26 December, 2021

Herboso Christmas Stories

After staying up all night on Christmas eve, I visited my family on Christmas morning to share breakfast, gifts, and stories. By noon, I left to go home and promptly fell asleep, not waking again until the 26th. Despite losing much of the day, I did really enjoy the time I was able to spend with my family, especially the stories portion.

My father spoke about the time he was a kid in Bolivia and fell in love with these cowboy boots in the shop window. He was told he would not be getting them for Christmas, but they were all that he truly wanted. (Natalia questioned: why cowboy boots? Because there were no super heroes in Bolivia in those days; cowboys were the super heroes.) On Christmas eve, he and his brothers got picked up in a truck to go somewhere a ways off. They jumped on the flatbed in the back and started onto Bolivia's version of a highway. To alleviate boredom, they decided to play marbles in the back of the moving truck. (Ale questions: is that like Beyblade? Yes, Ale. It is just like Beyblade.) Marbles were placed near the front edge of the flatbed, and my dad slowly backed up to get distance so he could shoot his marble. Alas, his calf bumped into the back of the truck, and he fell onto the asphalt. There his memory ends, but he was told that his head hit the ground hard, cars on the road stopped and people came to help, and he was eventually taken care of by a family member who was a doctor. Looking back, he is sure that he had a concussion. That night, as gifts were exchanged, he was not happy. He had the worst headache. But then, when he opened the present with the cowboy boots, his headache magically disappeared. He even got twin pearl-handled cap guns to go with it. (Natalia: That sounds like it would be uncomfortable. Dad: The color, Nani! There's no balls on the handle! Just the color!)

Susan talked about how everyone in the family would give her gifts, as the youngest in a large family. She especially enjoyed seeing the people who had nowhere else to go on Christmas visit them in Alexandria, Virginia. There was a spirit of kindness there that permeated the Christmas season for the Cadima family.

Natalia talked about one of her favorite Christmas memories: how Almita would make quesadillas on Christmas morning. Such simple fare: no more than tortillas with a thin spread of refried beans and freshly grated cheese popped into a toaster oven for a minute or two; yet Nani looks back on that time with much happiness. Alma has since passed on, but she remains as an integral part of the Herboso family mythos.

Ale spoke about a gift that he only has vague memories of: the soccer ball he received on Christmas morning some untold number of Christmases ago. He doesn't remember the ball exactly; he can't remember the color, for example. But it started him on a journey to becoming a soccer player, and his vague memory of the event counts as his favorite Christmas gift of all time.

I gave voice to several Christmas memories. Of the robot that I wanted as a child, like my dad's cowboy boots, which I was told I could not get but which I received anyway. (My father immediately dispelled notions of how complex the robot was: This was the 1980s, it's not the kind of robot you're thinking of, Nani!) I didn't bring up the time I was betrayed by my family when my uncle went on the roof and pretended to be Santa in order to convince me to go to bed instead of staying up. I started crying, begging them to tell Santa to go away and not visit me this year, because I didn't like how creepy it was that he was going to sneak into the house and reward or punish behavior that he should not have been able to see all year. But I did bring up the four consecutive years that I spent Christmas at a Chinese restaurant. Each time, I'd call a month in advance to ask if they'd be open and if I could get a tofurky there. They always said yes and presented me with lots of fixings on Christmas day, even though each time I called I was asking different unrelated Chinese restaurants in different states across different years.

I spoke about all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures I received one Christmas, but not about the Nintendo Entertainment System I opened one Christmas morning. (I also neglected to bring up that before the Nintendo Switch came out in March 2017, I went to a private screening event that January to play the Switch hands on months before the release date. It was my Christmas gift to myself that year.)

Visiting Columbus Memorial.
I spoke about when I spent Christmas in Louisiana with friends, in Florida with friends, and when I visited my father a few times. Once, I brought my friends with me, and we all enjoyed Christmas in DC. My dad said that the van we drove up in smelled like cannabis, though I have no memory of this and haven't ever done recreational drugs above and beyond caffeine before. I did not speak about the Christmas when I was in a house without heat and I turned on the oven with an open door to stay warm next to a tiny Christmas tree. I did not talk about the Christmas I spent shivering outside because I could not stand staying in my house, even if it was warmer than being outside. I did not speak of these not because I mind them being shared, but because it's better to share only some stories each Christmas, the better to have novel stories to share in future Christmases.

We then exchanged gifts and I went home to sleep. It was overall a short waking day for me, but it was good nevertheless. I had a good day.

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