Grandma’s Quinceañera

Image Courtesy of The Blog Propellant
Image Courtesy of The Blog Propellant

We were at a costume party, I think. We were supposed to be Southern Belles or Debutants. No wait, I think that photo was taken at my Quinceañera. Yeah, that’s right, my Quinceañera. I’m the one in blue.”

“Almost everyone here is wearing blue. Which one is you?”

“I’m the pretty one.       The pretty one wearing blue.”

“Is that a Diego Garcia mural on the wall?”

“Let me see that photo. Why yes it is a Garcia mural. He was a friend of my mother’s you know. In fact that’s him in the background with his hands on his hips.”

“That doesn’t look like him.”

“Of course it does dear; and look, I think that’s his wife, Frieda in the red dress. You know she and Josephine Baker were lovers.”


“You know, now that I think about it; there mighta been something going on between my Mother and Diego too. Hmmm?”

“I don’t think you had a Quinceañera. I think you’re making up stories again, Grandma! Your parents were Irish.”

“Maybe you’re right. Let me look at the picture again.


“Yeah, you’re definitely right. This was a dance at Garfield High School. I’m the girl with the red hair.

“It was my senior year. See that man with his hands on his hips?”

“The one you said was Diego Garcia?”

“Don’t be silly girl. He doesn’t look a bit like Diego Garcia. That’s Mr. Smitkins. He taught calculus to unsuspecting and gullible high school students. The girl in the red shift with the black buttons and knee socks, you see her here?”


“That’s Frieda Kahlo we went to different schools together. She and Mr. Smitkins got married the day after her high school graduation. It was quite scandalous.”

“Grandma, Frieda Kahlo was married to Diego Garcia.”

“No, dear, you’ve got it all wrong. Diego Garcia was married to Josephine Baker. See, that’s her in the blue dress standing over my right shoulder. Look at that teal dress I’m wearing, and those green shoes! What the hell was I thinking? Why would I ever dress like that?

“Anyway that’s Miss Baker, over my shoulder, with the grey hair and the glasses. She was my third period home economics teacher. She taught me to make Snicker Doodle cookies. I really enjoyed her class.

“I wonder whatever happened to her.”



Me and My Gal


I first met Janine in grade one when we wound up in the same class at the International School in Singapore. She marched right up to me and announced that she was a Viking warrior. My father had brought us to Singapore from New York when he took the managerial position at Raffles. Janine’s mother was a diplomat from Norway. We were both the only child and immediately became best friends.

We did everything together. We went to school together, we ate lunch together, we studied together, we attended one another’s birthday parties, we told each other our secrets, and went on outings together. Our parents did what they could to foster our friendship and Janine was often invited over to our house as I was often invited to hers.

I never knew my mother but Janine had both a mother and a dad. Her dad was a “stay at home” dad as he had no permit to work in Singapore. Some weekends he would take Janine and me on the cable car to Sentosa Island and we would spend the day with the butterflies there and eat local food in the Hawker Centers.

Everything was perfect until that day in sixth grade. I was excited that morning on the bus to school. I had made the cut for the Junior Rugby Team and I knew Janine was going to be proud of me. I spotted her, sitting on the concrete, leaning against a wall outside the library. She wasn’t smiling. I ran over and sat down next to her.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked.

“My mom got a new assignment,” she said, “we’re going to Paris in two weeks. She says it’s great for her career, but I don’t know, Freddie. I’ll probably never see you again.”

We made the best of the two weeks we had. The zoo, the botanical gardens, everywhere we could think of to go; and Dad took time off work so we could see them off at the airport. Janine and I both laughed and roughhoused but it was all show. When her family made their way through security I watched them recede until they blended in with the crowd.

“Come on son,” Dad said, “we gotta go.”

That was twenty-five years ago. Last night there was a friend request on my facebook page from Janine. I accepted right away and went to her timeline. Her profile photo was familiar.


Fourth grade. Good times. Best friends.


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