The school secretary stood at the door whispering to my teacher, there were a few words exchanged and some nods. I was told to collect all my things; I was going home for the day. As I walked down the hall with this grown up I hardly knew, there was silence, I was too afraid to ask what was going on. My assumption was I was in trouble, but as the consummate bad seed and ring leader, there was a myriad of deeds left undiscovered for which I could be in trouble for. I knew enough to keep my mouth shut.
When she saw I was not going to ask any questions, she simply stated: A driver has been sent to take you home; your sister will be going with you. I walked to the bottom of the hill where the car would be, just outside the gates of the school. My sister and her best friend were both there waiting for the car. They were in the 9th grade and infinitely cooler than anyone I knew. My sister’s book bag was on the floor between her blue Nike tennis shoes, and her friends arm was wrapped around her shoulder. Their heads were resting on each other and when I came near and they turned towards me, their eyes were red and damp; they had been crying. I knew it was really bad, and perhaps I was not in trouble at all. Only my sister and I got in the car, her friend stayed behind and waved to us as we disappeared down the steep hill, the only thing my sister said was that Mom and Dad would talk to me when we got home. I don’t remember much else, only my parents sitting all three of us down on their bed and telling us Mom had a brain tumor. They did not know if it was benign or malignant or if they could remove it, blah,blah blah…a whole bunch of stuff that went over a kid who was still in Elementary school’s head. They were leaving to New York tomorrow, relatives would be taking turns coming to stay with us, and Mom’s friends would keep an eye on us. They had no idea how long they would be gone.
Of course, my Mother needed to get her hair done that afternoon because she was going to ride an airplane the next day (I know, insane.) She let me tag along to the Salon, I sat on the chair next to her while they cut, set, dried, teased and combed out her hair. During that whole time she talked non-stop to her hair dresser, as he lovingly listened, and that’s how I learned to the whole story of my mother’s tumor. He wore tight jeans and Italian loafers with no socks, his hair was shoulder length and look so soft, it would bounce when he would nod his head in agreement with my Mother, I knew if I inhaled while he did this, I might get a whiff of his hair. I felt like an intruder in an intimate ritual my mother was having with her gay hair dresser. I tried hard to sit still and be quite, lest they remember I was sitting there and banish me to the lobby with the HOLA (Spain’s Hello) Magazines that were yellowed with age and spoke of European royalty that were non-existent in my life.
Both my sister’s were in high school and I was sure they were given a lot more information than I was and as the baby of the family you get used to being “protected” from certain truths. A common complaint amount the youngest children in a family. The other day I was thinking of this and had the sudden realization that perhaps my Mother understood that I needed to know what was going on with her and this was her roundabout way of letting me in on the big secrets of her sickness.
to be continued....the poor Granma's who had to stay with us, menopause should NOT feel like a brain tumor and how I learned to drive at 11.