She Always Knew

She always knew how to do things. I got engaged and my family threw me a bridal shower. She took me aside and away from the judging eyes of our grandmother, gave me a tasteful piece of lingerie. To this day, it's the only lingerie I've received as a gift. She always knew.

I had a baby, she sent flowers from the best florist in town. How did she know it was the best florist when she lived 300 miles away? I didn't question it. She always knew.

She was a hair stylist, and from the ages of 15 to 25, she was the only one who touched my hair. It was only after I moved to another state that I allowed someone else to cut and style my auburn locks.  In those days when I sat in her chair, I marveled at her insight into people, politics and family dynamics. I hope she knew, she was the sage in our family.

Our grandfather died. She collected money from all the cousins and ordered a funeral spray. It was stunning. The ribbon across the giant bouquet read "Beloved Honey" (that's what we called him). It was a perfect tribute to our grandfather. She always knew how to do things.

She was in her 44th year, soon to turn 45. I received a shocking phone call. Michelle was in the hospital, her condition grave. She had collapsed at home and likely had had a heart attack. My family members nearby were rushing to be with her.

She taught us the importance of Dia de los Muertos in the years leading up to her death. She started coming up to Northern California to participate in our local community event. The year before she died she painted her brother and nephew's faces in the traditional skull and marched alongside them carrying candles. The next year she would be gone. 

Last year was the first Dia de los Muertos without Michelle. Our larger cousin clan gathered, painted our faces and marched for her, like she always knew we would.


The Down Vest (my armor)

Fall is here and so is my vest. I love my vest. It's a thick black down vest with giant pockets.The pockets are so big I could fit a newborn or litter of kittens in each one. My mother wears a robe around the house, I wear a vest. It is not the fashionably fitted cute kind most moms wear. It's boxy, roomy and perfect.

Some days I sleep in it, other days I remove it prior to climbing into bed and hang the lofty friend off the bed post. It is my armor.

The vest was a Christmas present. In those first weeks of acquaintance, the vest mostly hung  in the closet. I was unsure where it fit into my life. Slowly, I started wearing it on short trips to the grocery store, then to volunteer at school. I decided the vest was a good thing. I did not have to carry a purse when I wore it. My wallet, phone, sunglasses and keys all fit with ease in the voluminous pockets. When I wear the vest, I can turn the thermostat down a few degrees. A box of tissues even fit into the pocket which is helpful during flu season. My daughter needs a rubber band for her ponytail, I probably have one in my pocket. The house phone rings, it's in my pocket. My cell phone buzzes, it's in the other pocket. My husband calls the vest my uniform.

I love the warmth the vest offers. Warmth is security. You never hear of someone who is hot and scared, it is always cold and scared. Being too hot indicates ill health. Being warm is perfect. Like the intuitive baby bear in the Goldie Locks fairy tale, warm is just right. I do not fight with my kids or husband when I wear my vest. It makes my home life easier.When I'm warm, all is right.

A couple of years ago my husband and I were invited to a Christmas party. At the end of the night the guests grabbed their jackets and coats and emerged into the cold winter night. We were the last to leave. I found the coat closet, picked up a lonely down vest and kissed the hosts good-bye.

As we drove home I noticed my vest felt a little bigger than usual. I let the thought pass as my husband drove on.

At home I walked straight to our room. I removed my vest to sling it over the bedpost and suddenly stopped. There was already a vest hanging on the bedpost. I picked up both vests and compared the labels. They were the same brand and color, but different sizes. Obviously I had grabbed the vest by mistake (and oddly had forgotten I didn't wear the vest to the party in the first place).

I e-mailed the hosts to alert them about the wayward vest. No reply. I saw the hosts again for New Year's Eve and I mentioned the vest. They said nobody had claimed the orphaned vest. The conversation ended.

I now own two vests. They keep each other company on the bed post on those days and moments when I am vest free. Perhaps the universe knew I needed the armor and sent a back-up.