Off The Cuff

Did you know my childhood did not include a Santa Claus? Nope I did not know him until I probably was 11 years old and I only knew of him because he graced the Christmas cards that we were to exchange with our classmates. By the time I got to know the "existence" of the bearded one, I was too old to believe. After all, he was supposed to know where every child was at Christmas eve and drop off presents at their homes. So for the past 11 years, I did not get any presents and so I was never going to believe anyway. I didn't get presents for Christmas. None of my neighbors and playmates did either. All we got is new dress and shoes (hopefully) for church service.

I am trying to remember a memorable Christmas for me. I cannot. There didn't seem any one that tower above the rest.

First off my entire childhood was kind of weird. I think it is. We lived in one compound, our house was in the front. Behind ours is my oldest brother's house where he and his family lived. And bringing up the rear is brother #3's house where he and his family lived. So we were together all the time. My playmates were my nieces and nephews.

My father was ill when I was born. My mother said he was already ill when I was conceived, which accounted for my sickly childhood. He contracted tuberculosis in the army. He battled the disease for a long time until his death when I was 17 years old.

So my father's health was always in the back of my mother's mind. We never traveled, because he was not healthy enough to do that. He was homebound, not bed bound thank heavens. But he was always sick. Thankfully, none of us had contracted tuberculosis, considering it's a communicable disease.

Thus Christmas was a simple affair. I thought my mother's poor upbringing did not allow her to experience any kind of Christmas. To her the pinnacle of Christmas celebration is to have a potful of steamy hot nilagang baka (boiled beef soup), a leg of ham cooked in 7-up, and a queso de bola (gouda). Sometimes, just to make the celebration go overboard, a bowl of fruit salad is on the table. Other times, it's spaghetti.

All these food on the table gave everyone a big smile and made our hearts sing, not to mention or stomachs very happy.

And so there was nothing pretty special about our celebrations. We did not decorate our house except for a parol. We did not have a Christmas tree until the very last Christmas before I left for California. I don't know where we got it, but I decorated a table top green fake Christmas tree and wore that dreadful pink lace eyelet straight dress (that I thought then was sooo elegant) at church, that made me look 20 years older than I was. I really don't have fashion sense even then.

Now that we're all here in California, each decorate his/her house and we follow the American tradition. We gather at one sibling's house for Christmas lunch, which is in reality a whole day's affair. It's potluck so the host doesn't get that much burdened. This year it's my year to host. I have my menu all written down. The hubby had made minor adjustments, especially to the dishes he would create.

I know someday there's one Christmas that will stand out, but for now, I am really happy with the simple way we celebrate Christmas. Then and now, we always, always go to church on Christmas Eve before all the eating can commence.

Happy Christmas everybody!


Moving memories...

Merry Christmas to you and yours! Best wishes for the New Year!

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