Joaquin is bargaining on behalf of his brother, “Mom, can we get him a small Coke?”
“Your brother can’t handle his Coke.”
“No, that’s just energy drink. He can have Coke. I’ve seen him.”
“Yeah, I appreciate your heart in the matter and the way you’re looking out for Sol but I’m not giving that boy even a sip.”
Joaquin sighs. “But mom, he did hurt his foot this morning. I’ll help him control himself.”
I pat Joaquin’s head. “If I give him Coke he is likely to end up hurting more than his foot. You know how he gets.”
“Yeah,” Joaquin says a little wearily, “I don’t want him getting into a bully mood.”
I didn’t expect his mind to go to this place and he knows we’ve been working on it, the way certain moods can move through our family and the need to find shelter.
“You are such a good person. I’m sorry it’s hard to be little sometimes. We’re working on it.”
“That’s okay,” he says, “I’ll get bigger.”
And with full confidence I tell him, “You’re going to get more than bigger, you’re going to be magnificent. It’s in your name.”
We pile into the car with our bakery bounty in hand. I pull out of the parking lot, the sun breaking free, giving the rain-soaked day a flash of clean, bright light. Women with babies hoisted on their hips emerge into view, looking directly into me as I drive toward them in that particular way of mamas guarding their littles; recognizing that I’m a mama too, that I’m watching for darting bodies and how to protect all of us, they relax. As I pass them, we smile at one another in relief.
In the backseat, Joaquin becomes annoyed with the sushi container and the staples used to keep it closed. He begins to tell me a story of his greater invention for containment of sushi and then to complain in a way that reminds me of my papa. His hands wave in disgust at the laziness of others, their lack of authenticity and originality. In this situation, it is about the other people in the world claiming sushi as their own. Clearly sushi and all of Joaquin’s favorite foods spontaneously came into existence at his discovery of them.
As he talks, I miss my papa. I can imagine the three of us in later years; Joaquin, my father, and me; the abuelo and his nieto, agreeing that nothing is greater than blood and me shaking my head at the two of them, and this proud, irreverent bloodline we share, and finally bringing an end to it all with a clap of the hands and an “Ole’ & Amen!”
Joaquin ends his list of complaint, feeling heard and purged.
As we turn into the driveway he settles into the koro he has inherited from his fierce and steady Maori ancestors, and says, hands clasped on his lap with a clearing of the throat and another ancient exhale:
“New Zealand is the most generous and kind land in the world.”
“Well, I agree. And I do know this,” I say, pulling the brake.
“We are ridiculously blessed.”
To which Joaquin shrugs and says, “Yeah, because we have sushi.”
And I say, “Ole’ & amen.”