Chapter 5—Cancelling Our Reservations in Hell
There was one family member I did tell—via internet—before anyone else in my family. My aunt—my dad’s sister—and I had a special relationship. She and I understood each other in a way that others in the family could not. She, like me, had siblings a decade her senior. She, like me, met and fell in love with a man from another province. She, like me, always seemed to stand apart from others in the family because of her unique spiritual and philosophical views. Also, for reasons neither one of us can see personally, all of the “cousins” in the family swear upside down and backwards that we strongly resemble the other in appearance.
My aunt adored Palucid, and heartily approved of our relationship—save for one thing: we were “living in sin”. My aunt is a devout follower in the teachings of Christ, and while not inclined to indulge in judgement per se, did express her opinion that it would be wise for Palucid and me to honour our relationship with the holy sacrament of marriage. She wanted nothing more than my happiness, and, of course, the opportunity to rejoice in this happiness. For that reason, and others related to my fondness for my auntie, I wanted to tell her (and I knew that she would bide her time, and feign surprise accordingly when I finally did make my news known to all). So, technically, my aunt was the first of my family to learn that Palucid and I were planning to get married thus cancelling our reservations in hell by no longer “living in sin”.
We were back in town for less than 24 hours when we went out to my parents. We were at my parents place for more than an hour before we told them. Not to be a big whiney baby, but that was hard! We got to my folks and my dad scooped Palucid up into some kind of guy talk, while my mom scooped me up and took me on a tour of her garden. She lamented over her lousy pea crop, and proudly boasted of her beautiful tomato crop, projected potato crop, her beans (5-7 different varieties), carrots, radish, poppies, strawberries, raspberries, currents, poppies….
Yeah, my mom grows poppies—for poppy seed. I tease her about being an opium magnate, but really the most addictive thing coming out of her poppy crop is her poppy seed chiffon cake—it is beyond amazing. Her poppy seed harvest each year is so prolific that she could bake with poppy seed nearly every day, and still have seed to spare. That could explain why she had a poppy seed cake baked and ready to slice into that day as we sat down to lunch.
Up until this point I had managed to hide my left hand, behind my back, under my right hand, wrapped in my shawl, and under the table. However, “lunch” was build and serve-yourself sandwiches. I am not by nature an overly graceful person, and thus disinclined to make it look like one hand sandwich making was a normal thing. Palucid knows me well—it was at this point he prompted me to share our big news.
While Palucid knows me well, he, in that moment, forgot a key detail: it is nearly impossible to sustain a conversation uninterrupted while at my parents’ dinner table—at least until the first round of servings are doled out. So as my fingertips whitened (and then purpled) under Palucid’s loving grip, I flinched discreetly, and wordlessly. I was like a stealthy lioness waiting in stone-like stillness for my moment to pounce. Once my mom and dad each had a mouthful of food, I started with, “So, on my birthday Palucid and I wen—“
My dad looked up from his sandwich with his classic: “WHAT?” Yes, that’s right, sometimes chewing interfered with the hearing aid’s reception—oppss. I started again, but with more careful allocution and volume. I decided on a different approach: “Would you like to know what Palucid bought me for my birthday?” This had their attention, and offered a certain sense of intrigue. They suspended their chewing, and offers of a second helping, long enough to let me finish.
My mom giggled and said something similar to Palucid’s mom, but that didn’t stop her from wrapping me up one of her best “mom hugs”, and my dad with teary eyes and a grin that could have lit up an entire town lunged, toward me and hugged me: hard. “Hard” is a bit of an understatement. Places along my spine popped as if I was at the chiropractor, my feet dangled several centimetres off the ground, and I couldn’t breathe for a couple of seconds. Kodiak bears could learn a thing or two about bear hugs from my dad. Once my toes touched ground again, I looked up to see my mom and Palucid laughing and smiling: they were standing arm in arm. My dad turned to Palucid, arms wide spread—there was another bear hug on deck and headed straight his way.
Thankfully the physics of both physique and social convention prevented my dad from sweeping Palucid off his feet. My mom, just to hedge all bets further to that end, resumed her role as luncheon hostess reminding everyone present to not be shy about “seconds”. Feeling some relief, I started to build my sandwich in the two handed fashion to which I had become accustomed.