Christmas… I remember the season, all those seasons, all those years. I remember them; I remember the sparkling lights, the ornaments, the tree, the figures and the nativity. The food, the Colombian Natilla and buñuelos, the tamales, the morcilla. All the drinking. Those smells. All the laughter around us. I remember it all... ALL.
Some of you, friends, who are used to these series that I am writing about my childhood might be thinking that I am going to face you with a terrible experience happening to me right in the middle of the December festivities. I am not. This one here is short and full of love. The kind of love only a child can give as the best present for Christmas.
"Oh don´t think Santa doesn´t love you honey… he loves all children around the world and that is why he is so busy… but he will bring you a beautiful present, you´ll see… the thing is that this year Santa had to buy too many presents and maybe he will take more time to bring yours… but he will bring it.
Those were my mamita Rachel´s words, my mom´s mother. She is the sweetest soul on earth. She loved me and she understood what it was like for a child to be expecting Santa Claus or Baby Jesus, to arrive caring the presents that are meant to be taken from under the tree and opened in front of everyone so all the family could have an honest happy smile… as a family.
We were used to do that. But this year 1983 was different. We were on our own. No dad. My mom didn´t have a job. She lost her house. I was living with Aunty Beatriz and my sister Erika was living with grandma. My family situation wasn’t the best. But, we loved each other and whenever we were together those years we were always having a blast… together.
I couldn´t understand why I nor my sister were not getting a present that year. We were good children, grandma said, we were good to each other and that was enough to be granted a good Christmas present. But it was taking longer that expected, she explained.
So, that night, four nights before Christmas, while talking to Grandma Rachel I made a decision.
"Sorry Mrs. Piggy"
I got up early the next day, apologized to my piggy bank and then smashed it to the floor. It broke in million pieces, but what came from inside weren´t millions of coins, just enough to buy something small to my mother and my sister. Maybe socks for both of them… but I was never a small thinker. So, I came up with a plan to make some more money.
"Good morning lady (BIG SMILE) you are beautiful today and you have the most beautiful eyes in the world"
There I was, a 9 year old skinny boy, standing in front of a woman´s car flirting with her while she was waiting in traffic for the green light to go. Two minutes. I had only two minutes to sell her what I was offering. Hearts, red velvet card hearts with an inscription made by me that said:
I WANT TO SEND MONEY TO SANTA SO HE CAN TAKE THE BUS AND COME TO MY HOUSE
You see, at that age of 9, I still believed in Santa and Baby Jesus, but, since Baby Jesus was a baby and he had Mary and Joseph to help him in case he needed help, I decided that the one in need was Santa.
I was happy that day and the days before Christmas because people seemed to like Santa so much that they were willing to help me help him. Some people even sent him bills. I was thrilled. Every afternoon I came home and put all the donations in my metal lunch box: bills and coins. Three days of hard work so we could help Santa come home.
Christmas day, I was finished. I knew there was no more time so I decided to ask grandma to help me send the lunch box to Santa Claus so he could have enough money to take the bus and come home to us.
She grabbed the box, opened it …….. and….
That night, we were all happy. So happy I can not even come close to describe it. My little sister got her Paola doll and I got my Radio Flyer Red Wagon… just the one I wanted so I can carry Erika and now Paola around.
Later that night, mom came to me and said close to my ear that Santa had sent a note only for me to read. No one else. She said that Santa said that note was a secret. I was so excited. I grabbed the note and went to the restroom. Opened it and there it was:
Thank you, Mauricio. You are my favorite little man in the world. I love you very much. Enjoy the present you asked me. I will see you next year.
Yeah… Santa came to town and to our house, no matter what, I wasn´t letting anything came in his way to my house….
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL OSERS I LOVE YOU VERY VERY DEEPLY
By Mauricio Betancourt 2011©