|Rosemary around Christmas 1967 - Mexico City
Since my Rosemary died on 9 December 2020, my concept of Christmas as something to look forward has all but disappeared. A few weeks ago I went to see Godfather II with my friend Kerry McPhedran. The last image of the film is a closeup of Al Pacino’s face that reflects despair and melancholy with the realization that his family is gone. I, too, believe that after Rosemary’s death my family, a small one of two daughters and granddaughters began to fragment.
Today I reflect on some Christmases past that remain in my memory as they are special.
It started before Christmas 1965. I had fallen in love with a lovely Argentine girl called Susana. I could not believe that any woman could possibly fall for the nerd I saw myself as being. Somehow my mother had found money to pay for my short trip to Mexico for Christmas. I was on an Argentine Navy holiday. As a conscript I was given a week. Susana took me to the airport. I remember having little lip sores. She ignored them and gave me a nice long kiss. We were both shocked to see my Braniff airliner on the tarmac. It was painted in all sorts of colours. I found out later that the design was by Alexander Calder.
When I finally arrived in Mexico my mother had something most startling to tell me. She said, “As your mother I have always loved you but I never liked you. Somehow your conscription in the Argentine Navy has changed you and made you a better person. I now like you.”
The next Christmas of note was in 1966.
It was a lonely one. I happened to be walking on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I was the only passenger on an Argentine Merchant Marine ship, the Río Aguapey, on my way to Veracruz. I was being repatriated by the Argentine Navy to be sent home. I decided that I would go into a burlesque bar and see what this was all about. I sat down; I was much too stupid to be ashamed or uptight, on the front row. A woman came in. She was chewing gum. She did not acknowledge me or the few patrons who, perhaps not being from a ship, had nowhere else to go on Christmas Eve. The woman went to the side of the stage and plugged in a jukebox. She selected her songs and began to dance. I ordered bourbon; after all I was on Bourbon Street. The bourbon was much too strong for me and I gagged. The woman danced with no feeling and emotion. She took most of her clothes off and left. I was disappointed.
I went back to the Río Aguapey. Dinner was served after before-dinner-drinks. We had wine while dining and drinks after. My mother called but nobody was able to answer the ship’s phone. We were all passed out.
The next Christmas (by far the best) was when I took my Rosemary to meet my mother in Veracruz on Christmas 1967. I had met her a week before. By February 8 of the next year we were married.
From then on Rosemary and I shared our Christmas decoration. This is something I have avoided since she died.