Walking the Shady Side of the Street

(From "Four Days in Cienfuegos"-- 2013)

Passport ordered and on its way, I imagine packing swingy sundresses in a range of non-communist colors matched with super cute flat sandals (I wonder if 4 pairs be enough, and list them -- solid black, strappy gold, simple white, perfect brown).

Mom kills my fantasy of delicious shoes and swirly dress cuteness, warning me to stop asking myself "What would Lucy Ricardo wear?" and focus on packing 3 outfits of plain, loose clothes so I can blend in at the places we will really visit.

She doesn't say it directly (but she does have my dad call later and make sure I know she's not kidding) I hear it clear.

She expects me dress and act like a Nun on a mission, not "Melissa and her Amazing Shoes Tour."

I ask if I can at least wear a lacy Mantilla, perhaps in black to show how we mourn. I imagine myself in Cuba kneeling in front of a candle-lit crucifix at a cool dark alter, peacefully praying my way through the decades of my Abuela's heavy rosary.

Again my Mother and Cuba-advisor rebuffed me.

"No mantilla! no hats! If you wear a hat there you'll look like a farmer."

I ask if I can wear a visor and she pushes back again, "NO! You will look like a CRAZY farmer."

No problem,I don't even own a visor, I tell her, and kiddingly add how thankful I will be for sunglasses.

"No sunglasses!" she interjects before I can continue. I hadn't thought of it but then I understood completely. Of course if they don't have lots of coffee and sugar and food they aren't going to have Castro's Sunglasses Hut on every corner.

For a second I am shocked and saddened at the thought of all those people under Cuba's bright burning sun, denied of simple luxuries like repeatedly buying, breaking, losing and finding sunglasses thanks to the Cold War.

Mom understands my concern and continues, "We will do what people have done for 200 years. The buildings make shade. People walk on the shady side of the street."

The idea strikes me as so obvious and yet foreign, and I begin to wonder what else I'm going to learn (relearn?) walking the streets of Cuba.