Biomythography, Note 52
Stand By Your Woman
On the beige phone over the smelly brown carpet in the hall of my college dormitory, the matter seemed simple. I was going to take care of my best friend in the style I could afford. That's what one does. The call seemed to be turning awkward about it. But not for me.
“She should go to her own home, not ours,” my mother repeated. I could hear movement on the other end. She had to be stalking around the foyer at home. She only did that when she was upset. It didn't happen often. But this time, yes.
“Her family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.” This part, I wasn't sure I'd explained before.
"What kind of family doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving?" she asked, too upset to think.
"She's Dutch and Mexican." I knew I'd described this part a month ago. Maybe my mother hadn't paid much attention. But it seemed more likely she'd forgotten.
"How can she be both?"
"Her parents met at the United Nations, where they work."
"Oh, right." It sounded like my mother was starting to remember. She'd gotten at least two letters and two phone calls. She should know I was dating a U.N. child this semester.
"She grew up in Denmark." I tried to give my mother time to think. But I could only give her a second because I was nineteen. "Where they aren't American. So they don't celebrate Thanksgiving."
"Not American." In her pause, I could hear the concept sink in. She had lived in Germany for a few years. “Oh, right. Thanksgiving is an American-only holiday.”
“Yeah. The college shuts down here for it. She's a foreign student, so they'll let her stay here on campus alone with no food. Or I can stay with her. Or she can come with me.”
“Well she can’t come here.”
“What do you mean?” Her response was stern but, to me, pretty much expected.
“I mean, okay." I glanced around the eggshell-colored walls and the nearby door frame with paint chipped off, "I’ll stay here for Thanksgiving. Of course I’m not gonna leave her alone. That would be horrible.”
“I don’t mean that we don’t want to see you for Thanksgiving. Your brothers ask about you. They're expecting you.”
That was probably an overstatement. Still, I missed my brothers and it was possible they weren't too busy to miss me at least for our card games.
“I’ve written them letters,” I replied. The rationalization sounded a bit weak.
“That’s not the same thing.”
I re-considered for a moment. In fact, I'd thought about the possible scenarios before the phone call.
"Well, I can't afford a hotel." I'd foreseen the direction of the conversation enough to consult my bank statements. I'd also asked everyone who knew the Gaithersburg area hotels. The cheapest available were thirty bucks a night. I could afford one night. That wasn't enough to justify driving down to Maryland for Thanksgiving.
"I'll write a letter explaining everything," I said.
"Tomorrow." It couldn't be tonight because I was taking my girlfriend out to a one-dollar movie.
The next day, a Saturday, the phone rang in the hall. Of course, I never picked it up until seven rings had passed, which my hallmates were delightful about. (They sort of actually were.) At any rate, one of them walked over to let me know it was for me.
"She's really from Mexico and Denmark? And you're bringing her home to meet us?"
"All right, then."