Hello, dear friends. Greetings from New Hometown, Florida. It’s mid-afternoon on Thursday, December 10, 2020, and it’s 70˚F (21˚C) under partly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 7 MPH (12 KM/H) and humidity at 61%, the feels-like temperature is 70˚F (21˚C). The high for today is expected to be 71˚F (22˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. Tonight, the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a low of 52˚F (11˚C).
As I sit here in my room, I am listening to the Boston Pops Orchestra as it plays Christmas-themed music on my computer’s Amazon Music app. I don’t have any Christmas-themed CDs in my music library, but I can stream some songs or even albums whenever I like, thanks to my $7.00-a-month subscription to Amazon’s streaming service. I’m not a huge fan of “holiday music,” but I can tolerate the genre in small doses if I am in the mood to listen to it. And to be honest, the fact that I’m listening to my favorite orchestra makes listening to The 12 Days of Christmas 14 days before Christmas Eve, well, palatable.
In that regard, I take after my late mother, Beatriz Diaz-Granados. For as long as I remember, she also had a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. When I was little and not as adept at “reading” people, Mom put on a façade of enjoying the whole “Christmas Thing,” especially when we lived in Bogota, Colombia from 1966 to 1972. (Later, as she got older, she would get melancholic as the holidays drew near and she’d only grudgingly put up a tree and some decorations. Even then, she stopped setting up the tree in the early 1990s and gave it – and the decorations – away.)
I don’t really remember the Christmas seasons from 1966, 1967, or 1968, which took place when I was three, four, and five, respectively. I vaguely remember the ’68 one because of Apollo 8 (the first manned flight to orbit the Moon), but only as a kaleidoscope of memory fragments. My Mom turned 40 that year, and in my presence she put on a brave front and decorated the apartment where we lived at the time with a gorgeous – if artificial – Christmas tree that my dad had bought in Miami a few months before his death in February 1965, as well as a creche, and other Christmas-y kitsch.
I have more vivid memories of the last Christmases we spent in Bogota while we still lived there (1969, 1970, and 1971). They’re not complete episodic recollections of events – my memories of my life in Colombia have faded over the past 48 years, partly due to the passage of time, but mostly because I didn’t make an effort to look back at those days when I was younger.
For instance, I remember Christmas of ’69 mainly because that was the first holiday season I spent with my half-sister Vicky after her “exile” years (1965-1969) in a Catholic school for girls in Parkersburg, WV. I was 6, and she was 19, and at the time she was my second favorite person in the world. (My favorite was, naturally, my mother.) I was far too young to know about, much less understand, the rocky relationships my older half-sibling had had with the adults of the family, so 51 years ago, Vicky was one of the twin suns of my little familial solar system.
I also remember that back then many of my cousins – especially my Uncle Octavio’s children – were still kids themselves, so I saw them often, mostly at our grandparents’ house in Bogota’s Santa Barbara neighborhood. My Aunt Martha’s children – except for my cousin Silvia, who was born in 1969 – were mostly young adults or teens, so I don’t remember hanging out with them much.
I also remember my maternal grandparents, who helped Mom raise me when we lived in Colombia and for whom I still have a great deal of love and affection. My favorite of the two was my grandpa; he was the “softy” of the pair and was gentler and more lenient than my grandmother, who was loving, smart, but stricter and a bit difficult to deal with. When I was younger and immature, I didn’t appreciate my grandmother or the life lessons she tried to teach me as a kid. Partly it was due to her old school methods, but mostly it was because I was in my early teens by the time she invited herself – to my mom’s horror – to live with us in our new townhouse in East Wind Lake Village. Now, as a middle-aged guy, I understand some of her attitudes about how to lead life and treat other people a bit better.
In the late Sixties, my grandfather had just retired from his prestigious job as the Parker Pen Company’s representative in Colombia, and I believe my time in Colombia coincided with my grandparents’ efforts to downsize and live a less demanding lifestyle. I don’t remember when they did certain things, such as the sale of their house in Santa Barbara and a subsequent move to a smaller – but still ritzy – apartment. I remember – dimly – being surprised by the move, but since Mom and I had moved a few times in Bogota- with and without Vicky – I took it in stride.
I wish I could remember funny or interesting anecdotes from those Colombian Christmases of my childhood; alas, all I can recall are the vague images of relatives I have not seen in decades (literally!) and fragments of memories that center on Nochebuena meals eaten late at night on Christmas Eve, then waking up on Christmas Day to open the presents that Baby Jesus had left under the tree.
Still, those fragments represent happier holiday seasons than those I would experience later in life, including (no doubt) Christmas of 2014, which was the last one before my mother died in July 2015. Certainly, those Colombian Christmases in the Land of Ago seem more pleasant than this COVID-19 holiday season!
As for today….
Well, I received the two latest additions to my video library – the 4K UHD Back to the Future 35th Anniversary Trilogy Limited Edition Gift Set and the Blu-ray Warner Archives Edition of Summer of ’42. The box set looks better put together – packaging-wise – than Universal’s 25th Anniversary trilogy set. I’m not in a hurry to open either one, though. I already made a spot for Summer of ’42 in the Warner Bros. section of my media tower from Ikea; I still need to decide where I am going to place the larger Back to the Future set; it doesn’t fit with the other Universal Pictures titles in the media storage tower, plus it’s a 4K UHD set…..