Fire, too, is Orange
When I was young, my mom would take me to an Orange Julius in Burbank. She was young, then, and beautiful, with blonde hair and pale gray-cerulean eyes and a sharp wit. She’d played basketball in high school, studied math in college, and now stayed home with me in a rented suburban house while my dad worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
She did crafts with me, holding a cigarette with one hand and painting the organs of a model frog with another, dipping a small paintbrush into tiny jars of gold and silver and brown oil paint, blowing smoke out the side of her mouth. She taught me about infinity using my Tommee Tippee cup, which had a drawing of Tommee Tippee on it, and he was drinking from a Tommee Tippee cup, and so on.
She smiled when she saw I got it.
There was something mysterious about Orange Juliuses – the delicious and dangerous combination of citrus and dairy – just on the edge of curdling, but not. Sometimes we’d even make them at home in the blender, with orange slices and cream and sugar and vanilla.
I loved Orange Juliuses, and I loved my mom through them.
Later, much later, all the years of a life later, my mother got sick, unable to breathe without the help of a machine, with its thin plastic tubes leading into her nose, her skin thin and fragile, easily bruised.
I like thinking of the early years, though, of the sweetness and daring and all-in-ness of those orange drinks. I like thinking of how we savored them at our kitchen table, the bright L.A. sunlight streaming in through our windows, riding curls of smoke.
About the Author: Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she’s an associate Professor of English at Muskingum University. She’s the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington), The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), and Curiosities (Unsolicited Press).