At 8:00 in the morning, I’m getting ready to leave the house with the girls to go on a walk. I’m in a hurry–the walk is more for me these days than it is for them. Sometimes I leave the rest of the breakfast on the table, even if I know it teaches the cat a bad habit. I’m expanding the stroller with one hand, carrying the baby in the other, and making sure the toddler doesn’t go into the street.
If it’s really hot already, I go back in to fill up a water bottle for them. On my way out for the second time, I see the bottle of sunscreen, but I can’t. If I don’t get out now, I don’t get out at all. After the walk, I need to go upstairs and start working.
Everything these days, macro and micro, reminds me of how little control I actually have. I have no way of knowing if something will happen that day that will change my life forever. My mind goes back and forth many times during the day processing this fact, aided by the sight of strangers on our walk darting onto the other side of the street, sometimes offering a weary smile. Wanting to fast-forward through the future I don’t want to know, rummaging through the past for comfort, and reminding myself to cherish the present moment. These things are not forever.
At 8:15 in the morning, I’m closing the garage door, putting on my sunglasses and mask, and I begin to push the stroller. I ask the girls which direction they want to explore that day. The Texas sky meets my face for the first time that morning. A brief moment of warmth, quickly followed by fire.
Growing up we had always had interesting folks living with us. I have seventeen aunts and uncles and eighty-four first cousins, so the odds are we were related.
One of my dad’s brothers had a particularly strong penchant for serendipitous travel and not quite settling down in one place for too long. He’d decide he wanted to live in the U.S. for a while again, would pack up one duffel bag, take the bus to MEX, and walk up to the Mexicana or Aeromexico counter and fly standby to LAX. A few hours later, he’d take the bus to our house, and I would find him waiting on our porch waiting for me to let him in when I got home from school.
Then he’d just crash with us for an indeterminate amount of time. He worked on the higher-fidelity parts of construction projects, tiling bathrooms, or intricate brick stuff. Whenever a hotel would go up, his old real-estate connections would reach out, he’d come over, and when he was done, he’d go back home.
I knew he lived in the house because he used Nivea creme. Its aroma would take over whatever cabinet or closet he’d end up keeping his things in. Like the broom closet, or the place I kept my toys. Whenever I travel for work I like to take a little tin of it with me to remember him.
He was also knowledgeable about folk medicine, and would keep supplements and this and that on hand to treat such and such.
One day my mom asked me to sweep the kitchen. I went to the broom closet and reached my hand in, like I had several times before, but he had moved everything around. The broom wasn’t where it usually was. Something else was there. Much thicker.
Turns out, a dried rattlesnake is also about the length of a broom. Its aroma also takes over the space where you put it. This memory also stays with you forever. The end.
Growing up, we had an unofficial tradition in my family of eating donuts on Christmas Eve. It was mostly my fault, because I have a serious thing for donuts. How serious, you ask?
Well, I earned the nickname “Donut Queen” at my last two jobs, for one. I could easily clean out the box on my own. To me, that’s not all that impressive. That’s because one time, I really turned it up to eleven. I was twelve, and it was Christmas Eve.
I decided to tell this story as the topic of a flash talk at the Automattic Grand Meetup in 2018. As my first GM, and a shiny new Automattician, I had to give one to a ballroom full of new colleagues.
Reactions to my talk included, “that was darker than I could ever go,” and “very on-brand, for Dezzie.”
This year, I decided to make the tradition official.