When did we all grow up?

I pulled up in front of the brick ranch house in suburban Dallas, and didn’t have to look for the number. They were all out on the porch, everyone of them, hugging and breaking apart to hug someone else. There were tears, and someone was laughing, and someone told me later some sort of family drama had gone down and this was the making-up moment.

I didn’t have to look for the house number, but I knew it by heart. For years I wrote letters to it, for years saw it written in the upper-left corner of envelopes.

I’d never seen the house, I realized then. But I felt like I knew it.

“How do you know the bride,” they ask me, these countless members of a big and complicated and warm and intense Colombian-American family. And I’d start to explain but here it’s about family and for the first time in a long time, I was identified as my  mother’s daughter. “Oh yes, I remember her,” they say, and by the time I left Sunday night an aunt – or was that a great aunt – was kissing my cheek.

We all go to get our nails done, and we overwhelm the mall salon. I watch from a bench, because mine don’t need done. It’s the day before the wedding and she suddenly remembers she doesn’t have a garter. She finds one in the mall.

I pick up birdseed the morning of the wedding, wondering slightly at the last-minute aspect of it.

And I wonder when we all grew up.

She and I – we drew pictures of clouds in every one of our childhood letters; cloud families across the top of our papers. We ran through the woods when she visited, and when hail-bearing thunderstorms passed through the morning she was to leave, I thought maybe it would force them to stay.

And now we’re both married, she and I, and she hugs me tight on the dance floor and I laugh at how after all these years I’m still surprised by that. Her brother sends greetings to mine, and he’s married now and in the Navy and my brother’s in NYC and when did that happen? I wouldn’t have recognized her baby sister; but the youngest brother looks like himself, just the adult version.

We wave goodbye in the dark by the fountain and the family is out in force then; but when they’re gone and tears have dried they all jump into the fountain and my goodbye-hugs are wet.

“Thank you for being her best friend,” the great-aunt tells me when she kisses my cheek.

And that’s a strange thing to say, because I think we were born best friends.

And I think that now I’ll have to learn a new address.


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