family

And It Burns

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Blogging 101, Day Sixteen: Make a Prompt Personal

Needless to say, the prompt from April 30th invited Johnny Cash into my head and the tune is on a loop. As I write this post, I can hear him, with his signature voice, doing his thang so I’m just going with the flow and using that as a spot of inspiration too.

ID-100129642Call me the Queen of Spice. Not just spice but hot spice. I love it and I cannot do without it for long. I add chili powder to my eggs in the morning, to my pasta whenever I can and of course when I am making a curry, besides the cumin, coriander and cinnamon, chili is a must for that extra kick. My mother makes this saltsa made of pureed fresh red chilies and tomato. Prawns and cluster beans are added to the dish and you eat it with  plain or coconut rice. We spread that chili mix on some bread and make sandwiches with the leftovers. I have an Irish cousin who didn’t do too well with chili when we were kids. My mother would always make sure that if we were having Asian food, then he’d have a special non spicy dish prepared for him. He’d be happily eating his food and enjoying it but if he saw so much as a red tomato in it, he’d start fanning his mouth and downing glasses of water. So one day just to call his bluff, I made one of those sandwiches for him and told him that it was jam. He took one bite and his face lit up like a red light bulb and he was running all around the kitchen like he was being chased by a swarm of bees. So I was wrong but I had to know. Plus, I thought it was really funny, at that time.

As you can see, I’ve been eating hot spicy food since I was a child so my stomach doesn’t react in a bad way to it. My brother-in-law however, who loves spice and my cooking, always feels the need to tell me about the morning after and how his bum was on fire. He thoroughly enjoys shocking people with the things he says. He loves winding people up and always succeeds with his mother. She reacts which only encourages him. I have this deadpan look whenever he tries with me and so he gets bored and moves on to the next victim.

I called him the other day.

“Hey. was wondering if you’d like to come over for dinner on Friday?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll be there!” [Enter my mother-in-law in the background and he addresses her] “What? What did you say? It’s Juliana…What? Don’t talk about her like that Mama. What? No, don’t worry, she won’t be coming over…”

I was laughing on the other side of the telephone because I knew what he was trying to do. My mother-in-law however was getting really worked up and telling him off, saying things like…“Don’t say rubbish like that, she’ll think its true…” I wasn’t falling for it, not for a minute. I think deep down inside, she knew better but I find that sometimes, the idea of pausing for a moment after stimuli and choosing the best response is difficult and easier said than done. He knows all her buttons and he pushes them regularly.

He does this dance for me. There’s even some kind of twerking in it. He sends us all into stitches when he does grace us with his repertoire. He has threatened to do it in a g-string. A leopard patterned one. It was all talk of course because he would never go to those lengths but again, just as I did with the sandwich and Aedan, I thought I’d test him out too. For one of his Christmas presents, I bought him that g-string as a laugh and when he opened up his present, the whole clan was there and he was incredibly embarrassed. For once, we didn’t hear a word out of him and everyone thanked me profusely!

 

ogging 101, Day Sixteen: Make a Prompt Personal

The Petticoat Wars

I have four siblings. One of whom is adopted. She is actually my first cousin from my Mum’s family and after her father passed away in a car crash, she came to stay with us. I remember that day quite vividly because we went to the hospital and he was the first dead body I had ever seen. It was surreal.  He just lay there, lifeless and I recall feeling scared and anxious.

Maria was about fourteen when she moved in and she was a troubled teenager. Her mother had four children, each from different men and when she was younger, she was passed from one house to another growing up. My mother who was her godmother put an end to that when we took her into our family. I was very young when she came to our home. I didn’t have a problem with it. I thought that it was all very exciting and I loved her very much. Of course I didn’t really understand the dynamics of it all. She was ten years older than me and I already had a sister who was the oldest until Maria entered into the scene. They were only a couple of years apart and so they had more in common or so we thought. The truth is my sister, Talissa, was a bookworm and was very different from Maria. She didn’t care much for attention nor was she bothered about boys at that time. It was only later that I truly understood how annoying my sister found Maria and how her becoming part of the family would have an effect on Talissa for a long time after.

I was just a kid with my own issues and growing pains. I remember how Maria would drive me insane with her antics. It was always one thing or another. Believe it or not, we use to fight about petticoats. I know it sounds pathetic but I was a bit of a control freak as a child and I always had things in order. So much around me was beyond my control so I had to have that much. I was obsessive. I remember every dinner where it was compulsory in our household to sit and eat together at precisely 8.00pm, I would take the plate off the table and go to the sink to wash it and dry it before using it. My mother would always tell me to stop being silly and that it was already clean but I had to do what I had to do and so it became a routine that soon everyone was use to. The only time I couldn’t wash my plate was when we had guests so I would usually identify where I would be sitting and do some preparation before guests arrived. Understanding this, you will realise that the idea of someone coming into my room, rummaging through my drawers and choosing an item she liked to wear without my permission was a nightmare for me. That’s when the petticoat wars began.

It was just silly squabbling over nothing really but because of her heightened sensitivity and her deep insecurities, it was impossible for her to deal with me rationally. Everything was always blown out of proportion and she was ever the victim. This in turn lead to handling her with ‘kit gloves’ which would not help her deal with her demons in the long run. We felt bad for her and we wanted her to feel welcomed so tiptoeing around Maria was something we mastered very well. It was only later on in life that things changed and that happened because nobody can tolerate having to be careful and constantly on guard with their own family. We grew up and she had to catch up or be left behind. I soon realised that although I never had any issues with acknowledging her as my sister and it was never something that I debated on, it was a point of contention for her. She had the problem with that, not us. Even though my parents had done everything to ensure that there was no division or difference in their treatment of all of us, it didn’t matter. Her issues were too deep for her to see just how good she really had it. You couldn’t win with her. It was a constant test.

She was allergic to aspirin and I recall one particular evening when she had taken a pill that contained the ingredient and her whole face looked like it had been through a boxing match. I was hiding in the corner of the room because there was so much commotion and our aunts were all around her, getting her off the bed and rushing her to the hospital and for a child, that whole scene haunted me for a while because I didn’t know what was going on. I was petrified that she was going to die and I would see her lifeless body just lying there like her father did on that operating table years before.

For Maria, anything and everything is always about her trauma and her experience. You will never have it as bad as she has had it. Although we were close as a family, these issues would constantly be apparent and more wars would ensue. She harboured a lot of resentment and jealousy towards me, thinking that I always got what I wanted and things always came easy to me. She felt that any triumph or success that I enjoyed was some sort of negative for her. As if there wasn’t enough for everyone to share. There was always some bitterness involved and I let it get to me for a long time.

Maria taught me so much. I learnt that having everyone’s approval is really overrated and that self-love and recognition is the best kind of acknowledgement I could ever attain. She also taught me so much about unconditional love because til this day, I can say that she is my sister and that I send her the best of vibes and buckets of love. I learnt tolerance and acceptance from her too. Honestly, the list goes on but for the sake of a conclusion, I would say that one of the most priceless lessons I gained from having her in my life, is that I would never compromise my authenticity for anyone ever again. I owe that to myself and to the person involved. I am who I am and if you don’t like it, in the words of my marvelous mother, “You can lump it!”