Let me raise my Vegetarian Glass to make In Absentia, a rather late but simple laudation of my beloved niece Mariana, in the occasion of her marriage.
She is universally considered beautiful – which she no doubt is; and sweet – to which again, I have no objection. But that is the outside, and the outside is only the decor, the fine garment, if you will, to the truly beautiful person that she is.
I can only hope this marriage will nurture and grow that person, and will not let her get lost in the warm and tempting oneness of its binary essence. Let us remember that it is only well to be lost in the two when the one is healthy and strong.
Mariana was the oldest cousin to my baby boy. The luminous smile that adorned his face when he saw her and her sister is one of the most powerful reasons why I will always love them. But she was also my own child for a while, when times were hard and her own family was in crisis, I got to live with them and care for them and take them to school every day. She was a gook kid at home and she was a good kid at school. She used to go to her Montessori class eagerly and with anticipation. Her teachers loved her, and her classmates too.
Mariana is an intelligent woman, gifted with not only of the fleeting intelligence that lives in quick responses and witty conversation, but with the sturdy persevering intelligence that fights and lives on in creativity and accomplishment no matter how uphill the road might seem to be. She can tackle difficult subjects and master them because her intelligence is allied to a strong will.
Mariana is a loving person. She hides behind the social manifestations of friendliness, but it was not just the age difference that made her the first of the children to “return” to the joy of the family reunions, when all the others had wondered away in their search for independence. You could see her loving nature in the way she treated her old grandparents or the younger boys and girls in the family, the way she never missed a birthday even when it was a clandestine affair.
She once wanted to be a veterinarian. She volunteer at an animal refuge. She left Victoria with few possessions but with her pets. She loves animals, not in the fashion-accessory manner she sometimes affects, but with total sincerity.
I meet Mariana first when she was only two very short years old. She was behind her father’s car, playing, with her “mimi” (her security blanket) firmly in her grasp, waiting to meet her Aunt that had been living in Europe and the new Uncle she had brought back with her. From the very beginning I had not the impression of meeting a child, but a person. Very late that night, while her parents and us were conversing after dinner, Mariana showed up dragging her sister by the leg. All matter of fact-like, she said: “Mom, she needs you.” – and went back to bed by herself.