Going to Auntie Lena’s restaurant always brought a bag full of mixed emotions. She wasn’t particularly fond of me, my aunt wasn’t. She seemed a little too cross, a critique always at hand and no opportunity wasted to correct me or any child she had not borne. Violeta, her youngest, was spoiled rotten and always got her way, which made for often dull playtime or getting into constant trouble; and although I was a year older than Vi, the little rule follower in me did NOT enjoy those daring games at all. I did love my cousin, and still do, but it was not always so much fun to be around her. I suspect i developed a grudge when she trained her pet monkey to chase after me.

That day in particular the Larsons were in town and when they were havoc ensued. We were to have late lunch together, the restaurant was not that full so it could accommodate all 8 of them, my aunts, mom and those close friends who always appeared at the promise of a free meal. A long table was set for us kids, servers fussing around us and serving delicious restaurant food at a time where eating out was still a treat. I was sitting beside Monica, one of my favorites of the Larson bunch, I was about seven at the time and Moni just 2 years older. Vi was being particularly vicious that day, the queen bee sitting at the head of the table and her worker bees buzzing around, feeding her ego by the minute. The boys were across the table, being rambunctious enough to annoy us girls, but not so much to draw the wrath of their Mom and Grandma. From the corner of my eye I could see Violeta laughing out loud but her eyes fixed on me, strangely so. My instinct told me something nasty was coming my way.

Why are you so tall? My auntie Maggie and your dad aren’t -she asked at the top of her voice.

The kids table grew silent, some looked at me, others dropped their eyes to the floor. There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, my parents had told me:

‘Because in Spain my uncles are very tall, My Dad’s brother’s are almost 2 meters told”, I replied, instinctively bracing myself for SOMETHING to come.

And why are you so dark?

By now the older Larsons were giving her murderous looks, shuffling in their seats. I knew something was going on I just didn’t know what. It seemed that everybody was in on something except me. I did not like that feeling, did not like it one bit.

“They are tall too and look like me” i replied, a little less confident. “They have curly hair too”, I mumbled

“Is that right?” she said, mockingly “and then why…” whatever she was going to say next, was drowned by my cousins angrily hushing her. Moni took my hand and literally dragged me to the bathroom, I was terribly confused and feeling hurt, without an obvious reason, I just knew she was, somehow, being mean to me.