Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time. – Laura Ingalls Wilder
I wish I had vivid memories of my first Christmas as a permanent resident of the state of Florida after our unexpected return to the States from our stable life in Bogota, Colombia, earlier in 1972. Compared to the last Christmases I spent with my mother and half-sister some 40-odd years later, Christmas of ’72 was idyllic.
I was nine going on 10 in late December of 1972. I got along well with my half-sister Vicky then; in 1972 I had no idea how much she resented me for – in her mind, at least – being the catalyst for our move back to South Florida several months earlier. In fact, she had refused to come with Mom and me and wanted to live by herself in an apartment that she’d inherited from her late father’s estate. My grandparents and my mother’s older siblings, aghast at the prospect of a (then) 22-year-old single woman living alone in an apartment, pushed back and decreed that if Vicky wanted to live in Bogota, she would have to live with one of our older relatives’ homes where she would have some limits on her freedom – mostly pertaining to dating, men, and sexual activity.
This is not the time or place for me to get into why my grandparents, aunts, and uncles got fed up with Vicky’s behavior in the brief time that she stayed with our maternal grandaunt Gabriela. All you need to know is that whatever transgression Vicky committed while Mom was house hunting in Miami that spring and early summer half a century ago, it must have been serious. Vicky ended up moving to Miami against her will, and although she was adept at hiding her resentment – which over the years turned into hate – toward me, her true feelings sometimes manifested themselves through passive-aggressive behaviors and temper tantrums.
I don’t – mercifully – recall any incidents that foreshadowed the tragic – but necessary – estrangement between my older half-sister and me. It’s possible that there might have been intense arguments between my mother and Vicky over “chickenshit” issues like if Vicky had made her bed before going job-hunting or the latest fad diet she was on at any given time. However, since I was a young boy then and had no understanding of the underlying conflict between mother and daughter, I paid little attention to that aspect of my family life in Miami.
Christmas… is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart. – Freya Stark
As I recall, both of my maternal grandparents, Quique and Tata, were visiting us in Miami that Christmas. I dimly remember that my mother, ever the dutiful daughter and graceful hostess, ceded the master bedroom to my grands, while she slept uncomfortably on the living room sofa. I remember this because my grandmother was in Miami on December 29, 1972, the day that Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed in the Florida Everglades, and until my grandfather’s death in the spring of 1977, Tata never visited us in Miami without my beloved abuelo.
I don’t remember all the presents I received that first Christmas at the house on SW 102nd Avenue. Obviously, I got the usual blend of toys and new clothes, but I can’t recall any toy that I had “asked Santa” for. I also received some books to help me learn English a bit faster, and K, my second – and longest-lasting – childhood girlfriend gave me a personalized good luck charm…which I stupidly lost 10 days later while playing out in the backyard. (It slipped out of my pocket while I was playing “Army” with my friends and didn’t notice it until much later. I searched the yard – which to nine-year-old me was big – for days, but I never found it. For all I know, it’s buried in the soil under the lawn there.)
I do remember that Mom had put up the huge artificial Christmas tree that we had lugged to Bogota when we left Miami in 1966, then lugged back to Miami when we returned in early April of 1972. I’m not sure how tall it was, but I do recall that it took several long hours to assemble and decorate with both Christmas lights and delicate ornaments. It was a beautiful tree, and with the exception of Christmas 1977 – when Mom, Vicky, and I were living in a two-bedroom apartment in Sweetwater whilst our new townhouse in East Wind Lake Village was under construction – Mom put it up every year from 1972 till 1986; she gave it to our next-door neighbors, Russ and Germaine, because she was getting older and putting it up took too much effort, and I was too disinterested to “enjoy” the tree now that I was in college and more interested in my studies, women – even though I never dated anyone then – and hanging out with my posse of friends.
Memories tend to fade or be distorted over time, especially when I don’t have any photos or other mementos handy to use for reference; I obviously don’t have any of the stuff I was given half a century ago anymore, not even one of the books or toys I received then. All I remember is that Christmas of 1972 was, in comparison to other later recurrences of the holiday, joyous and drama free.
4 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit: Hazy (But Happy!) Memories of Christmas 1972”
Your sister does not seem to be the kind of person you can connect with in a positive way. However, I sometimes wonder about cousins? Do you have any cousins you could connect with? I have 40 cousins and I don’t keep in touch with many of them, especially since they all live in Sweden. However, I do keep in contact with some of them, on-line, holiday cards, and when I visit Sweden, etc.
Yes. I have some of my cousins on my mom’s side of the family on my Facebook friends list. They all live in Colombia, although some of their adult children now live in Europe. Some of them, the women mostly, keep in touch on my timeline.
If you’ve read a lot of my blog posts that delve into my family, you’ll note that a constant theme that runs throughout my life is my half-sister’s stormy relationships with Mom and me. I’ve observed that one of the reasons I dislike Donald J. Trump is that his narcissism and dishonesty reminds me of Vicky.
Have you noticed there aren’t as many plane crashes as there used to be? Living near JFK, I remember the ones there vividly; at least 3 of them plus TWA 800. Now it seems like they are few and far between.
Yep. Except when the 737 MAX planes were grounded because of faults in the avionics software a few years ago, there’s been few accidents in the headlines.
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