Ten Years After
I don’t remember ever having a White Christmas, a Christmas with snow, and no matter how many people tell me that I am missing something, I consider myself lucky for never having to shovel snow off of the walk in order to greet Christmas guests. Forty degrees Fahrenheit is cold enough. On Friday, we stocked up on beer and sodas, no need to refrigerate them, full bottles and cans sit underneath our artificial Christmas tree as so much fallen fruit, ripe and ready for consumption. The balmy seventy-five degree afternoons do not penetrate our cinder block walls and cement roof, except in the summer, when the house is an oven. The houses here are exactly the opposite of temperately comfortable.
Welcome to Tijuana.
No one has been complaining much about the temperature of the inside of the house. On Friday, Christmas Eve was comfortable, unlike most other Christmas Eve’s past, not having to work gave me plenty of time to prepare. The clam chowder was wonderful, and I went to bed early while Rocio and the others ran over to her folks’ house to enjoy some midnight posole and tamales. In another sign that Anna is growing up, none of the presents were opened that night, all were intact when I got up at five the next morning.
Cooking for Christmas has that price, getting up early to prepare dinner.
After making the stuffing, I set it aside to fry up a mess of bacon, baked the biscuits, made the gravy, and woke everyone up to eat breakfast. The turkey was cleaned, oiled, and stuffed, and into the oven before nine. It wasn’t until after breakfast that Anna cared anything about opening the presents, Rocio came into the kitchen and told me that she was worried about Anna while I wrapped some yams in aluminum foil and threw them in the oven for good measure.
I told Rocio that Anna was maturing, that the presents are nice, but Anna is realizing that the real thing about Christmas is the family and the food and so on. We hugged like parents sometimes do when they realize that one of their children isn’t such a child anymore. The morning then started to pass quickly by, and I made some mushroom rice, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dinner rolls while Rocio and Ernesto went to Centro to get Charlie, and by three in the afternoon we were eating.
By four in the afternoon, we all wanted to take a nap.
Juan being here is enough of a gift, but I learned that his deployment to Iraq has been put off until July. In late January he’ll be hating six weeks of mountain training in the cold of Germany. He isn’t looking forward to it.
"When I got off of the plane in San Diego, it was the first time I’d seen the sun in a month," he told me.
"I’d rather think about you freezing your ass off in Germany eating MRE’s for six weeks than imagine you salvaging some blown-up M1A1 in the desert in Iraq while some insurgent bastard fires RPG’s at your unit," I said.
He laughed, "Yeah, but at least I’d be able to feel my own feet in the desert."
The only strange thing that happened on Christmas Day was that we lost electricity twice, for about an hour each time. I turned on the battery-operated radio so that Charlie wouldn’t miss the Lakers game. We hardly noticed the inconvenience.
I talked to Joshua yesterday, we are exploring the possibility of him coming down and spending the New Year’s weekend in Tijuana. I told him that we spend the evening inside, away from the morons who shoot firearms into the air, avoiding falling bullets at maximum gravitational velocity under the relative safety of a cement roof.
"That’s fine," he said. "I just want to see everybody and spend some time with Juan, I haven’t seen him since I was a little kid."
Joshua was seven years old the last time that he saw Juan.
"My step-dad is cool with it. I’m just going to tell mom that I’ll be eighteen in a few months anyway and I’ll be making my own decisions, and that I am going to Tijuana this weekend to spend time with my dad and Juan and everyone."
"I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that, son, the idea is to get her permission, not to demand it," I said.
"I know," he chuckled, "Don’t worry, I’ll be nice about it."
What a wonderful Christmas present. He will be calling me today, and hopefully we’ll be planning the logistics. I work up until Thursday, when we will be having a small party, grilling some carne asada and so on. I would like to pick up my son at the Palomar Street trolley station and bring him to work so he can see what I do for a paycheck. Then we would come home.
And it only took about ten years.