When I was kid, my great aunt Belen told me that the key to success is “stick-to-it-iveness”. True to its meaning, this fancy word lodged itself stubbornly inside my head, long before I understood its meaning. All my life I wondered what kind of people had stick-to-it-iveness. Well, entrepreneurs like me, for one. And stalkers. Say what you will about stalkers, but they’ve got great follow up skills.

As an immigrant kid, I had to stick to learning English which, to a non-speaker, is uncomfortable and unwieldly, with its slippery grammar and unstable spelling. I read what was around the house, like the back of cereal boxes or my mother’s glossy magazines, filled with easy tips to make everything easy: Easy cleaning! Easy cooking! Easy child care!

Flipping through a house and garden magazine, I became obsessed with, of all things, an ad for Bisquick. It had colorful pictures of all the marvelous food you could whip up with the contents of this magic box. Incredibly, Bisquick only needed some water or an egg, and Voila – easy pancakes! Voila – easy biscuits!

I rummaged through my mother’s pantry to see if she stocked such a magic box. Instead, I found the typical staples of a Filipino pantry: a packet of tapioca pearls; desiccated agar-agar seaweed; a dozen cans of condensed milk; boxes of instant champorado, which is Filipino sticky rice porridge flavored with sugar and milk chocolate, best eaten with dried anchovies. Yes, anchovies. With the heads still on. And the eyes still attached. I’m not making this up; go Google it.

I called my father, who was at work.

“Can you get us some Bisquick?”

“What’s going on? Is everything OK?”

“Yes. Can you get Bisquick? Maybe not today, but soon?”

“WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME? Of all the useless – aah!”

He hung up. Judging from his tone, he was clearly offended, but I couldn’t understand why. Surely, he would want a box of magic in his house. Surely, he would want our Saturday morning breakfast table filled with piping hot pancakes, our eyes glistening with joy and anticipation. That evening, my father didn’t bring home any Bisquick. Instead, he gave me a dirty look, warning me not to bring up the topic. Before I headed to bed, I overheard my parents whispering to each other, but I could only make out the words “strange” and “ridiculous”.

A week later, our fifth grade history teacher gave us an assignment. We were to create a diorama of ancient Egypt. My classmates all nodded in agreement. Not me. What the hell was a diorama? I was thrown into a panic, so as soon as I reached home, I called my father.

“What’s a diorama?”


“A diorama. I have to make one for school. About ancient Egypt. What’s a diorama?”

“I don’t know.”

My father hung up again. I found out the following morning that a diorama was a shoebox filled with cardboard cutouts and found objects that depict a scene, often historic. Well, why didn’t they say so? I found an old green shoebox and fashioned a pyramid with cardboard and masking tape. Using gray and black enamels, I painted the outlines of blocks of stone. Not satisfied with the ancient Egyptians’ original design, I improved upon it with a chic, cobblestone pattern. I slathered some white glue around the pyramid and sprinkled sand all over it.

I stepped back and looked at my work. It was dreadful, and very boring. I added some cardboard cutout palm trees. A little better, but still, it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain oomph. I wanted an A+ for all my effort. During my reverie, the TV was on – it was never off – and a western movie was playing. Two cowboys were sitting on their horses when suddenly, two round objects rolled beneath them, and bounced around the sand like beach balls. What were those things? Yes, tumbleweeds! Perfect. Tumbleweeds could be the decorative accessories to my cobblestone pyramid. Just to be sure I was on the right track, I called my father.

“Are there tumbleweeds in Egypt?”

“What?” he said, his voice suddenly distant. “The P and L statements are under the other pile.”

“I want to put tumbleweeds in Egypt.”


“My diorama.”

“Tumbleweeds are in the Southwest. Egypt is in North Africa. Go look in the encyclopedia.”

“Bisquick,” I whispered quickly, before he hung up.

I rushed to our bookcase, pulled out the encyclopedia book labeled “T” and turned to the tumbleweed section. It may as well have been written in Greek, all this stuff about genus this and species that. When my father came home that night, I asked him to translate it for me.

“Eh, it doesn’t say Egypt has tumbleweeds. They are native to the American southwest.”

“But it doesn’t say Egypt doesn’t have tumbleweeds,” I said. “Right?”

“Look! I saw that movie Cleopatra with Liz Taylor. And I don’t remember tumbleweeds there, so don’t bother putting them in. Why don’t you put in a chariot instead?”

A chariot? I thought. How ridiculous! Tumbleweeds are in a class all by themselves, mysterious orbs that bounce freely in the desert, beholden to no one. Besides, chariots were way too complicated, with wheels and horses and pharaohs. I already had a simple, yet brilliant, plan of action: I was going to make tumbleweeds out of my mother’s large collection of green garbage ties. My stick-to-it-iveness had seized a hold of me, and nothing was going to keep tumbleweeds out of ancient Egypt. But my father had planted seeds of doubt. The following morning I called him again.

“Hi. What if a cowboy was walking around and he stepped on a tumbleweed and some seeds got stuck under his shoes, and then he got on a boat and went to ancient Egypt and he walked around and then the seeds grew? And then tumbleweeds rolled around? In Egypt? Hello?”

My father was silent for a long time. Maybe we were disconnected?

“Lerrick,” he said, in a low, gravelly voice. “Why do you insist on sticking to this ridiculous crap? First BisquickI Now tumbleweeds! In Egypt! I already told you, and I’ll tell you again. For the very last time.”

He was breathing very heavily through gritted teeth, like he had just climbed three flights of stairs. In a shrill, soprano voice inappropriate at an office setting, he shrieked:


He hung up. Later that evening, my father came home with a shopping bag. He grunted at me and plopped the bag on the hallway table. It was a box of Bisquick.

The next day, I proudly submitted my diorama. My teacher looked at it intensely and said, “Well, that’s an interesting cobblestone design, which I am not sure Egyptians used in pyramids.” She held it up at nose level. “But tell me,” she continued. “What’s with the garbage ties?”

“They are tumbleweeds.”

She nodded and tried to suppress a laugh. “Honey,” she said condescendingly. “There are no tumbleweeds in Egypt.”

She gave me a C+. That evening I made Bisquick pancakes. They were easy, light and fluffy.


On the subject of Egyptian tumbleweeds, I am hereby submitting a petition for the reconsideration of positions held by my father and my history teacher. Today, I Googled “Are there tumbleweeds in Egypt?” Here is the answer:

Answer by James Cassett


yes there are. scientist have proven that tumbleweeds must have existed for the Egyptians to have survived. tumbleweeds also like a hot environment and they originated from one.

I rest my case.

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