The Christmas Gift - The RecordTuesday, December 22, 2009
I have written on these pages (screens?) before here about my mother’s first love and the fact that she never made me forget that my father somehow was her second choice. By the logic of the little boy that I was (and in some ways I still am) I came to the conclusion that I, too was second best.
That first love in Manila in the late 30s ended in a revelation that I suspect but have refused until now to explore further. I think I will leave it for another year. That first love somehow disappointed my mother who then threw an opal ring into Manila Bay and soon after she, her mother, brother and sister moved to Buenos Aires where by 1942 I entered the picture.
When my mother died we had her notebook of poems bound in beautiful leather. It is called Things and Thoughts after one of the poems. It is only in the last few years that I have come to realize to what point my mother was obsessed in her love for Doctor Ramón Andía. The notebook begins in Mexico City in 1955. There are poems written in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila and Veracruz, Veracruz and ends February 1972 in Mexico City (from our home in Arboledas) a year before her death.
I hinted that the casting of the ring into Manila Bay was the result of a thick letter that Dr. Andía wrote to my mother. This letter was at my mother’s side and is now in the centre drawer of my desk here, as I type this. From a Filipino wedding in North Vancouver where I met a nephew of Ramon Andía I found out he never married. Another relative was more candid and told me, “Dr. Andía was gay.”
Below you will find two poems one is called The Record and is dated Dec 10, 1956. My mother would have written this poem in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico as well as the second one, The Christmas Gift dated, Dec 13, 1956. I will copy them in reverse order. In light of what I have written about Dr. Andía above, you might catch on to the subtlety in which my mother writes of her despair.
The Christmas Gift
What shall I get you for Xmas?
A silver bell that’s tinkle you to merriness,
A candy cane, some sugared plums, nuts and raisins,
So you’ll taste the sweetness of Xmas cheer?
“That’s not for me.”
Is this more appropriate?
A staid plum pudding dipped in rhum,
A bottle of golden apple cider,
An eggnog with cinnamon and nutmeg,
And spices from the east.
A fat red Xmas candle dustily aglitter with snowflakes,
A silver star with a shiny tail like a comet?
(All these have the evergreen tang of the many Xmases I didn’t share with you.)
You stare at me & shake your head,
And I must say, “Oh it’s just a fantasy.”
I still wonder
What shall I get you for Xmas?
He came along sheepishly
A record behind his back
And nonchalantly said,
“I brought you a record
It was mine and now it is yours.”
It was an old-fashioned 78
Nicked at the edges; played very often
It’s jacket was thumbed and worn.
I thought to myself,
“Couldn’t he find something better?”
And then I looked at the two titles
One the first side I read, “I Love You Truly”
On the other, as finishing a sentence
The photograph is of my mother holding our 4-months-old first daughter Ale. It was Christmas 1968 in Veracruz, Mexico