Christmas Past: Danny and Santa (1983)

I went home this weekend partly out of necessity (brother’s birthday, laundry) and partly out of a simple desire to be around my parents, siblings, grandparents and VR (the dog). Plus, I was jealous of my sister’s texts and Facebook updates about the fire going in our fireplace.

Home feels like Christmas. The tree is up and decorated with lights, ornaments and some Christmas cards. The nacimiento (sans baby Jesus, of course) is in its place, but this year isn’t surrounded by the elaborate Santa’s village. Dad strung up the lights on Saturday and put up our stockings. There’s a wreath on the door. Two Christmas lists made by Adrian and Lori are on the fridge. And of course, we watched a Christmas movie (Four Christmases).

I don’t decorate my apartment much. I’m not even sure where I’ve placed my mini Christmas tree. Thus, I’ll decorate my blog with pictures of Christmas past.

(Sidenote: judging from Hollywood movies, I’d assume that all white people dread spending time with their families during the holidays.)

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Cochinitos

I was telling a friend about this song a few days ago. I sang the first few lines, but stopped. I never remember the first two verses about the selfish cochinitos even though dad sang the whole song to us.

He’d take breaks from the adult songs (“Camino de Guanajuato,” “Volver, Volver” y “El Rey”) to appease us kids with some classics from Cri Cri. I loved these songs, especially when dad would do silly voices or add in the snoring sound of the sleeping piglets.

These days, when he gets out the guitar, I still ask him to sing “Los Tres Cochinitos” like I did when I was 6 years old. It never gets old.

Some day I’m going to learn to play this song so I can continue the tradition.

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El Rosario

I’d just left a Day of the Dead event when I got the news. Lori called me. The moment she said, “I have some sad news” I knew it was about death.

She proceeded to tell me that our cousin Robert’s 18-year old stepson, Joshua, had lost his life the night before. It was tragic and unexpected.

A few days later, I drove out to Orange County to pray the rosario. I was late and I arrived just as the prayer had ended. I greeted Robert with a long, tight hug. It was the same kind of hug I gave him when he showed up at the scene of my car accident exactly a year ago.

“I’m sorry,” I said and truly meant it.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

Robert let me go and I greeted other family members there to pray for Joshua. I looked over the flowers, two dozen prayer candles, photos of Joshua with his mom and brother, and tiny stuffed animals placed at the corner of a yard. I read intensely personal notes left from friends and his mom, but stopped as I felt I was invading someone’s privacy.

I drove for an hour and 45 minutes, but was only at the site for 15 or 20 minutes. I said a temporary goodbye to Robert, he’d be at the house in a few minutes to have dinner with my family.

Robert pressed a rosary with purple beads into my palm and formed my hand into a fist.

“Grandpa says, ‘just ’cause you got here late doesn’t mean you escaped praying the rosary.'”

I smiled and nodded.

“Besides, it’s your mom’s rosary.”

I took the beads and put them in my pocket.

“Whenever we would complain about praying before bed, my dad would bring up Grandpa. He says that Grandpa made them pray the rosary every night… and on their knees! Grandpa didn’t mess around.”

Robert smiled.

It was good to see him smile.

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The cousins

I vaguely remember the day dad lined us all up for this photo: Mother’s Day 1984.

It was like a day at Olan Mills, except dad was the photographer and the background was a dark blanket. Dad took photos of all his siblings’ families. And then there was the requisite shot of all the nietos, the cousins.

I don’t know if this was the outtake or if there’s a photo that exists where all 15 of us are actually looking at the camera and smiling. I doubt it. And if it did exist, I wouldn’t want it.

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