Easter Sunday, 13 years ago, my husband and I decided to invite his family in Chicago over for an Easter Sunday dinner. Picasso is a great cook.
Everyone came late. At the time, I was still very much an upper-middle class white girl from Long Island, and had no cultural reference for the lateness. I was pissed.
But Picasso just kept cooking. He worked to a different cultural clock, timing everything so that it would be ready for when he knew that his family would start to arrive.
A family friend who I’ll call Doña Tamales came with her two daughters. One was a teenager, and the other was a tween. Doña Tamales brought her daughters right up to the island counter in the kitchen, and they all perched on stools.
She proceeded to give a running commentary to her two daughters in Spanish about what they were witnessing, because the three of them had never seen a man cooking in a kitchen, much less being in charge of the cooking in the kitchen.
She said very solemnly to her daughters, “Girls, watch closely. I want you to see that a man can cook.”
I danced around our apartment, refilling drinks, setting out the appetizers. People noticed that I never put on the oven mitts. Easter dinner became an unintended social statement about breaking cultural expectations and gender roles.
In many ways, it was the first time that my husband and I acknowledged publicly to his family that yes, things ran a little differently in our home. Not better. Not worse. Just differently.
Picasso simmered the Easter ham in ginger ale. It was delicious.
I haven’t seen Doña Tamales and her daughters since shortly after my husband was deported back to Mexico.
But on every Easter Sunday, I always think about the three of them. Their wide, brown eyes, full of respect and wonder about other worlds. The surprise on their faces when my husband poured ginger ale from a can onto the ham in the roasting pan.
The way they smiled over their red plastic cups that my husband filled to the top with the remaining crisp ginger ale.