There was a cluster of orange trees that provided a delightful shade – Josue and Vilma decided that the location was perfect. Wooden benches, borrowed from many of the villagers’ kitchen tables and living areas, were arranged in a small semi-circle. By the time the ceremony came underway, most of the villagers would probably show up with their own chairs, planting their seats wherever convenient, watching the events, and ultimately, remain seated to eat the delicious food that at that early moment, was rapidly being produced.
Three rotund ladies, wives of farmers that worked with Don Josue, arrived chatting and laughing, their colorful dresses billowing in the breeze. Their chore was simple: the mounds and mounds of fresh corn masa laid out in large tubs were to be patted out into fluffy corn tortillas. Before they began their work, they stopped in to chat with the other women in the kitchen. The tamales and bollos had been rolled and packaged, placed in large cauldrons, ready to go on the fires that had been prepared and currently sent plumes of smoke in the air. There was an open air thatched roof building that housed the main fogon – the fire hearth where Vilma often prepared all the meals for her family. It was there that the three smiling and laughing women would line up and begin their marathon tortilla making session. They took pride in their work, producing even, round hot cakes that rivaled the best machine produced tortillas. For this grand party, tortillas had to be homemade, and only the best would do.
Inside her bedroom, Sara drew out her shoes. With their tiny heels, rhinestone studded buckle and open toed design; the footwear seemed designed to be worn by a fifteen-year-old girl. It would be drawn out again, perhaps at her wedding, after which it would be put away, not to be worn until her burial. In the village, where farming, tending to the family and having and caring for babies took on priority, dancing shoes were a rarity. Only ladies from the bar down at the base of the hill by the cemetery could walk around in those all hours of the day and night. Respectable women of the village normally wore their rubber flip flops around the house. When they headed out for the town an hour away from the village, their shoes switched to sensible footwear: closed in, usually dark, no heels, often clunky, but cushioned for walking around the larger town buying items while carrying a child or two.
So the shoes that Sara pulled out, twinkling in the sunlight that came in through her window, would only be worn for a day, then put away for another occasion, long into the future. Luci ran her fingers over the shiny stones, admiring the beautiful footwear, and wondering what else was in store. Sara withdrew her undergarments: sleek, satiny items that would remain cool under the hot sun. Her slip was a plain ivory, with only a hint of embossed pattern on the material. From a small box given to her by her brothers, she withdrew earrings, a necklace and a bracelet. The colorful stones gave it the youthful touch that was perfect for a quinceañera. Both girls held the jewelry, oohing and aahhing. Impulsively, Sara put the necklace on her best friend, turning a handheld mirror so Luciola could see herself. The shoes were too small, but they giggled and tried on all the other items that would make the cut on Sara’s outfit.
From the window, they heard the strains of impressive singing – and without even looking out knew it was the ladies at the fogon preparing the tortillas. While the girls had been lost in the world of beautification, the grownups around them scurried, putting the final touches on the meal. The cauldrons of banana leaf wrapped tamales and bollos had been placed on a large fire that had been especially built, just like the grilling stations. With the main fire hearth left free for the tortillas, and the kitchen table cleared, the containers of pibil were placed on the groaning table and counters. Stacks and stacks of plastic plates would soon be filled in with mounds of delicious pork, one tamale, and a few soft tortillas. Crowning the platter would be the grilled beef – perhaps a rib, or a big hunk of pure meat. There would be a few who would probably opt not to have pibil – choosing a piece of grilled pork instead. Sara’s aunt was bringing over some delicious chicken soup for those who didn’t want the heavier meats – but it was probably slated to stay cold, untouched until the next day, when heavy foods would be shunned for the lighter liquid fare. Whatever the case, most of the food was ready for the masses of people who would eventually fill in the large yard.
The hairdresser would soon show up, so it was time for Sara to take her bath. Vilma knew that it would be hectic between the getting dressed and the party afterwards, so she drew the bath for her only daughter, fully intending to help her with her final preparations. The helpful ladies who’d been in the kitchen nearly all morning finally headed home. Children had to be bathed, dressed and told of the various ways punishments could be doled out severely if they misbehaved during the celebrations. Husbands who had not offered their services to grill or be near the hot cooking implements were also instructed to dress, with explicit rules given as to the behavior expected of them. All around the village, the excitement built up as the hour drew near, and the time for fun quickly rolled forth. In her bedroom, Sara sat at the edge of her bed, alone after Luci headed out to get ready as well. All her things were laid out, and while the outside was filled with sounds of people preparing for an intense afternoon of fun, she sat in a vacuum of silence – breathing slowly and evenly, waiting for the moment to be over, waiting to begin that new phase of her life.
The door opened quietly as her mother came in with a bucket of warm water, and a large pan. It was time to get ready.
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