I am so glad that my liner-less trench coat, which served me as a winter coat for the 25-plus years I've lived in Richmond and as a raincoat during my previous years in California and in New York City, finally gave up the ghost, along with its cuffs, pockets, hems, and all seams, before I left for my winter trek; its demise forced me to purchase replacement rain-wear (a sweet and simple aubergine-colored number) and a true winter coat (basic black, reversible, hooded, warm and snuggly). The coat seems to weigh almost as much as I do but doesn't make me look like I've got another person tucked in there with me. The toastiness of my new outerwear, combined with layers of under and mid-level and everywhere wear, do not, however, protect me completely from the elements.
This is not the coldest I've ever been (that was a New Year's day in Richmond, VA -- believe it or not -- when the words coming out of my mouth froze in midair and when my nostrils iced shut), but my face stings and my fingers ache and I think that if I remain outside for 10 more minutes I will require a two-hour roasting in a 350-degree oven to thaw out.
My sister-in-law Susan, niece Adele, and I are trudging through the frigid landscape towards the home of one of Susan's former English as a Second Language students. Ana is from Mexico, and Susan thinks she'll enjoy meeting me, telling me about her family, reminiscing about her homeland, and feeding us all lunch.
We are warmly greeted by Ana, but not by the snarling, barking, totally viscious dog -- the size and appearance of a small rat on stilts -- that strains against its leash in the pantry. When freed, it nips at my ankles. Recognizing that, with one size-5.5 foot I could easily put an end to its furious attack on my tarsis or my whatsis, the rat-dog desists, returns to the pantry, and releases a miniature turd onto the linoleum.
Susan has brought gifts for Ana and her children. I recognize some presents that I gave her from years past -- a cute t-shirt that obviously didn't fit Adele, a massage set (gloves with pressure points indicated; various doo-hickies to run over neck and/or back knots; oils, etc.); I'm glad that they were regifted -- I believe in recycling.
While Ana's children, a bright kindergartner and an active toddler, and Adele float between the kitchen (where we adults are sitting) and the five-year- old's pretty, pink, and frilly bedroom, we women have a grand time, chatting (platicando and talkeando) in Spanish, English, and Spanglish.
Ana ordered a rotisserie chicken from a nearby Latino restaurant over an hour ago; she calls again to give them street-by-street directions to the door. We snack on oreos while we wait.
When the cumin-scented bird arrives, we accompany it -- down the gullet -- with French fries, yellow rice (that Ana has prepared), and Inca Cola (a bright yellow, sickly sweet soft drink that is beloved by all who crave eventual diabetes or immediate sugar shock). Ana also serves us shredded chicken, lettuce, and a mild green salsa, which we encase in wheat tortillas that she's sauteed in oil.
When Ana's husband arrives home, tired and ready to take the family to a doctor's appointment, we say our hellos and goodbyes. Susan explains later that if we had stayed any longer, he would have gone out of his way to drive us home. We head back to the subway station, buoyed by the warmth of the family we have just left and the food that is fueling us. It's still flipping frigid out here.