The Ghosts of Christmases Present….and Past
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon on Thursday, December 24, 2020. Currently, the temperature in New Hometown, Florida is 81˚F (27˚C) under mostly cloudy conditions. With the wind blowing from the southwest at 10 MPH (17 KM/H) and humidity at 58%, the feels-like temperature is 82˚F (28˚C). We already reached our expected high (81˚F/27˚C), and the forecast for the rest of the afternoon calls for partly sunny skies. A cold front will pass through later, though, and after sunset we can expect scattered rain showers and a cold night with a low of 42˚F (5˚C).
As you know, this Christmas season is not as “holly jolly” as it ought to be for many people. The world is still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of 3:23 PM Eastern has claimed 1,738,736 lives throughout the globe, 328,095 of those in the United States. So far, I have been fortunate and have not been infected with the novel coronavirus, and – as far as I know, anyway – no one in my family in Miami or Colombia has been diagnosed with COVID-19. However, people I know have gotten sick with the virus, including the woman who owns my old house in East Wind Lake Village and her baby.
I have other reasons for not really feeling festive, including the end of a relationship which was (if we are going to be totally honest here) doomed to fail due to “irreconcilable differences” between the ex and Yours Truly. I’m not going to dwell on that, but it is somewhat sad that I don’t have a significant other with whom I can have a conversation, spend time together doing things around the house, or being intimate with. We are still friends and fond of each other, I guess, and she does want to be “The Caregiver,” but we have different worldviews and don’t necessarily enjoy the same leisure time activities. (She’s more into drinking and trying to be a party animal on weekends, while I’m more at ease just chilling with an occasional Seagram’s Escape or Heineken and watching a movie or good TV drama series. And that’s just one area where we are just not simpatico.)
Still, I am trying to get into the Christmas spirit, mainly by being courteous and kind to the people I share this house with. I mean, seriously; one of the things that I hate about my half-sister is her habit of making family gatherings all about her and her penchant for creating unnecessary drama, especially at Christmas.
For instance, back in the 1990s, my mom’s friends in Miami used to invite the three of us to Christmas parties at their homes, partly because Mom was getting tired of doing the “Christmas Decorating Thing” at our townhouse, but mainly because they loved my mother – and to some extent, me – immensely. They always invited my half-sister, too, even though by the 1990s she had been living on her own for over a decade and had her own social circle of friends that she hung out with.
The invitations stopped coming after Christmas of 1992 because Vicky got into the habit of spoiling Christmas parties by drinking way too much and becoming super-obnoxious. This was especially true after 1989, the year that she embarrassed herself by going on a tour to Italy with the express purpose of tracking down Franco, a married man with whom Vicky had had an affair when he lived and worked in Miami but broke up with her in late 1988 or early ’89 and returned to his homeland and reconciled with his wife.
Vicky was obsessed with Franco and believed that if she traveled to Italy to see him, he would see the error of his way, get a divorce, and marry her instead. She was so fixated on Franco and Italy that she even learned Italian – she became fluent in that language, as a matter of fact – in an effort to win him over.
To make a long story short, Vicky signed on for a pricey two-week tour of Italy in the summer of 1989. As I understand the tale – which Mom and I found out from a third party in which my half-sister had confided – she called her ex-boyfriend and told him she was going to la bella Italia to see him. Franco calmly told her that as far as he was concerned, Vicky was free to go to Italy and take the tour, but that he was not going to meet her anywhere, not in Rome, not in Florence, and not in his hometown. “If you want to see Italy in the context of a vacation/excursion, you are free to do so. But if you are coming all the way to Europe just to see me and try to win me back, you will waste your money.”
Now, if there’s one character trait that bugs me about Vicky is that she creates her own reality and doesn’t take what other people say seriously. The upshot of this story is that Vicky ignored what Franco said, went ahead with her plans, and broke away from the excursion to make her way to the town where he lived with his wife.
Vicky never told Mom or me this story – she knew Mom disliked Franco and did not approve of the relationship – but she did tell someone she trusted, who then related the whole drama to us sometime in 1992. But the gist of it is that Vicky, after spending several thousand bucks on the excursion, left the tour to go to Franco’s hometown somewhere in the Italian peninsula.
When she got there, however, Vicky had a rude awakening. She, of course, couldn’t simply go to his house and confront Signora Franco in person, so she went to a public phone, called him at home, and asked him to meet her at a restaurant in town.
According to the person who told us the story, Franco wasn’t interested. He reportedly said something along these lines, “Vicky, I’m sorry that you spent all that money to come to Italy just to see me, but I told you that what we had in Miami was fun, but it is over now. Go back to your tour group and do not call me ever again. If you do, I will call the police and have you arrested for stalking.”
Vicky is stubborn, but she isn’t so stubborn that she would risk being arrested, especially in a foreign country, so she did as Franco told her. And when she returned to Miami, she was extremely reticent about her trip to Italy. Only once did she even take the photo albums from her trip to Mom’s house to show them to us, and even then all she did was to set the albums down on the sofa in the living room while talking to Mom about other topics. She didn’t make an effort to show us any of the photos – the albums lay unattended on the sofa but Vicky never said, “Come on, guys, let’s look at the albums and I’ll tell you all about my trip!”
I have to relate this bit of back story because It is necessary to understand why Vicky was so miserable during the holidays between 1989 and 1993. Like many other people, Vicky tends to get sentimental over the Christmas/New Year’s season, and apparently she and Franco had had some memorable end-of-year get togethers when they were a couple. As a sentimental person in my own right, I totally get that. But both Mom and me were embarrassed by Vicky’s behavior at parties where we were the guests.
Her modus operandi in 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992 went something like this:
Vicky would arrive at our townhouse about an hour or two before we were due to go to Fulano/Fulana de Tal’s house for Nochebuena dinner on Christmas Eve. Mom was often the designated driver, so Vicky would have either a couple of screwdrivers or vodka with tonic water while Mom and I got dressed. I didn’t drink booze then, and Mom did not drink when she was driving. But Vicky loves to drink, so she would already be buzzed by the time we left the house to get to the party.
Once we got to the house or apartment where the party was held, within 10 to 15 minutes after our arrival, Vicky would accept whatever drink was offered to her by the hostess and sit in the living room, looking morose and aloof. Mom was a delightfully gregarious woman and chatted with everyone, even people she didn’t know. I’m a bit more reserved but I know how to mingle, so I tried to follow Mom’s lead and behaved like everyone else, except I didn’t smoke cigarettes – she quit in 1994 – or drink anything stronger than beer.
Vicky? She would sit on a chair or the edge of a couch, looking for all the world like she was at a funeral rather than a Christmas party. She’d fidget with her purse or keys in her hands, ignore all entreaties to dance or join conversations, and stare morosely into the distance.
Then – and she did this at four different Christmas parties – at some point before dinner, she would get up, with an overly tragic expression straight out of a soap opera, and, without uttering a word of explanation, she’d go out through the front door and sit in her car by herself. Sometimes she would come back to the party 15 to 30 minutes later, and sometimes for almost an hour.
Of course, our hosts were concerned by her behavior. “What happened to Vicky? Is she okay?”
Once, when my half-sister was gone for over an hour, the lady who invited us to her Christmas party was so worried – and perhaps pissed off – that she asked her son to go see where Vicky was. When he returned several minutes later, he told his mother, “Mami, I found Vicky in her car, crying and crying as if someone had died.”
Soon after that, we stopped getting invites to Christmas parties. And it was because both Mom and I were so embarrassed by these incidents that when my Aunt Martha went to Miami to stay with us for a couple of weeks, we both asked if we could go to Bogota to spend Christmas with the rest of the family rather than experience what Mom called El Show de Victoria Piñeros.
And that, Dear Reader, is why I try to be on my best behavior at Christmas, even if I am feeling like a 21st Century version of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Well, that’s pretty much all I can say for now. The Caregiver is busy preparing the Nochebuena dinner, her boyfriend is out on the porch smoking cigarettes, and her adult kids are either in their rooms or out of the house with friends.
The only thing I can add is my usual closing line of “Stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to others.”