The signs are all out there. I hear the “fa-la-las” in the air. And there’s a special lilt in their pitch and tempo as the date draws near. Lists are filling up and getting longer. I smell chestnuts roasting. There are bazaars of all kinds.
And the traffic? Okay, let’s not even go there.
November is almost over. And suddenly it’s Christmas.
At home our lights are up. Our tree is trimmed. My son took the time before leaving for London and Rome, to set it in front of the red wall in the living room. It looks fabulous. I would love to see more red in the tree, but we have blue and silver ornaments this year. And they look stunning.
Pity he won’t be here in time for Christmas Eve. But like they say, Christmas is in the heart. And his heart is always lit up for the holidays and full to overflowing.
We have an unexpected bonus this year. One granddaughter from America, who for her junior year goes to the Accademia dell’Arte in Tuscany, will be here for the holidays. I so look forward to Erika’s visit. I know it won’t be long enough, it never is. But we are grateful.
Thanksgiving dinner, which is our usual opening act for the season, will be a little late this year. No matter. The kitchen will be bustling with action and the air will be laden with the incredibly delicious scents of goodies for the feast.
But the most important thing on the menu is that family will be together. This is all I long to see; as many of my own as can make it home, standing around the table to say grace, and say thank you to the Lord whose goodness knows no end. We are blessed.
High cost of shopping
I dared to do a little window-shopping last Sunday after church. Prices have risen alarmingly. My long list is in danger of suffering severe cutbacks.
So much has been written about the business that fuels this holiday. And I agree. But it’s Christmas. And every year, I find myself with this crazy urge to wrap a little something for each one in the family, at whatever age. It is a tradition that is hard to break.
Although in recent years, it takes a lot more than it used to, both physically and financially, I need to feel that sense of joyful continuity, and I am reluctant to quit on something that still tugs at my heartstrings with beautiful memories of Christmases long gone. I can’t give that up.
My December agenda is quickly getting crowded. There’s the arrival of my American apo, a despedida de soltera, two weddings, the arrival of grand- and great-grands from Seattle, and a road trip to the beach.
My friend cautions for me to just take it nice and easy. I thought he sounded ticked off because I canceled our twice-postponed lunch date.
But he claims not to be upset. He even sent me this little saying by Paulo Coelho to stress his point: “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”
It was in February I told you about my trip to Cebu to visit Annie Corrales. It was a happy reunion. I had plans to see her again after Australia. But here I am today in tears with the sadness of it all.
Last Saturday Annie went home to be with Jesus. And my heart is heavy.
Annie was my first cousin, the daughter of my mother’s brother, Federico. She was a beautiful woman with olive-toned skin, soulful, expressive eyes, a deep husky voice and a radiant smile. Filipinos proudly remember her as Miss Philippines 1957.
Annie was once married to Eddie Woolbright, an ex-US Army officer who, after WWII, settled in Cebu and became a living legend and one of its favorite “sons.” They had one daughter, Alice, who today has two children, Jonathan and Erika.
Her second husband, Douglas Mahrt, is a retired rancher from Iowa. Their daughter, Jennifer, has three kids: Tyler, Cameron and Hannah.
Doug and Annie returned to Cebu for good a couple of years ago. They lived with Alice who took care of her mother until the very last moment.
“She left peacefully,” Alice said sadly. “We had a Mass and cremation in Cebu. I will keep some of her ashes here with my dad. There will be another Mass in Iowa. We will all be there.”
When I last saw Annie, she was not quite how I remembered her. I found her pensive, quiet. But we had a good time. We ate delicious meals at Gorli’s, Tavolata and, of course, at “Eddie’s” (now The Beverly) where we enjoyed his famous corned beef and cabbage.
The highlight of the visit was when Pilita, another cousin, dropped in and did a mini show for her. It ended in a sing-along, with Annie doing a chorus of “It Had To Be You.” We had fun.
Although we didn’t see each other much over the years, it was a treat to be with her again, singing old songs, remembering naughty things we did as little girls, recalling old relatives, sometimes laughing out loud over a funny incident or the mention of a name.