Christmas Traditions

“Dear Dolores,” she wrote from the waiting area outside gate 10 at an airport in Korea in a town she cannot pronounce.  When in the US, she takes advantage of the jet-lagged-earned-gold-medallion-status and goes to the lounge.  But in other countries, curiosity drives her out of the quiet, soft-chaired luxury awarded to the too-much-traveled (or really wealthy traveled), so she can be in silent absorption of a different-from-her-world- view from the hard-backed seats left for the rest of us.

In this view of airport Korea, the waiting area floors are wood, and the older women seem to suck their teeth – an inhaling sigh-like spittle-y sound.   Reminds her of the space between Dolores’ top two front teeth, and how there was a pondering that space made as Dolores would lean back to assess: “phstich.”  Or something like that involving the lips, the teeth, the breath, the time to respond extenuated.  “Dear Dolores,” she writes…

It is almost Christmas.  A holiday I have little need for, but for how it reminds me of my childhood rescue by the love of a woman who never wanted kids.  You are Christmas.  It seems I have grown up (under my own nose) to be you without ever meaning to; but, of course, I must have tried:  a management consultant; a person who would give the shirt off her back; who spends money if she has it, knowing not the value of saving for a future that might be cut short; a community builder; a protector of the unprotected.

You traveled up and down the East Coast of the US. I travel zig-zag across the Globe.  And here we both are/were trying to teach kindness, ease, structured chaos and creativity, fun – even if unsustainable.   In the end, our lessons are sort of straightforward: don’t lash out.   It’s as easy as that.  Don’t hurt others on purpose.  We know how inexcusably, frequently common it is, and so we have/had job security – you and I – helping ordinary people be not so extraordinarily unkind, so ridiculously often.

Remember, Dolores?  Today, in the US it is the 22nd, we would not even be thinking about Christmas yet.  Despite the world around us taped up with lights and wreaths, we would still be in work mode.  Your small but iron-wrought -Italian- family would buy out the store of pepperoni and olives, the smelts and fried bread, the basil for pesto: Christmas Eve dinner after midnight mass.  Most years, we did not go en masse. They went.  I waited at home with you for my one present on Christmas Eve.  You would be downstairs wrapping yourself into a packaged frenzy for the morning’s openings.  When we did go, it was to the same church where we would later hold your funeral mass.  My head would rest on your shoulder as Latin passed over us in a Gregorian calm. I gave a eulogy, that day in the church just up from the channel crossing. Thirty years old in time, a scared infant orphan in mind, that day of those tears.

Christmas Eve was your day.  That was tradition.  Trees and wreaths bought only after 6pm – for the best deal.  In the snow, on a ladder, ice and wind no care, up the wreaths were put.  An A-frame house makes for 5 wreaths by the way – left and right, up and down, and one in the middle at the tip of the A.  All presents were bought after noon on the 24th – mad dash-mall time before the stores closed early.  We had lists. We split up.   We organized – me in charge of the lipstick and nail polish sets (Estee Lauder).  Deep reds, hot pinks, whatever you thought suited our Alta Kalka’s’ personalities…we matched them up.   Like you patched me up; a Christmas tradition in the making.

© Gabriella Strecker, 2016

photo courtesy of