Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just A Coincidence...

I'm finding that the only time I have to post nowadays are Saturday mornings, when the house is half asleep, and I have my morning coffee at my side. My husband Rich is sitting on the couch watching his recorded T.V. programs, and I'm tapping away on the computer. Quiet uninterpreted time. Before I hear: "Mommy!" I better continue while I can.

Earlier this week my cousin, Carlos--the college professor, historian and writer, posted the above picture on his wall on Facebook. Carlos is the little boy in the picture. He is standing between my mother who is looking to the right, and his mom, Fatima. The woman on my mother's left, holding on to her arm, is Fernanda, a family friend, and the woman on the other side of Fatima, is my dear aunt, Aida. I had never seen this picture before, so I printed it out and showed it to my mom, the first chance I could get.

The story behind this picture is interesting to me. According to my mom, this picture was taken at Fatima's house before my mother was married to my dad--she is about 18 here, and the man behind the camera is my father. I find this very interesting because my dad had just met my mom for the first time when she was 15, so this was taken during his second military stop on the island three years later while wooing my mother with love letters. I guess my mom finally wrote him back before this picture was taken. My dad would write letters to my mom in English, and her cousin, Fatima's husband, would translate them to her. After many unanswered letters, I guess my mom finally responded! Fernanda started visiting my mom more often after my mom starting "dating" my father because her father was a cousin of my dad's, and would accompany him sometimes with her dad for visits. I guess she was like a sort of chaperone? In the 1950's that was the norm. The year must have been early in the year, 1953? It would explain the winter clothes, and why my mother is wearing her "blue gabardine" coat. My mom went on to explain that during that time, she was fulfilling her mother's "promesa" and was wearing her white dress underneath.

My grandmother's promesa: When my mother was 8 years old, she became extremely ill. I'm not sure what type of sickness she was ailing from, I just know that it was a fever that eventually sent her to the hospital. As a result of the fever, my mom lost all her hair. My grandmother was understandably upset, she had lost two babies previously before my mom was born, and her own husband had died when my mom wasn't even a year old. My mom had actually stopped breathing at one time in her home, and the doctor who was visiting at the house pronounced her dead. This sent my grandmother running out of the house into her garden crying for a miracle to the Virgin Mary to save her daughter. Believe what you may, but the doctor met her outside, and told her that my mom was breathing again, and that is when she was sent to the hospital. The doctor who was tending my mom called it nothing less than a miracle. As a result, my grandmother then made a "promesa" : a promise to the Virgin that my mom would wear a white dress and blue ribbon (what the Virgin Mary wore when she appeared in Fatima, Portugal). My mother would have to wear this attire for approximately one year in Mary's honor.

Well, years when on, and my mother never full filled her mother's promesa, so finally at 18, my mother decided to wear the white dress and blue ribbon for a year. She didn't want to fulfill her promesa when she was a married woman. Her God-Mother also made a promesa to Santa Teresa, which involved wearing a brown dress for a year (an idea that my mom did not like at all), but the village priest gave her permission to only fulfill one promesa. My father must have seen her wearing her white dress and blue ribbon, but had forgotten about it until many, many years later, when my father was in the hospital, and was, in the hospital nun's own words: "At the gates of heaven." He came back from being out of consciousness, to tell my mom that he had seen her wearing that white dress and blue ribbon in his dreams. My mom was astonished. My dad had been so forgetful lately, he could hardly remember where he last put his shoes, to remember something that happened 40 years previous, was incredible. It did give my mother peace of mind that things were going to be alright, which prompted her to make her own promesa, but that is another story.

Will post again soon---I need to make breakfast now!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Madness Begins!

Unbelievably, the year is coming to an end. It's that time again where the stores are stocking up on their Christmas supplies of wreaths and stockings, and sweaters and coats. I took a little trip to the mall yesterday, and it was nice to see all the left over Halloween decorations finally taken down. Christmas is everywhere at the stores now---the commercial Christmas anyway. I found myself going down the aisles with my cart at Target, looking at all the "necessities" of the holiday season, wondering to myself, "Should I start shopping for Christmas? Should I stock up on these cute little stocking stuffers before they run out?" The anxiety has started, and it's a cruel game the retailers are playing! And it's not at the store either, it is at home as well! My mailbox was filled with sales magazines and coupons of important "DO NOT MISS SALES", and all of them have deadlines! My computer email has 230 messages, most of them from telling me the same, with the subject matter starting with: "Hurry! Sales Ends Soon!" or "Don't Miss This One!" It's getting a little overwhelming.

I confess, I bought two presents already. I'm just waiting for the Christmas paper that I bought from my son's Christmas fund raising drive to arrive so I can start wrapping. But where I'm I going to put them once I do? I don't have a tree yet, but I bet those neighbors that live two blocks away, who have their Christmas lights up already, have theirs up! (crazy people--wait until Thanksgiving--I still have pumpkins and scare crow on my porch, you are making us all look bad!) I probably have some wrapping paper in the attic though, along with my boxes and boxes upon boxes of Christmas stuff. I stopped myself from buying some REALLY cute Christmas plates yesterday. They are still on my mind: The smiling Santa Christmas candy dish is still calling out my name, and the snowman cookie dish, and those cute little Christmas tea kettles-the Christmas tree one, and the one with a squirrel... They are still on my mind, and it's driving me crazy... I confess.

What happened to just a nice simple Christmas? No madness, just plain old fashioned fun, and spiritual joy?

I remember one of those long ago. Let's go back to 1981, shall we? It was the year I took the picture at the top of this page. That year we spent Christmas in the Azores, and I remember the simplicity of it like it was yesterday. The choir group from the church would come to our door, with their violins and guitars and sing for "Menino Jesus" (baby Jesus), and we would give them all sweets and liquor. And we would eat sweets and liquor, and everyone had rosy cheeks and big smiles on our faces! It was apparent that they were purposely following my sister around, so there were many giggles; it was pretty humorous. (No one knows what happened to that secret love powder she lost in the church the Sunday before---that is another story in itself.)

It was a nice, cold Christmas that involved old fashioned values--like being with family, going to mid-night mass, opening a few presents around the tree, and later celebrating the new year, dancing until 3 am in the morning, and getting really dizzy from too much champagne. I still remember seeing my mother's room spin on New Years Day, and I think the neighbors rather enjoyed are laughter at 4 am, even though we apparently woke them up. It all gave them something to talk about the next day. We were there for their entertainment. We went to my cousin's high school dance in the city of Angra, and I wore the gold stitched burgundy shoes my mom got me for Christmas, along with that creme colored, gold stitched, gold belted, dress. (It was 1981/82 gold stitching was IN back then--if you wore it you were automatically cool, okay. OH, and if you wore Lois jeans, you were even cooler.) You remember these details when you are 15 years old--back then they seemed to be very important. I didn't get to dance with the guy I had a huge crush over because apparently he went to another dance looking for me there. Sorry, Luis... Oh well, but I got to dance with the cutest guy I've ever seen on the island. His name was Silvano, and little did I know he was my ex-husband's very best friend. I didn't know my ex-husband at the time--oh well, small island. It was just one dance, and a nice kiss on New Years Day, and good thing, cause later I learned he got in trouble with the law that sent him to prison. OH well, a pretty face isn't everything is it?

I have no idea why I'm remembering all that right now, but it sometimes is fun to look back. It was the first Christmas we spent without my dad or my brother around, and that was pretty sad, but my father sent us all cards-which was very unlike my him. He must have missed us very much that year. My father never was a very sentimental person, until he got much older, but I made a point of keeping that card. We didn't have a phone at the house--we would have to go to a cousins house or my aunts house to make a call, no internet, only the mail that usually didn't get there until 3 weeks later. People just don't send letters in the mail anymore. If you sent me a letter, I probably have it still. It was a bittersweet Christmas, but it was nice, and no one really cared what they got, as long as there was some gold stitching somewhere. I remember going shopping with my sister for a gift for my mom, and we found her a really beautiful scarf with blues and greens, and white polka dot, along with gold stitching... My daughter found it later in a drawer somewhere, and she likes wearing it now. See---gold never goes out of style.

Sigh... Looking back on all this is keeping me sane today. I swear, I'm not going to shop online for the rest of the day, no matter how BIG the sale is, even if I can save over 60% on select clearance items. No, I refuse. Black Friday is swiftly approaching. Are you going? Are you going to be part of the madness? Are you going to stand in line at 4 am in the cold for the doors to open? Or are you going to sit in the glow of your computer monitor? I may just wake up the neighbors and watch the room spin--I haven't seen it do that for awhile now.