A couple of weeks ago, Mom, my sisters and I got together to eat Mexican up the street from my house. As always it ended in fun and loud laughter. Baby Lauren minored in Spanish and spent a summer abroad in Spain, but she always looks conflicted when you ask her what something is in Spanish. But this one night, she looked at me like I had been living in a Spanish hole my entire life.
"Lauren, what is hat in Spanish?" I asked her. Honestly
"It's sombrero!" she said and her tone had this punch in the shoulder feel to it that almost knocked me to the floor.
"Wait. Are you kidding me? Sombrero means hat?? I thought it was just a word for a goofy style of hat."
Lesson learned. While in Mexico if I'm having a bad hair day (which I will, everyday, because it will be summer) I will wear my pale yellow Sombrero from Vineyard Vines. See? It doesn't seem right. Try it in this context: "Oh look it's snowing out, better bundle up and wear my sombrero." AKA big goofy Mexican hat. In the snow. No. I don't trust baby Lauren. There has to be another word for "hat".
In my teen years, my parents were obsessed with Rio Bravo in metro Atlanta. I mean, we'd go every single Saturday evening and you'd think every one of those Saturdays was a holiday. My parents celebrated that it was Saturday when it was only just a Saturday. I like this. We liked it even more because in my younger childhood years, we'd get in the Camry on a Saturday evening, back out of the driveway, hit downtown Woodstock (when it was nothing more than the Ace Hardware) and someone would say, "So, where're we going?"
"Let's go to that Chinese restaurant," Dad would suggest.
He was referring to a restaurant going toward Acworth, in a shopping center, "Dragon something" or there was a dragon flanking the exterior doorframe. Niki and I hated this place. If you wanted a restaurant vibe similar to an open casket viewing at a funeral home, then this was it, at 5:00 pm on a Saturday. It was always empty and quiet. Never any music. It felt fancy but it wasn't and when Niki and I would start bickering over the last water chestnut in the Wonton Soup, Mom would pipe in, "Niki! Kristen! Hush!" So it was back to gazing at my laminated placemat that told me I was born in the year of the rooster and sipping on my lukewarm Lipton's tea.
"No, Dad! We don't want to go there!" Niki & I would whine, hoping Dad would give in.
Mom would back us and echo sternly, "Keith, no, nobody wants to go there."
At this point we were getting closer and closer to I-575, the path to any decent chain restaurant. We had already crossed over the railroad tracks. It was getting serious now.
"Keith! Nobody wants to eat at that Chinese restaurant!" Mom would reiterate.
"Yeah, Dad! Nobody! Listen to Mom! Let's go to Applebee's!"
Argument would continue until the car would merge onto I-575 South and it all became super serious then. As the Camry sped faster, so did our emotions. I'm pretty sure Niki and I cried a few times at this point.
"No, Dad! No! Not the scary Chinese restaurant!"
Eventually one parent would shout, "Oh Yeah?! Well then let's just turn this damn car around and go home!"
"NO! It's Saturday! We can't do that!"
Heaven forbid we chose a restaurant before we left the house. But I like to think that those backseat tears I shed in the white camry, while stroking the blue velour seats in search for some comfort, those moments I like to think shaped me in some way. Like an ever changing Toyota Camry, shifting gears, speeding up, slowing down, breaking down, being repaired, changing colors. My life is a f*cking Camry metaphor.
Mom & Dad discovered Rio Bravo sometime in the 1990s and it became extended family to us. It was our church. It was our place that we all agreed on, all loved and celebrated. Their homemade tortillas and yellow queso dip were our Communion. Every single Saturday we went here, we relaxed, reconnected, we laughed. Every birthday was spent here. Birthdays... where the staff would bring out a large sombrero (HAT, in case you didn't know) but Mom would have to press pause on their Birthday Song and tell the staff none of us would be wearing the Birthday Sombrero, because it just might be harboring a village of head lice. We had all collectively walked through Chinese restaurant hell to get to this point in our lives, a place where we could back out of the driveway in smiles, cross over the railroad tracks in Woodstock, and merge onto I-575 South in complete peace, knowing our Saturday path in life. What is "heaven" in Spanish? Baby Lauren?
Happy Cinco de Mayo, amigos!