On Sunday, my daughters and I had planned to meet up with my best gf after church; her husband's tryin to make basketball players out of our children. But then, during service, one of the ushers passed me a note from J: "Hector (J's husband)'s cooking this afternoon. If you aren't busy, we want you and the girls to come to our house."
All bets were off, then.
That Hector is a man of many parts, like they used to say in the old days. He's a short (shorter than Goobs, which is sayin somethin), round man, quiet, humble, and easy-going, doesn't look at all
like he rides a motorcycle; has an addiction to mind-teasers; and cooks fit to make you speak in unknown tongues, among other things. Hector's Latino, sunny, insightful, and affectionate, and will talk your ear off, in better English than this professor, if you let him. Everyone adores him. Everyone. One of our bishops visited a few years back and, having watched how beautifully Hector ministered to our pastor, strongly suggested that Hector be promoted into church leadership. He was. And every
body was glad for him. You don't see that kinda sentiment often in church, honey. He's married to J, the twin of J, and they (Hector and J, that is, not
Hector and J and J) have three kids: K, C, and Hector, Jr. J is a short, slender, dark-skinned black woman with a ready, gap-toothed smile. (I just saw her on campus a while ago, with K in tow; J's takin classes so she can multipy her options, and K has to go with her because K got out of school early, for some reason.)
Talk about some pretty children. In my opinion, they all look like their mother. C, in particular, the middle girl, seven years old, has long, thick, wavy, black hair, and grown women would kill for her coloring. C, in particular, decided that she was in love with me on Sunday. Throughout the day, I was sittin somewhere, at the table, in the living room, anywhere, minding my own bidness, and C deliberately positioned herself in front of me and then perched herself on my knee. After the third time, I said, "You plant that thang any
where, don't you?" and she responded, simply, "I love you." Throughout the sitting on my lap, the child would rearrange herself, off and on, for maximum comfort (hers
, not so much mine, love notwithstanding), wiggling here and there, throwin her arms around my neck, etc. She smelled like Johnson and Johnson's Baby Oil and weighed more and more every minute. She's a heartbreaker.
But all of them were so well-behaved. Even Hector, Jr., the baby, who used to be a hell-raiser. On Sunday afternoon, he did what he was told --the first time-- and kept smiling (in my opinion, mostly because, while supper was readying, Juice and Goobs were chasing him around outdoors). K, a middle-schooler, was watching TV at one point, but when her mother came from the kitchen to say something to the other grownups, K put the TV on mute
and kept it there till her mother stopped talking and left the room. C wanted Papi
to help her with her birdhouse kit, but Hector told her that she needed to be sociable: "That kit's a one-man thing. We have company." C then contented herself with planting herself on my lap or running around outdoors with her sister, her brother, and my girls.
Hector cooked. By the time the girls and I had arrived, the pork roast was already done and had been sittin in the warm oven for a bit. Hector was waiting for J to come home from the grocery store with the Spanish yellow rice, beans and plantains. While we waited for J, Hector dug out a very, very old game, Mastermind
, to play with Goobs. He and Goobs have had a rather longish rivalry, begun when he discovered that she could play Mancala
. She couldn't beat him at it (as she had beaten quite a few adults, including her mother, to everyone's shock), but she came pretty close. So every time Hector found a game, he'd look pointedly at Goobs and say, "I'm lookin for some
body to play this game with me." Goobs played Mastermind with Hector twice: once to figure out how to do it, and once again to beat him. But she didn't beat him this time, either.
The whole time they played, Hector talked with me and his sister-in-law (she and J's brother, S, had also been invited), about Work and the Lying Liars We Deal With There. Apparently, Hector's boss was angry at Hector's offensive
decision to try for a better position --after being expressly--and inconceivably-- told not to apply for it-- and the boss was out to get him. Like Goobs, though, the lying liar was out of his league. "People think because I'm easy-going that I let people walk all over me," said Hector. The boss would soon learn otherwise. A pox on him. S, Hector's sister-in-law, is a six-foot-tall peaches and cream blonde with one blue eye and one hazel eye. She's too smart for most people in nea'bout any room, but she's also warm, funny and down-to-earth. On Sunday, she was complaining about the dearth of clean underwear in the house. (She has three daughters, teenage and older, who are apparently not squeamish about wearin Mama's draw's,* especially when the alternative is to wash a load of clothes.) Her husband, S, an average-height dark-skinned man in his late thirties, plays bass guitar for the church choir and installs home security systems during the week. (He's been Employee of the Year for about five years now.) He dotes on her, and the feeling is very mutual. They'll have been married for twenty-some years this week.
J finally showed up with more groceries than she had planned to buy. "[Something I forget] was on sale," she said with her wide grin. She kissed everybody after she put down her bags, and Hector started cooking again. He threw the rice and beans in separate pots, started heating them, and began cutting up the plantains. The smell was like a wondrous torture. S came in from the livingroom (where he'd been watchin some football game) and commented upon it. S, S's wife, and I just planted ourselves in the kitchen, watched Hector and continued discussing the lying liars. (C planted herself
in my lap again.)
And then the power went out. Everyone groaned. J went out to find out what had happened and learned that some idjit had run into a power pole. The power was out all over. "Well," S, S's wife said, "We have roast and chicken and bread." (I had brought the chicken. I'd cooked it early that morning and, after the note, said to myself, "Even if I can't cook as well as Hector, I can bring an offering.") "Let's make sandwiches."
Hector was very frustrated, but he put the bread and meat on the table. The pork roast was so tender and juicy, I wanted to cry when Hector started slicing it. S, S's wife, pulled out some bread slices. The kids were outside, still running around (even C, by then), and S, S's husband was watchin football again, so only S and I had pork roast sandwiches. (I didn't want a roast chicken sandwich.) Then S said, "Hector, how far along was the rice and beans?" At which point we discovered that they were done! Hector mixed the rice with the beans and stewed tomatoes and served them to us. More and more folk were coming into the kitchen, finding plates and cups, and eating. "Watch," Hector said. "After we eat, the lights'll come back on." The food was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. J asked the room, "Has anybody blessed the food?" I replied, "S and I've been thankin Jesus for it for a good while now." I ate entirely too much of it.
After everyone had had at least one plate, the power came back on.
At some point, long past the time I should've, I waddled out of the kitchen and sat down in the living room. Hector put Click
in the DVD player, and all the kids and adults gathered 'round. (C planted herself in my lap again.) S and S kinda lay around on a couch and giggled at Adam Sandler. Hector, Jr. lay on the floor at my feet and giggled, too. (During the sex scenes, Hector, Jr. and C, the babies, half-heartedly covered their eyes.) Hector senior sat on the floor, too, farther back in the livingroom, next to the couch, and played with his kids' erector set. (Soon C left my lap to build stuff with Papi
.) J sat on a chair in the kitchen. Juice sat on a stool in front of me, occasionally going back into the kitchen to eat fried plantains with really
hot sauce, and Goobs sat on the floor near Hector, Jr.
God was on His throne and all was right with the world.
*The word S used