Write of Way by Mary Lou Sanelli

Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:49 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

May You Never Have To Run For Your Life

One of life’s unavoidable responsibilities is to show up at your friend’s fund-raising event. You could send a check. But if she’s been reminding you of the date for months; comparing her entertainment line-up to Hamilton, you really do need to attend.

I’m joking. But even if I wasn’t, I’d never want to let her down. She’s been good to me. Loyal, generous, honest. But not too.

Still, I’m a little fearful of round table seating. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again waiting for the popular kids to reject me.  So I always try to find at least one person I can see myself making small talk with.

One woman looked interesting enough. At least I wanted to think her tree-of-life earrings meant she might be fun. I put my coat over the back of the chair next to hers and we got to talking. Of course we did.

I wish I could say it’s possible to recognize what side of an issue someone is on based on earrings alone, but one should never make such assumptions.

Now, I’m a little sensitive about immigration, I feel protective. The more my tablemate drank, the more obnoxious she became, and we were only halfway through our salads. And so came the probe. “But your parents came legally, right? They didn’t come expecting a free ride?”

I wanted to say, free ride? How many immigrant’s do you know who want that? Most come to work at kitchen or field labor. I’m sure you didn’t raise your son to move on down to Fresno to hand pick tomatoes. But to answer your question directly, no, I don’t think my family came legally, they came desperately. It’s why they were called WOPS. Without Papers. The legal process began after they arrived. Oh, and one other thing: May you never have to run for your life.

I didn’t say this. I sat there with a big fat fake smile on my face, trying to be socially-correct where the worst thing you can say is the truest thing you feel. The polite thing to do is just say, “Excuse me,” and pretend to see someone you know across the room.

I did know someone! At the head table.

After congratulating my friend (she raised a ton of money for a scholarship program), I passed two women discussing Good Friday, “What’s so good about it again? I can’t remember.”

“It’s when Jesus rose from the dead.”

“Was it before or after he walked on water?” They laughed. “My first husband thought he could walk on water, too, but my lawyer showed him just how quickly you can go under.”

Every once in a while you overhear someone who knows how to make easy, light, irreverent conversation, who reminds you that it’s possible to be sassy and bold and respectful all in the same breath. Not that it’s ever smart to assume. But I pulled up a chair anyway.

I’ve replayed a lot of the evening over and over in my mind, looking for a reason I should have stayed home in my sweats, but I can’t find one. It was a really good cause.

And the entertainment was top notch.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Mary Lou Sanelli is an author, speaker and dance teacher. Her first novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” was recently published by Chatwin Books. Ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore. For more information, visit

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