Ornaments Of Christmases Past, Lauren & Humbug BeetlesSaturday, December 25, 2010
FELIZ NAVIDAD ALEX. Siempre fuiste para mí el símbolo de ésta fiesta, que debido a la magia con la que la vivimos nosotros en Melían será por siempre algo especial.
Les mando a Rosemary y a vos, hijas y nietas un gran abrazo y el deseo de que cada vez que se acuerden de sonreir, la vida les devuelva la sonrisa. Wenci.
The email from my first cousin Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena arrived on Christmas Eve (Christmas day in Buenos Aires). It touched me as Wenci, also, sees our early Christmases in Buenos Aires, in my house and after midnight Mass as the definitive Christmasess which he describes as magia or magic.
Christmas has to be about the repetition of past events. It is a tradition of established customs that must not waver. I found out this fact quickly this year. On Tuesday December 221st I had home studio (my living room) portrait session with a lawyer and her two children. I had purchased our Christmas tree (every year I buy it at Art Knapps on 70th and Granville) on the previous Saturday. I had placed it in the dining room. I tried to explain to Rebecca, to Lauren and my wife that I could not put the tree in the living room as I needed space for my gray backdrop. The girls refused to budge on the tradition that the tree is always in the living room. So we decided that as soon as the shoot was over on Tuesday we would move the tree.
Every year we (Rosemary and I have a fight, a sort of tradition?) on our tembleque (a beautiful Spanish word used to describe uneven or shifty chairs) plastic with a water reservoir tree base. No matter how I adjust it the tree leans in whatever direction that is opposite to the one I use to push it straight. Since the tree I buy is always a large one I raise my voice with Rosemary and tell her to keep it straight. This she cannot do. This year when I noticed my temper rising and Rebecca was telling me I was a hypocrite I decided to bite the bullet.
I called Kerrisdale Lumber and asked if they had sturdy cast iron tree bases. They did. The tradition of our squabble over the straightness of the tree is now history.
No Christmas is complete in our house without a letter from my Mexican poet and novelist friend, Homero Arijdis who sends us a Mexican Christmas tree ornament made of tin. Last year’s arrived from Paris. No envelope has arrived yet so I hope that when our postal service resumes Tuesday or Wednesday the little tin ornament will be in the mail.
In the display of ornaments you see here (we have many more) there a few that have nice stories behind them. According to Rosemary Andrea Hodge, Rebecca’s first ballet teacher gave her the little ballet slipper. The tin sofa came via our friend Graham Walker. The origami swan was made (and many more) a couple of Christmases ago by Abraham Rogatnick. The little wicker mouse is Mexican. The red wooden cart is from a set that I purchased from the Book-of-the-Month Club sometime around 1981 or 82. I don’t remember where I got the brass moon which is part of set including a trumpet and a merry-go-round horse.
I snapped some pictures of the tree with my iPhone and I thought I saw an angel on the red glass sphere.
The real Santa Claus only came for Lauren. The rest of us made the motion as we have become cynical no-believers. I missed Christmases past in when I had to go to misa de gallo (midnight Mass) in over 30 degree heat in the stifling summer evenings of Buenos Aires. I knew I had to keep awake because upon going back home Santa Claus would have arrived. Another faint problem (which I don’t miss) is that by the time I was 9 I had made my First Communion. This meant that I had to go to communion during that midnight Mass so I had to fast, I believe 6 or 8 hours.
Now we dine with comfort before we open the presents. It seems too easy but thanks to Lauren, Christmas is still Christmas.
There is an element of Christmas that is always present and it is my bittersweet memory of Christmasses past when my parents were there. There are memories of Christmases in Mexico City when I had just married Rosemary. We had little money and our tree had few things underneath. Thanks to my mother we were able to buy a VW beetle which made things a lot easier for us but, paradoxically was responsible for three unfortunate Christmas events. In the first one we drove to spend Christmas with my mother in Veracruz. Ale was three months old and she was in a wicker crib (it had a little hood on top) in the back seat. I had recently purchased some new Firestone tires that came with free safety belts. There was no law in 1968 in Mexico that made it mandatory for cars to have belts. I had installed them. In a clear case of my reckless driving I took one curve near Veracruz far too quickly and we turned over. Ale was saved by the hood of her crib and we were kept in place by out belts. A couple in a car took a shaken Rosemary and Ale to Veracruz while another passenger from that other car accompanied me while I drove our VW (it still sort of worked) which wanted to go only in one direction but I had to manhandle to keep it going straight!
Another Christmas we were delivering presents in our VW. Alas when we returned after one delivery some thief had relieved us of the rest of the gifts we had stupidly left in the back seat. One other Christmas had a sad note. I had left our VW to be serviced that WV dealer, a few days before Christmas. I was in a bus (it was full so I was standing) carrying a baby Hilary (Lauren and Rebecca’s mother) when I felt that I was being relieved of my wallet. I yelled out; don’t take my driver’s license, to no avail. For some reason all the torn Christmas wrapping paper on the floor turns me morose.
I have another, almost, 12 months to feel cheerful in preparation for next Christmas.