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  • Over there, to the left - that's Pooh. Esther. Pooh. My sister, my bestie. She drove up to Berkeley from LA to be my family for Christmas. Thank god 'cause it's my first Christmas solo, and the ex's family's here, and I'm in a new wee house-lette that if I'm lucky, I'll own until I die.

    I met Pooh when I was 19 and a sophomore at Wellesley College. Pooh, a junior, was dating Nikki, my insta-sistah. N. and I'd met our first day at Wellesley, two black clad NYers drowning in a sea of kilts/plaid/references to Miss Porter's.

    Esther/Pooh heard via the Wellesley Greenhouse Effect that I found all of Nikki's girlfriends, well, wanting. And twinned as we were back then -- Nikki found my boyfriends equally lacking in, well, everything.

    So. So Esther drove me to the nearest big grocery store and pulled me around all over everywhere, one hand on my elbow, the other pushing a cart.

    "I want you to like me so I'm going to buy you this chicken," she said, flinging a pre-packaged roaster into the main part of the cart. It thunked solidly, and remained for rest of our grocery walk.

    "Esther. We live in dorms. We eat in dining halls. I have no use for, or even an oven, to cook this in." Inside? Wicked flattered. People don't go around giving me stuff.

    Yeh, I am female, and was back then, but I'm not a blonde. Nor willowy. Nor named Willoughby. Guys have liked me okay so far, I guess. But they don't give me stuff. I'm no Loni Anderson.

    I'm a cholita. Cholita is South American slang for mixed blood. And I'm 'way mixed. Immersion blender mixed. My mom is Cecilia Maria Villanueva de Vengoechea, but for the past 50+ years she's been Mrs. Gerry Kilby. My pop, the Gerry in question, is a Brit/Yankee cross, born and raised in Bronxville, New York. Gerald Wells Kilby. His pop - waaay British. Noel Hedley Kilby. His mom? Intractable Yankee. "You can do it my way or the wrong way." I call my folks the King of New York and the Queen of Peru. Brown girl. Nice eyes. Strong legs. Shoulders of an East German swimmer.

    So. I'm not in the habit of getting gifts, from men or women. Usually, I get a lot of, "MY you're strong!", which I much prefer. Occasionally I've gotten flowers from a dude -- I like that. Just no red roses please. Ever. Icky cliche.

    So Esther and I we circle Purity Supreme with one chicken, and I convince Esther to put it back. "Let me buy you this TOOTHbrush then," said she, wheeling cart through Personal Care & Sundries. "Everyone could ALWAYS use a new toothbrush." I said no to that too. I wanted to see what would happen next. Anyone would.

    So we leave the store and get back into her car. Esther's drooping from the lack of gift-buying and gift-thrusting. Also because she sees a basket of clean laundry in the back seat, reminding her that she's attending a college so close to home that her mother drives out each week with a basket of Esther's laundry all folded and clean. There's a box of Chicken-in-a-Biscuit crackers from Fofi on top. The sodium count on those bad boys? You could gargle strep away with them.

    Back to Pooh. Yes, I started calling her Pooh aftert this trip. She had no gift for me. She didn't put the key in the ignition. She wiggled uncomfortably, then her eyes lit on the laundry basket.

    "Here!" she said, thrusting a flannel nightgown at me. "This is my favorite nightgown. I want you to have it."

    "Why?" I said, turning the thing around in my hands. It'd been ripped and re-stitched many times over. "What, what happened here?" I asked, showing Pooh all the mends mesmerizing me.

    "Oh, those," she said, starting the car, first smile I'd seen on her face ever. "I did that. I thrash around a lot. In my sleep. More since I came out to my folks. Day after? My dad, David Peres, Greek-Jew-concentration-camp-survivor-yes-the-tattoo called me from Mass General saying, 'You heppy now?!? You tell your mother you like the girls and she drove her car headlong into a B-line trolley she was so upset. Come. Come to the Beth Israel now and tell her you made it up. ...You'll live in the basement. We won't tell the neighbors what you are."

    I regarded the blue and pink and purple flannel stripes in my lap.
    "Wow," I said.
    "TELL me about it," she said.

    And we drove back to campus. And we've been stitched to each other ever since.
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