Around 3am this morning, I woke up with a weird sense of anachronism about Tina's 56th birthday.
Unfortunately, Tina-la-vecina as she was known in the Santa Monica Unified School District checked in Hotel California on Monday and isn't available to solve this riddle.
What do you mean?
Well, here's what happened.
She was born in the Bronx near the Yankee stadium on July 9, 1952. She would have been 56 today. Sometimes people ask me if my wife is French. It pleases me to reply that my wife was born in New York.
Tina's parents migrated to Rio de Janeiro when she was an English-speaking 5-year-old cutie pie. Who could imagine she'd score some of the highest scores in highly-competitive exams in Portuguese?
In the summer of 1991, 6-months pregnant with Gabriel, she realized that Zefa, aka Josephina, wouldn't be able to live by herself in Laranjeiras street in the appartment her parents penny-pinched themselves very dearly to buy. Zefa's irresistible attraction for the "loja americana" (American market) used to drive her dad bananas: "For christ's sake Josephina!" was all he could conjure up to say before she'd storm out of the appartment declaring matter-of-factly: "mommy here is going to the cinema, bye-bye!" So, Tina thought of an irresistible ploy to drag Zefa out of Brasil one last time: "Please come help me take care of my baby".
Tina had scheduled a c-section for Gabriel'd birth on Halloween 1991. Zefa arrived the next day.
Gabriel, her "neto", burst out whaling when he learned of Zefa's death on April 28 this year. Our house had felt empty for about a year since she had been in convalescent care. We missed teasing Zefa about which cities of the world were the most beautiful to which she'd invariably declare: "Paris and Rio are the most beautiful cities in the world". Zefa was calm but she had a knack to drive us bananas at which point she'd bail out saying: "I'm going to my room, bye-bye". Zefa was a living encyclopledia of early Hollywood royalty. Tina used to drag Zefa out of her room to watch an old movie only to tease her mom about who so-and-so's extra-marital affairs on that particular movie had been with. Zefa responded matter-of-factly to such questions. These interactions inspired Tina to twist what sometimes started as an argument into something that transpired as a really funny story in her blogs.
Ok, but what did happen?
To put it bluntly, she checked in Hotel California 2 days before her birthday. Pick a date and Tina could tell you who famous actor, rock-and-roller was born on that date. Encyclopedic memory runs in her family for sure. With all of my attention-deficit disorder, it took me several years to adjust to Tina's pace of on-cue-memory recall. I'm still a junior compared to her and her sudden departure left me puzzled. What's so special about 2 days before her birthday? Then I remembered Nehemiah Persoff's 'Little Bonaparte' character in 'Some Like it Hot' asking: "So What's a few months between friends?" in a announcing prematurely the birthday of the lead of Chicago chapter of his "Friends of the Opera" organization. "The boys and I baked you a little cake for your birthday!" Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta.... Tina, Gabriel and I loved to watch this movie; it would be so anarchically Tina for her to say that there was something in her premature birthday cake that didn't agree with her.
I fell in love with Tina's mind when I was taking a course on AI & Natural Language Processing with Igal Arens. At that time, she taught me a very different view on language learning, one that she learned from Stephen Krashen at USC, her beloved mentor in linguistics. She was adamant about his views on language education and was unyielding in her blogs with whoever dared to profess blashmey w.r.t. Krashen's views. It took me over two decades to fully recognize that what attracted me to Tina was the anarchic character of her personality: an unyielding dedication to the ideas she believe where fundamentally worth fighting tooth and nail for. I am really glad and honored to have been a part of her life helping her do that fighting. It's the realization that I spent half of my life in France and half of my life with Tina, first living in sin then under the blessing of the State of California as husband and wife; give or take a few months. But then, what's a few days or months among friends, eh? Tina and I formed an odd couple: half of her life in her beloved Brazil; half of my life with my beloved Tina.
If you have known Tina and have fond memories to share about her, please consider writing a comment or asking to join her blog as a guest author. She touched on many lives; far more than I am aware of and I'm sure that many who've known her would appreciate reading about it as much as I would.
Ciao meu gostozinha Tinazinha.