Posts Tagged ‘family stories’

Blogging From A to Z

Julimes is the name of the village where my father was born. It’s near the capital city of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. If you are familiar with the Spanish language, you will know that in Spanish, the letter “j” is pronounced like the English letter “h”. Julimes is pronounced hoo-lee-mez.

The first time I visited Julimes was in 1961. I was five years old. The whole family made the long trip from California by car. I remember arriving late at night, or at least it was dark and we had been driving all day. From the main highway, we had to take a smaller road and then we had to cross a river. My father had told us about the river, the Rio Conchos, many times. He had told us about how it sometimes rained so much that the river would overflow and the bridge to get in and out of town would wash out, leaving Julimes inaccessible. I remember being scared. It was so dark. I was afraid that the river had washed out the road and my father would not be able to see in the dark and our car would fall into the water. Of course, the river had not risen and the bridge was intact. We drove to what seemed to be the end of town, the last street before empty fields. That’s where my grandmother lived. I hadn’t met her before, nor had I met my aunts and uncles. I was very happy to meet them (there were six aunts and uncles living in the house), even though it was late and I was tired.

Julimes was like a whole different world to me. Not only was it very rural but there was no electricity and no running water. There was an outhouse. We got water from a well in the backyard and there were a lot of chickens running around the yard. It was dusty all over. There were no cars around, especially way on the end of town where my grandmother lived.

One day I got to go to school with one of my aunts. I think she was in 5th or 6th grade. It was fun meeting her friends and everyone made me feel like a celebrity because I was “del otro lado” (from the other side). I remember the teacher speaking to me in English and I would just nod or shake my head. Finally she asked me a question that I had to answer with words and I answered her in Spanish. She was surprised that I spoke Spanish and I think she was a little embarrassed because she had assumed I spoke only English.

My grandmother lived next door to her brother, Carlos (my oldest brother had been named partly for him) and his family. They had a much larger and better house than my grandmother. He was our uncle too, my father said. My tio Carlos was sick. He spent most of his time in bed but when we were there, he sat up and talked to us and my father got him to play his guitar and sing for us. I could tell that he was very special to my father and that made him special to me.

Across the street lived one of my father’s aunts, Teresa. She had a little store and all of the mail came to her store and people picked the mail up from her. She had two kids that were a little older than us. It seemed funny to me that my grandmother, her brother, and her sister lived so close to each other. There was another uncle that we met, tio Martin. He and his family lived a few blocks away in a part of town that was a little better. They owned a big store and had a house that was made of wood, not of the mud like blocks like the others in the far side of town. Tio Martin’s house had a bathroom inside and they had running water, and electricity. His family was not as friendly as the other families. They didn’t come to visit at my grandmother’s house. We had to go to them.

That visit was full of surprises and wonder and discovery for us. We had never been any place that had no running water or electricity or that had an outhouse. We had never been around family very much. Where we lived in California, we lived alone with no family except when one of our uncles came to stay with us for a while. It was different to be able to play in the street with no danger of cars coming or going. And it was very different to have to go indoors when it got dark because there were no street lights. It was truly a foreign world to us.

Years later I would go back and would see all of the changes that came to town. That will be a different story on this journey blogging from A to Z.

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Blogging From A to Z

I remember sitting for hours and hours as my mother untangled my hair every couple of days. There were four of us girls and she would line us up and we would take turns coming and sitting on our knees between my mom’s legs as she brushed out all of the tangles. Then when she finished, she would start again only this time it was putting our hair in curlers. She used to use large pink rollers for where our hair should have large curls then little ones for the smaller curls and finally pin curls (using bobby pins) for the tiny curls around our faces. We always had long hair and it took hours to take care of it but it was important to our mom that our hair be just right so she spent long hours making sure it looked perfect.

One summer she put a Lilt home permanent in my hair because my hair was very fine and would not hold the curl for very long so she permed it. I remember the chemical smell of the product and how important my mom said it was to get the time perfect or my hair would burn. I didn’t want my hair to burn and I sat obediently, not making a sound or moving a finger, so that my hair would not burn.

I think that’s what taught me to always have long hair. That’s the way I was raised. It was ladylike to have long hair, not short hair. In fact, all four of us sisters still have long, long hair, even though we are all in our late 50’s. That’s just the way we grew up.

I think too that the importance of women having long hair is one of the reasons my mom took it really hard when she had to have chemo therapy last year. She dreaded losing her hair but she knew it was coming. When it did, she refused to leave the house. Even though I had bought her a number of pretty scarves and hats to cover up her baldness, she would not go out except to doctor appointments. She wanted a wig but she wanted it to look like her own hair because if it didn’t, people might think she was bald! Go figure! I offered to buy her a wig online and have it delivered to her but she was afraid it would not be right and then she would feel bad about returning a gift and she’d keep it. So finally, I was able to go visit her. I had been going down to see her every couple of months but had not been there since before she lost her hair. When I got there, I made it a priority to take her to the next town over (well, a few towns over; it took an hour to get there) to a shop I had found online and I had her fitted for a wig. She finally found one that she liked and the woman who worked there was wonderfully patient with her until my mom was happy with what she had found. She was like a new woman with that wig! She was ready to go shopping and out to eat wearing her new wig!

I guess for us, maybe we’re like Samson. Our strength is in our hair. We keep it long to keep our strength. It doesn’t matter if it is almost completely gray. It’s the length that holds the key to our ladylike ways…to our strength.

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Blogging From A to Z

Managing life with a “broken family” is tough on the best of days; much tougher on the worst. My parents split up when I was a senior in high school. My dad came back home from time to time but things were never the same after the first time he left. When I earned an academic scholarship to a school just 25 minutes away from home, he didn’t want me to accept it because I would have to live on campus as all freshmen were required to do and in his book, no decent woman moved out of her parents’ house before she was married. But I accepted the scholarship and made plans to attend anyway. That was the most rebellious and selfish thing I had ever done. On move in day my mom and dad drove me to campus. My mom and I unloaded the car and carried all of my things into the dorm. My father refused to be a part of it so he stayed in the car the whole time.

During my first year at Stanford, my parents made a last ditch effort to stay together by moving from northern California to southern California where my father thought they could get a fresh start. They would be near his family. My mom agreed because she wanted to save the marriage. However, by the following year, my father had moved out again, permanently. This time, he not only moved out, he moved in with another woman. My mom had a lot of trouble accepting that and looking back at it now, having been through that in my own adult life, I don’t blame her. It’s a really tough type of rejection to get through. One of the things my mom did was that she made it very clear to us “kids” that we were not to go visit our father at the house where he lived with the other woman. She was hurt and she wanted us to have as little to do with our father as possible.

Four years after that move in day, when it was time for me to graduate, I received four tickets for graduation. Of course, my mom was going. My boyfriend at the time (that I married three months after graduation) was also using one of the tickets. I called my mom and asked her if I could invite my father to my graduation. She said no. She said that if he attended, she would not. So I had to choose to have either my mother or my father at my graduation. I chose to have my mother attend. I ended up selling the two extra tickets. That was about two months before graduation. Then, a week before graduation, my mother called me to say that my father was very hurt that I had not included him in the graduation so she had told him that he could attend. While I was happy that he would be there, I was on the spot because I no longer had a ticket for him. I asked all over campus and placed ads all over. There weren’t any tickets to be had. I talked to my boyfriend and told him that if I couldn’t get a ticket, I wanted my father to use his ticket. The tickets were required only for the main graduation at Frost Amphitheater. No diplomas would be presented there. It was basically, all of the speeches. Diplomas would be awarded at small department ceremonies throughout the campus. Those did not require a ticket. In the end, I was able to buy one more ticket for my father (at about twice the price of what I had sold two tickets for!) so my mom and dad and my boyfriend all got to attend the main ceremony and then the small ceremony where we received our diplomas. My department, Spanish and Portuguese, had their ceremony at the best place possible, at least in my book. It was held inside of Memorial Church complete with stained glass windows, countless mosaics, and five pipe organs with beautiful resonant tones.

Before graduation, my mom and dad met my boyfriend and I for breakfast. After breakfast, my dad very proudly handed me a big wrapped box. He wanted me to open it before the ceremony. As I opened the big box, I kept coming up against tissue paper and more tissue paper. It reminded me of the Christmas my dad had finally been able to afford an engagement and wedding ring set for my mother, more than ten years after they married. That Christmas he gave my mom a huge box filled with tissue paper that she had to dig through to get to the little box from the jewelry store. Now, all of these years later, here I was opening a box with a lot of colored tissue paper. Finally, I got to the end of the tissue paper and found a lot of $2 bills! He gave me cash and to make it more special, he told me he had gone to the bank and asked for $2 bills; each of the bills was brand new. My mom was happy as I opened the box and my dad was happy. That was probably one of the last times I ever saw them happy on the same day in the same location.

We went on to the ceremony and afterwards, my brothers and their wives and one of my aunts and uncles joined us for a graduation barbecue hosted by the Chicano/Latino student organization. It was very special to have my family there. My sisters had not been able to make it but all three of my brothers made it! It made me feel like they were there to support me and they were proud of me. It’s difficult for me to explain how it made me feel to have them so proud of me. In fact, I’m sitting here typing this with tear filled eyes at the memory. It was the best graduation gift I received…having my family with me on that special day.

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Blogging From A to Z

As the single mom of three kids, it was way too expensive for to take the kids on trips by plane so when we took trips, we did it by car. In 1994, I enlisted my mom to accompany the kids and me on a road trip from Los Angeles (California) to the Texas Gulf Coast so that my kids could meet my grandmother. My mom has never driven so she was along for the ride and to help me with the three kids. They were usually super with travel In fact, we had taken a test drive from Los Angeles to Albuquerque (a little less than half of the longer journey we were planning) but with a second adult, it was a little easier for me.

So we packed up the car, a Ford Explorer which was pretty roomy for the five of us, and off we went. The kids were 12, 9, and 3. I had packed a lot of stuff for them so we wouldn’t have to keep stopping or, more importantly, so we wouldn’t have to deal with fighting. They each had their own mini cassette tape player with headphones to listen to whatever they wanted. They had books and their own little snack supplies. They had travel Bingo and Travel Checkers, art supplies, and some games. My mom and I rode up front listening to Mexican music on the stereo and chatting. When my mom and I chat, we switch back and forth between English and Spanish, often switching languages multiple times in the same sentence. The trip went very nicely and on the third day, when we were deep in South Texas, we realized that the kids had been listening to us instead of the cassette tapes they had. My son (who was about 12 then) said that he liked to listen to us because when he did, he could understand a lot of the words we were saying because they sounded a like in both English and Spanish. He mentioned words like cafe’ (pronounced cah feh), patio, cafeteria (pronounced cah feh tehr ee ah), lonchera (luncheonette), and a lot of other words. He asked about some words and my mom and I told him what the words meant. He was very interested in the similarity between the two languages. The girls were too.

We drove on and the kids went back to listening to their tapes while my mom and I chatted some more. About an hour later, my mom and I decided it was time for a short rest stop. I took the next exit in to a tiny little town. That alerted the kids to the fact that we were stopping. They took off their headphones and asked why we were stopping. I told them we were just going to get out and walk around and maybe get a snack and a cold drink (the temperature was near 100 degrees F). Then my son, noticing the Spanish writing on store windows and signs, asked if maybe we could get some pan dulce (pastry). I said yes and I looked at my mom and winked at her and said we should all start looking for a sign for a bakeria (pronounced bah kehr ee ah). My son got excited saying “Oh wow! A bakery is a bakeria! Okay, let’s look for a bakeria sign!” My mom and I giggled and we let the kids look for the “bakeria” sign. Then I found the bakery and pulled up in front. My son said, “This doesn’t say bakeria. Why are we stopping here?” My mom and I cracked up and told them we had been joking with them. A bakeria is not the word for a bakery in Spanish. The word for bakery in Spanish is panaderia (from the word pan for bread; pronounced pah nah dehr ee ah). I think they were a little upset that we had tricked them but they were more excited about getting out of the car and getting to go in the panaderia to pick out their own pastry and a cold drink, and to stretch their legs.

Since then, the three kids and I call a panaderia a bakeria, just as a little private reminder of the little joke and mini Spanish lesson we all shared that long ago summer in a tiny Texas town whose name escapes me.

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Irish Eyes

I love St. Patrick’s Day! It has always been special. I don’t know why, but it has. Maybe it’s because my mom always told us that we were part Irish on her side of the family. We used to ask her why she had green eyes and she would say it was because she was part Irish. She told us about a relative on her mother’s side, that was Irish but she didn’t know exactly how it all worked out.

While researching my maternal family tree back in the very early 2000’s, I learned that my mom was right. It hadn’t been a made up story. There really was an Irish man in our family. It goes back to my great great grandfather in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico when a young lady came from Ireland to study. She was given a job as a babysitter on the ranch my ancestor owned. Before it was time for her to go back to Ireland, she was pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy. She couldn’t take him back home with her to Ireland when she left, as in those days (the very early 1900’s) it would have been scandalous for her to keep the baby, so my great great grandfather and his wife adopted the baby and raised him as their own. The young mother went back to Ireland without her son.

There are also more than a few stories that say that the adopted Irish baby was actually fathered by my great great grandfather, which is entirely possible. Records show that he was very well to do. He had a lot of property and many employees and more than a bit of a reputation for drinking in town and running with women. All that is certain is that the baby was raised by the family and took his adopted father’s last name, Saldana. His nickname, according to several accounts, was Big Red because of his red hair. There is no record of the Irish mother’s name, or at least none that I could find.

It’s very interesting to find the story and some documentation of it but it’s also very sad to me to read of this young woman who had to live her baby behind. I think of how afraid and alone she must have felt and then how she must have been haunted by the facts once she left her baby in America to return to Ireland.

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The following story is real.  Not even the names have been changed to protect (or accuse) anyone.  I originally posted it in 2008 on this blog.  I hope you enjoy it.  I know it was a tear filled time as I lived through it all but now, looking back at it, I actually laughed.

Three Strike Christmas

For some reason my ex-husband always chose without fail, the start of the school year when I had school clothes to buy for three kids or Christmas when I had gifts to get for the kids, to file for a Modification of Support.  When he filed such an order, he did not have to pay me any support until the hearing which was usually 4 to 6 weeks after filing for the modification.  He did this Christmas of 1993 and his petition failed.  He did it again Christmas of 1994 and although that petition also failed, it left the kids and I in a bad financial situation because we had no income for a couple of months.

Christmas of 1994 the kids went to their dad’s house on December 23rd.  He was to return them by 10 AM on Christmas morning.  Because of the absence of money, I didn’t have many presents for the kids.  They all wanted a computer and I found a man that would build one for me and not charge an arm and a leg and he would build it to the specifications needed by/for the kids.  He took a payment to get the parts and then the rest when he delivered it on Christmas Eve.  I had checked with him a couple of days before Christmas and everything was on schedule.  I was glad because although this was a gift for all three of them, it was really primarily for Tony, the oldest who needed it for school.  I had managed to get a couple of computer games at discount that I would give him for Christmas.

Tina wanted a bird.  I had found her a beautifully ornate bird cage at a yard sale about a month before Christmas and I had it stashed in the garage.  I just had to get the bird.  I planned on getting it at the local swap meet on Christmas Eve while the kids were at their dad’s.

Everything was on target that Christmas Eve.  I got up early and was at the swap meet when they opened at 7 in the morning. I knew exactly where the pet stand was and I got there in time to get the most beautiful lavender colored parakeet!  It was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.  I was so happy to have gotten it and it was only $4!  On my way out to the car I stopped and picked up a couple of small things the kids would like and was pleased that I got them at bargain prices as the vendors wanted to unload them quickly so they could go home.  I made my way home and set up the cage and put the parakeet into it.

Just as I finished with the birdie, the phone rang.  It was bad news.  The man that was building the computer for me was calling to say that the fan he had ordered for the computer did not work and he’d have to wait til the 26th to get another.  The kids would not have their computer on Christmas.  I was bummed but I figured I would make the best of it and was glad I had managed to get a deal on the bird and the things I picked up at the swap meet or they really would not have anything.

I went to the grocery store to get what I needed for Christmas dinner and to see if I could pick up some stocking stuffers for the kids.  I was in the store for a long time and when I came out, it was clear that it had been raining for awhile.  I got the groceries near the car and then I slipped and fell.  I fell flat on my back in the middle of the parking lot, in the rain.  I couldn’t get up.  I just lay there as cars went around me.  It took about seven or eight cars going around me before a man came and helped me get up and got me to the car. Then he picked up my groceries and got them in my car.  He actually offered to drive me home but I thanked him and said I could make it home.  I had a previous back and knee injury so this was not good.  It took about a half hour of sitting in the car crying before I felt I could drive home.

Once home I put the perishables away and took a pain pill and went to bed.  I slept for a very short time and wakened when I heard a loud crash!  I ran to see what it was and got to the living room in time to see my daughter’s cat running past me with the bird in his mouth!  He had somehow gotten out of the bedroom where he had been stashed til he could be introduced to the bird.  The loud crash was the cat, Noisemaker, knocking down the cage.  I chased the cat all over the house until he let go of the cat whose neck had been broken.  I threw a shoe at the cat and sat and cried again, holding the dead bird in my hands.

I ended up going to bed and crying myself to sleep after taking care of the bird mess in the living room.  I didn’t even eat lunch or dinner.  I just slept.

When the kids got to the house the next morning, I answered the door with tears in my eyes and the only thing I could say to Tina was “Your stupid animal killed your Christmas present!”

The kids kind of rolled with the punches that day and enjoyed themselves and the gifts they had.  The day was fine and on the 26th, their computer was delivered and we went back to the swap meet and had my daughter pick out another bird.  They also had some Christmas money sent by relatives so they enjoyed the after Christmas bargains at the swap meet.

I guess no matter what happens and no matter how many strikes against us, if we’re together, it’s  a Christmas hit!  It matters not what material things they have or I can give.  We have each other and we are willingly and eagerly together.  That’s what counts.

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An Oldie

This is a story I wrote for this blog a few years back.  I have about 20 Christmas stories that I love to repost.  This is one of them.  It’s true, not made up.  I’m copying the text here because I have neither the energy for a new post tonight nor the mental focus to be able to create a hyperlink to the story.  In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

The Mighty Mo

I grew up in a large family.  There were seven kids plus my mom and dad.  My dad was the only one who worked, as was the norm in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My dad drove a fork lift at one of the local canneries.  The only way there would ever be any money for Christmas gifts was for my mother to save money in a Christmas Club account at the local Bank of America where she made a weekly deposit.

One year my brother David, who was about eight years old that year, fell in love with a toy he saw on a TV commercial.  It was a cannon that shot hard plastic balls.  It was called the Mighty Mo.  The commercials showed the Mighty Mo crawling over and through rough terrain all on a miniature scale, of course, but it looked really neat.  The clincher was the footage of the cannon balls launching out of the Mighty Mo!

David had to have one but we were taught to not ask for anything, not even for our birthdays or Christmas so he couldn’t ask for one.  We lived a block away from Safeway and my mom used to send us on daily trips for the odd supply she needed before the next week’s big grocery trip.  Safeway carried a few toys then.  They placed them on the shelves high above the produce department as those shelves were normally empty.  On one of the trips to get something for my mom, David was thrilled to discover that Safeway had about two dozen Mighty Mos on their shelves!  After that day, David volunteered to go to Safeway every single time my mom needed something.

Every day David returned from his Safeway run to report exactly how many Mighty Mos were left on the shelf and every day, as the number dwindled, he gave my mom his report in a sadder and sadder tone.  First there had been two dozen then only eighteen.  Soon there were less than a dozen and when there were only four left, David was really sad. About three days before Christmas, David reported, with tears in his eyes, that there were no Mighty Mos left at Safeway.  When Christmas arrived, David was the only one of us that was not excited about it.  We all wanted him to be happy like we were but nothing got him excited.

On Christmas morning, we got up and my big brothers helped us girls get dressed and ready to go upstairs to open presents.  That’s what we did each year because it gave my parents a little extra time to get up.  When we got upstairs, David was the last one to go into the living room where the tree was with our Santa gifts unwrapped.  When he came in he found us all with huge smiles on our faces and our eyes intent on his face.  He didn’t know what was up until he looked under the tree and found his Mighty Mo with a big red ribbon on it!

We all enjoyed that Mighty Mo for several years.  David especially liked to shoot the cannon balls out of the Mighty Mo from the top of the stairs in the back yard.  It was a fun toy.  I only wish my brother David was still around to tell the story himself.

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This is my favorite Christmas story. It’s about the night that I was born. I have posted this elsewhere over the years.

DECEMBER 25, 1955

María lay in bed exhausted, yet unable to sleep. She’d had an endless day and had just finished putting out the gifts for her four children. Tomorrow would be filled with joy and much activity. The kids were sure to waken by seven, anxious to open their gifts and play with their new toys. There would be lots of cooking to do, too.

Just a week ago things had looked quite bleak. They didn’t have much money and her heart had ached at the thought of disappointing her children on Christmas. Somehow, José, her husband, had managed to work a few days and had brought her enough money for groceries and a couple of modest gifts for each of the children. They had even gotten a small tree to decorate. He had come through and María appreciated it. It allowed her to push back the memories of all the times he’d come home late, drunk, and smelling of dime store cologne. María thought about her life. They lived in a tiny two room house with no heat and no indoor bathroom. They were far from town. The car was always either broken or out of gas. Her husband worked in the fields during the season and at odd jobs in the winter. Her children never had new clothes. She had to accept old clothes from her neighbors and her comadres. María’s beautiful little girl had to wear boys’ clothes. Her boys needed shoes that didn’t fall off their feet when they ran so they wouldn’t fall and get hurt. She was very familiar with the second-hand stores where José took her to shop when the boxes of clothes from her comadre didn’t fill all of their needs.

She had given birth four times in five years and was now nine months pregnant with their fifth child. She wondered how many more times she’d give birth before José tired of her and left her alone or ended up dead on the highway on his way home from the cantina he always managed to visit, even when he said they could afford nothing else. Sometimes things were alright. José could be thoughtful and attentive if he wanted to be. He loved playing with his children. He even helped María with the housework when he wasn’t working. He had taught María how to cook when they had married. José was a hard worker and always managed to provide his family with what they needed.

María loved her children. Sometimes they were all that kept her going. They needed her. They loved her. She loved to see their happy faces and feel their sticky kisses and tight hugs. She liked being able to console them when they were hurt and crying. María thought about the baby inside of her that made it impossible for her to find a comfortable position. She hoped this one would be another girl. When her first child had been born, she had wished for a girl, only to get a boy. She had cried but soon she loved him so much that she had wished for sons when she had become pregnant for the second, third, and fourth times. When God gave her a daughter for her fourth child, she had cried with disappointment, only to grow to love her so quickly that now her wish for a second daughter made her smile as she rubbed her swollen belly. She wondered what the future had to offer this innocent child. María feared that perhaps it was a sin to bring children into the world when she and José had so little to offer them. Her exhaustion finally gave way to sleep, as the infant inside of her womb settled down also.

The next morning the children woke their parents asking eagerly if they could go open their gifts. They were happy with what Santo Clos had brought them. They were not used to getting toys or new clothes. The boys had each gotten gun sets–belts, holsters, guns, and even tin badges. José’s boss had given him a small cowboy hat for one of the boys and María had found a couple of bandanas at the segunda. They had also managed to get their hands on three tricycles for the boys. José had worked on them late at night, fixing and painting them to look like new. Their little daughter was busy playing with her life-like baby doll that had moving eyes, hair, and drank from a bottle. María’s comadre had sewn a small brown bear for her. The last trip they had made to the segunda had provided them with toy dishes for the little girl and a warm coat of red velvet.

After opening the gifts, the children had breakfast. Their mother had fixed huevos con chorizo and fresh tortillas. While she cleaned up after breakfast, María turned on the radio. She tuned to her favorite station. The announcer was excitedly bragging about how his wife had given birth to a baby daughter shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve. She thought to herself how wonderful it would be to give birth on Christmas day! When she finished with the dishes, she sat by the tree to watch the children at play. It was cold and damp outside so they had to stay indoors. María looked at the tree. They had only a few glass ornaments on it. They were painted shiny, bright colors with dainty designs that looked and felt like fuzzy snowflakes. María could see her reflection in them. She had cut a silver star out of an old pie plate. The plain, simple star now stood guard on top of the little tree. María hoped that maybe next year they would be able to get some colored electric lights like her comadre had on her tree.

All day she waited for the pains to begin. She couldn’t believe how crazy it was that she was actually looking forward to the pains that she had dreaded so much the other times. She felt that there was something special about this child and certainly it was God’s blessing to have a baby born on Christmas day and so she was almost eager to feel the pain that would threaten to tear her apart from the inside out. She dozed for a while, as the children played and she listened to the gentle rain falling outside.

Later that afternoon María was wakened by the thunder outside, crackling loudly. It had begun to rain violently. The house was dark. The wind was deafening as it threatened to blow the tiny house away. The rain fell as if being poured directly over them from a pitcher. The sky had darkened prematurely. The children were scared. They gathered near their mother. The radio announcer reported that many roads had been closed and that the reservoir was threatening to overflow. At this, María turned down the volume and went into the bedroom to tell José. She was frightened. Their house was just about a half mile from the reservoir. If it overflowed, their small house would be washed away. It was time to load up the car and get as far away as they could. They had friends in town. Their compadres were sure to let them stay for a night or two. José came into the room and listened briefly to the radio reports. He told her to gather their things and get the kids into the car. They would go into town for the night.

When they were all in the car, José could not get it started. He got out and tried everything he knew to try to get the old car going. Nothing worked. The children, sensing danger, cried softly and obeyed every order given them by their parents. They seemed to know instinctively that their cooperation was an absolute necessity. Even the youngest acted like an angel. After some time of futilely trying to start the car, José began walking the half mile to the nearest neighbors to get help. When he arrived, there was no one there. He continued to walk toward the road to look for help for his family. It was very difficult to walk against the oppressive rain and wind which seemed to be concentrating their joint efforts on keeping him from reaching the highway. As José neared the main highway, he could make out flashing lights. He quickened his step and waved his arms, even though he knew they couldn’t see him. It was about nine o’clock and the night was black, except for the lights that flashed from the highway.

Finally, as José reached the road, a Highway Patrolman spotted him. “What are you doing out here? It’s very dangerous. We’ve evacuated the place and have road blocks to keep people out of the area. How did you get back into the restricted area?” asked the Patrolman.

“I live back there. No one evacuated us. We heard the reports on the radio and tried to get out but our car won’t start. My family is stuck back there. We need help,” answered José.

“Your family? We thought we had everyone out of there. How many people are back there? How far? Where exactly are they? Are there any others still back in there, besides your family?” quizzed the Patrolman rapidly. “It’s about three miles back. Right up against the dam. My wife and four kids are out there. I didn’t see anyone else on my way out here,” explained José.

The Patrolman sent two cars back to get the family and some of their belongings. José rode along in the lead car to show them the way. When they got to the house, they found the car empty. Inside the house, the only light was the flicker of a candle. When they entered, they found María in hard labor, the children gathered around her with wide, frightened eyes.

One of the Patrolmen took a single look at the scene and started to give orders. “Officer Taylor, help me get this woman into my car. I’ll take her directly to County Hospital. You can stay here with this man and help him get the children to safety, then you can bring him to County.”

They quickly and carefully carried María into the car and rushed inside the house to get the kids without waiting for the first car to drive away. An hour later, José rushed into the Obstetrics Ward at County Hospital to ask about his wife. “She’s in labor. She’s not quite ready to deliver. You can wait downstairs. I’ll call down when there’s any word,” instructed the pretty nurse with a sympathetic smile on her face.

In the Delivery Room, María gasped for air. “Please Doctor, you have to help me deliver my baby now. It’s almost midnight. My baby has to be born before midnight. Please help my baby come now. What time is it? What time is it?”

“It’s about 11:30 María. Don’t be in such a hurry. This baby will come when it’s ready. I can’t do anything about it. Relax. It’s almost here. On the next contraction, push as hard as you can!” the young intern smiled at María reassuringly. After pushing through three or four more contractions, María felt the baby being born. She heard the strong crying. The doctor gladly announced “It’s a girl, María! You have a beautiful, healthy baby girl!”

“What time is it?” asked María. “Did I make it? Is she a Christmas baby?”

“It’s 11:52. You made it! You have a Christmas baby! Congratulations, María.” The intern smiled as he continued to examine both mother and baby. “Why was it so important to have a Christmas baby anyway, María?”

“Because this baby is special. She is my gift to the world. She’s going to be a very special person,” beamed María as she put her arms out to take her baby.

Later, when she was in the ward, after José had come in to see her and the 5 pound little girl María held in her arms, María spoke to her daughter with complete adoration: “You are my hope for the future. You are a gift. A gift to me…to our family…a gift to all the world. You will bring good things into this world. I know you will be a special daughter. You bring me hope that out of the darkness of my life, something beautiful will come. Joyful, beautiful, and wonderful things will follow you wherever you go and everyone you touch will be blessed with your joy. You are my joy today, tomorrow, and always.”

[NOTE: The words the mother speaks to the baby at the end are the words I spoke to my daughters at their births. And yes, my parents really are named María and José, although they both use their middle names because they feel their names are too common.  And by the way, that little girl (her name was Monica) that was born to the radio announcer’s wife on Christmas Eve later became my friend when we attended the same high school.  Small world.]

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