The doorbell rang, and my friends, our friends, came happily through the door I opened for them. One spoke no English. Another spoke no Portuguese. The other five all spoke fluently or toward the proficient end of the spectrum. On the menu was Indian butter chicken, which I had simmered and stirred in the crock pot all day, to be served over coconut basmati rice. I had arranged the visit because I love Portuguese and I love Brazil and I like her and her friends, and wanted to meet her mother who is here for a month from Brazil. I pulled the dining room table apart and inserted the two leaves that allowed us to comfortably seat ten. She contributed cotton candy grapes, delightfully delicious. The conversation slid quickly into the old times of 1956 and 1964 and 1972, when Dad and Mom knew their families, the old ones now passed away. And Dad launched into all the old stories about becoming honorary members of an indigenous tribe, about trips to the beaches at Santos and past the tall paraná pines in Londrina’s interior, about my bus trip to Rio de Janeiro as an infant, where I sat on the beach in a picnic basket—yes, I have been to Rio—about taking the bonde (trolley) to the fim da linha (the end of the line) just to see what was there, about Mom pushing me in the stroller to the American Embassy every day for our mail, and remembering half-century-old conversations. Everyone chuckled and chimed in. I tried to add my boyhood experience, but could not quite find a way in—I do not like talking over people. And Dad and the guests laughed and reminisced and talked about the old Brazilian crooners, like Vinícios de Morais, and Tom Jobim (think “Girl from Ipanema”), and Dorival Caymmi, who I adore, who sang about a heartsick youth missing the beaches and palm trees and girls of his home town, and Dad broke into croaky Caymmi song with “Coqueiro de Itapoã” (Itapoã coconut palm) and the areia (sandy beach) and the morenas (beautiful dark-skinned women) and the youth’s saudades (such nostalgia pulling at his heartstrings), and the guests giggled and shouted “I remember that one!” But I could not quite find my way in. “Não vale a pena,” I whispered to her: It’s not worth it. Everyone loved my butter chicken, and as they talked and sang, I cleared the table and washed the dishes. When they left, my work would already be done, and standing at the kitchen sink I felt no pressure to compete or contribute or wiggle my way in. Between plates and pans, I munched on cotton candy grapes, delightfully delicious.
(Photo from eBay, under the Fair Use Doctrine.)