“How strange it is, sometimes, which conversations or events stays with us while so much else melts as fast as April snow.” – Marlena De Blasi


My aunt Patricia Marie Bullock-Bradley was known to those who knew her well as “Cicero”. Actually, you didn’t have to know her personally to know who Cicero was; she was that type of person almost everyone you talked to knew in Charlottesville, Virginia. If there’s one thing I always admired about Cicero it was her lack of a filter. Whatever ran through Cicero’s mind usually came out of her mouth. Need some truth? Cicero would give it. Inappropriate situation? Cicero would laugh hysterically. So what happens when Cicero found a grocery bag full of coins? Spend it!

It was the summer of 1996 when my dad and I went to Troy, VA (right outside of Charlottesville) to celebrate my Grandma’s belated birthday. After spending time at Grandma’s house, I decided it was time to walk some fifty feet to Cicero’s house next door.

The usual fare of greetings and hugs were only a precursor to Cicero verbally revealing to us, “I was going through the house today and found about ten dollars in change.”

The obvious question was what she would do with this discovery.

In simplistic, yet idyllic Cicero fashion, she told us, “I wanna get some tacos. Lets go to Taco Bell.”

As I jumped in the car with Cicero and her bag of coins, my eleven year old mind tried to process if what was about to happen would involve Cicero spending all of those coins on tacos, or just using the coins to supplement her payment.

As if she could read my mind, Cicero suddenly said as we passed Grandma’s house, “Jake, I’m spending all of this change tonight.”

Without knowing, Cicero was about to make one of my childhood dreams come true. I always wondered how funny it would be to buy something for more than just a couple of dollars in change.

When we arrived at Taco Bell some ten minutes after Cicero revealed her plans, my aunt and I walked to the restaurant with a jingling bag of coins in our possession.

The look of utter confusion on the cashier’s face as this woman carrying a plastic Kroger’s bag of coins entered with a child who seemed to be her son (we do have a lot of facial similarities) was absolutely priceless.

Once again, Cicero’s bluntness got the better of me when she told the cashier, “Give us ten dollars worth of tacos; half and half (half soft shell and half hard shell).”

Following Cicero’s statement, I almost fell on the floor laughing. But Cicero wasn’t done. When the cashier confirmed our order, Cicero put the bag on the counter, turning the bag on its side so the coins started pouring out.

Bewilderment took the cashier as Cicero said, “There should be about ten dollars here. Don’t worry. We’ll help you count it.”

And there we stood, my aunt Cicero and I giggling as Cicero, the manager, the cashier, and myself counted the shimmering payment on the Taco Bell counter. When it was all said and done (about eight minutes after the bag hit the counter), Cicero made a silly, childhood fantasy of mine become a reality.

It’s funny – as many things as Cicero gave me, it’s the stories like these ones I tell simply because that was Cicero through and through. And now, you too have a little piece of Cicero to carry with you.

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