We’ve been married for more than 35 years. It almost ended this past Christmas Eve.
“I’m going to need you to run a few errands,” the wife said. “Go to Carolina’s (restaurant) for 3 dozen tortillas, and the rest of the list you can get at the grocery store.” Shit like cheese, beef broth, ice and six pre-ordered pies.
On Christmas, we were having Mexican food for 30 Savages. Dozens of tamales being shipped in from Tucson, buckets of beans, grandma-made pots of green chili, and pan after deep pan of her special enchiladas.
When I got to Carolina’s, it was closed.
Fuck it. I’m going to a “high-end” grocery store. AJ’s is the Whole Foods alternative from the local Basha’s chain. Extra costs for small portions. All the pretense, but none of the healthy kale bullshit of Whole Foods. It’s unhealthy, overly processed, food-like substances priced for the upper-middle class.
AJ’s will have tortillas.
And they did. Bags and Bags of “flat bread” in the “Hispanic” food isle.
Got everything on the list. Got home in 20 minutes.
There was crying and then a gnashing of teeth.
“What the fuck are these,” the wife said. Holding up the clear bags of Mission tortillas like they were filled with fentanyl-laced heroin.
“You should have called me the second you learned Carolina’s was closed. I need to plan.”
“It took months of negotiation to get all the aunts to agree on theirs,” the wife said. The tag line did it.
Look just like Mission tortillas to me:
“Whatever made you think you could make an executive decision and bring me these…” the wife said through tears as her voice trailed off. “God-damn-white-people tortillas.”
“I thought I would come home with something — this way you have a plan B,” I said. I sort of knew it would be like bringing Wonder Bread to a French restaurant, but we are the people who put ice in red wine… Thought it was worth a shot.
Her 91-year-old Aunt had a solution.
“I can just put them in my warmer,” she said. ‘It will be fine.”
“Don’t let that woman touch the tortillas,” my mother-in-law whispered to me like I was now part of the great tortilla war that pitted the 90-something sisters against each other.
My wife looked at her aunt and said. “You need to leave now.” She did.
My mother-in-law escaped to the backyard and warmed herself in the desert sun, while her beans and green chili simmered on the stove. The wife wiped away her tears and took to the internet. I knew she wasn’t looking up ways to kill a husband — she has had that shit memorized for years.
I escaped to my office, put Carol Baskins in my lap (for my own safety), turned up the TV and waited for this Savage storm to blow over.
If we had been forced to serve those Mission-store-bought, chewy-pieces-of-shit to her family for Christmas, I’m pretty sure I would have been served with divorce papers the next business day.
Fortunately for me, the Mexican people are both enterprising and procrastinating.
Late in the day on Christmas Eve, the Los Altos Ranch Market parking lot was packed with people selling tamales, tortillas, tacos… anything anyone could ever want to buy just hours before the big day. The store was open too.
It was only a 3-mile drive and they even have a Tortilleria, where they make the tortillas fresh everyday. I’d like to say I was the hero, found this new store and brought home the sacred dough to save my wife’s reputation. I’d like to say I pitched in make it all work out.
I did not. She solved her own tortilla problem.
On Christmas Day, she held a secret Santa give away with the family. She put all the guests’ names in a hat and pulled out the lucky three winners. Each winner got a bag of 16, god-damn-white-people tortillas to take home — far, far away from our house, now and forever… amen.
“You always told me dad…” the Boy said. “If you don’t want to do something, do it badly.“
As your non-existent God is my witness, as long as this “temporary marriage” lasts, I will never have to go tortilla shopping again.
More than 37 years after the first meal with her family, I learned what to do with the husk on the tamales.