us on the train. Danny & I taking turns to carry the heavy bag. We carried it for the 1hr commute to the Adventist Church. There my father handed the bag over to this lady. Danny gave up a green hooded, parka. It’s only problem was that it was old & had holes in the pockets. I gave up my US Navy blue Pea coat. It had beautiful brass buttons & only a small tear in the elbow. Mom gave up a nice brown coat with a white fur collar. Even though the fur was fake & a little dirty, she liked it.

begrudgingly she too gave it up for those more needy…

All because my dad said “the poor do not have clothes to keep them warm this winter and you have plenty to spare!”

Saturday church service was beautiful and the Christmas theme left us feeling that giving up our items for the benefit of others was a good idea.

It is what a “good Christian” should do – right?

But now walking out of Saturday service, we see a difference in the floor mats the church is using. Stretched out on the floor were my mom’s fur-collar coat; my blue Pea coat & Danny’s green parka there on the floor for people to wipe their feet.

This cut deep, like a knife, straight thru my mother’s heart. She had allowed herself to be vulnerable and allowed people in. But now this lady had taken a direct hit at mom. I don’t know why… envy… anger… jealousy…

But again my mother lets this go and just moves on – like always. This time, I know the pain was a little deeper.

A neighbor saw us walking & offered us a ride home. Mom was quiet all the way home and nobody else dare break the silence. All we could do was listen to Delta Dawn playing on the radio. I guess mom being vulnerable is now like a faded rose from days gone by…

When we got home, mom went straight up to her room. I hope we can find a way to cheer her up before Christmas.

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Catholic Girls Start Much Too Late

When I got home from school I went straight to mom’s factory. Mom is preparing an order that needs to be delivered today. Marga was feeling sick, so I had to sit at the blindstitch machine and finish off some hems.

BlindStitch MachinePatty was turning the belts inside out & as soon as I finish off these hems, the dresses go to Nancy. She trims off the excess threads that may be hanging and cleans the garment. From there Nancy will pass them off to dad for a steam ironing. Then Daniel will place them on a hanger & bag them.

We need to finish the last fifteen dresses and the order will be ready to go. The order is finalized by around 3:30 and Daniel needs to drive into the city – into Chinatown to deliver the order.

“No mom, I don’t have any homework! Can I go with Danny?” I lied to my mom so she can let me go.

We loaded up the bug and off we go. The car is so overloaded with garments that my seat on the passenger side is pushed so close to the front that my knees are hitting the dashboard.

We drive north on the New Jersey Turnpike. Get off on the Holland Tunnel Exit No 14 and cross into the City right before 5:45pm – right before they closed the receiving dock. This order was a test of 50 garments to see if mom would get the full order of 1000 garments. If we were to miss the deadline, she would not have gotten a chance at it, so luckily we made it in time. He goes upstairs to make the delivery, while I sit in the car keeping an eye on it.

Now we can drive back into New Jersey without a worry. Getting back in the car, we drive uptown and towards the Lincoln Tunnel.

“Daniel! where are we going?” I question.

“We have one more stop before we can go home.” Daniel tells me. “We need to drop off a sewing order to Sra. Garcia in West New York.”

I lay back – now that I have some leg room – and decide to take a nap. When I wake up, I hear Daniel playing some brand new songs from Billy Joel’s latest album, The Stranger. Sitting in traffic, we are enjoying the whole album

As we pull up to Sra. Garcia’s house, the song “Only the Good Die Young” comes on and I just realized why we drove north for an extra 1/2hr. This is where Maria lives!

There she is walking home in her Catholic School uniform. Daniel is so excited.

“Come out Virginia, don’t let me wait…”

“Pass me that bundle from the back seat!” Daniel asks me.

He puts the bundle on his lap and brushes his hair. I reach for the door handle & he stops me.

“No, I need you to wait here & keep an eye on the car.”

OK I guess I can use this time to actually get my homework done.

As Daniel goes into the house, I turn on the overhead light & the radio.

I go back to listening as Billy Joel continue…

You Catholic girls start much too late…

But sooner or later it comes down to fate.

I might as well be the one...”

I completed my homework & am still waiting. I’ve listened to the whole tape and its now repeating again.

Ice is forming on the windows, from the cold outside. Daniel is still not back and I’m starting to get pissed.

They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the sinners are much more fun…

you know that only the good die young
that’s what i said
i tell ya
only the good die young…

“What is taking so long. It’s freezing in here!” I yell out loud in frustration…

I coverup with some of the fabrics and doze off for a bit. Then I am awaken by Daniel banging on the glass! I freak out not realizing it’s him banging. He walks in with a smile on his face. It looks like he might have gotten a kiss from Maria – but he’s not talking.

“She’s a nice girl!” I can’t kiss & tell.” He replies as he pulls out into the street.

Its now 9pm and away we go! We are heading home having accomplished more then we had originally planned.

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