Entries from Hermosillo

Notes · · Hermosillo

Oompa, Oopma, Boom, Boom, Boom

Not at all as heartwarming as Queen Elizabeth's holiday message of community this year. Definitely longer than the President-elect's lonely, angry fisted little tweet.  It's Christmas 2016.

At the exact moment our winter vacation begins, Hiram and I get on a bus and travel through the night to our family in Hermosillo.

During the day on Christmas Eve, presents are bought and wrapped at the department store. People stand in line for an hour to get gifts wrapped. I wonder out loud if it wouldn’t be faster for them to just wrap the packages themselves. “It’s free," someone says.

Well, there you go.

When my mother-in-law asks how we should prepare the turkey this year. Hiram and I break into laughter.

“What?” She asks. “What!?” She insists.

“Every year you ask us how we think we should prepare the bird. Then at the last minute you make it exactly as you always have. It’s delicious. But it's not how we would make it and it cracks us up that we have this conversation every year.”

“Well this year, you guys can do everything. Make it how you like. I’m not touching it."

Hiram and I go downtown to the beauty district and see our barber here. We get the haircuts we want. I forget to ask about my eyebrows. We stop back in after lunch to have the wandering tumbleweeds on my forehead corralled.

Me at Estética Valenzuela

We go for a walk around downtown. I want to see what is happening with the Radiomotores car parts and toy store since Alejandro passed away. We arrive at the shop, press our noses to the glass windows long enough to get a glimpse of the chaos inside — garbage and empty display cases and more garbage — and immediately three bicycle cops arrive wanting to know what were are doing there.

“Someone reported you guys here behaving strangely.”

“That’s interesting to me,” Hiram says. “We haven't been here ten seconds. That’s hardly enough time for us to get here, for someone to see us, for them to contact you, and for you to arrive.”

“Maybe it was someone else then,” says the officer. Then his eyes do that I’m scanning your pockets while trying not to lose eye-contact with you thing officials do. “What are you doing here?"

“I'm visiting from Tucson. I am taking pictures of things downtown,” I say, in my tourist Spanish, holding up my camera.

Strange behavior indeed.

We head back to the car. Along the way I buy a stick pony for my niece. If I were a three-year-old, I would want a stick pony. Honestly, I would still like one. I’m not embarrassed by that, but our place is crowded with stuff as it is; there's just no room for a stick pony in our lives right now. I hope my niece will enjoy the stick pony I have always wanted.

At home, Mom has the turkey prepped and ready to go in the oven. “I have the turkey ready. All you guys have to do is put it in the oven. What time do you think it should go in?”

Hiram and I look at each other.

“What time is mass?” I ask. “What time will you be back?”
“What time will we be back?"

Every year since I started spending Christmas with Hiram and his family, I have gone to Christmas Eve mass with them. The joke is—it’s only sort of a joke though—the joke is that if I want to eat dinner with the family, I also have to go to mass. But this year I insist and don't go.

I can’t say I am ever in the mood for mass, but I usually end up enjoying it. The carols remind me of happy times when I was a kid and, because they’re in Spanish, my first Mexican Christmas in Cuernavaca. There is the part of the mass where you turn and wish complete strangers peace and shake their hand. Also, there are often guitars and bells in the mix. If that's not enough to keep me from being bored, there are always people to watch. If all else fails, I pretend the Spanish language sermon is actually being given in Latin and I am trying to understand it.

This year we were going to a mass given by a priest whose delivery I’m not crazy about. It wasn't to be the hippie Jesuit with the illegally parked car that is blocking the gate to the parking lot and needs a jump. And it wasn’t to be the Spaniard who texts while he’s giving his sermon about gratitude and cold cow spit. It was to be a priest who I can never tell if it's him or his congregation who falls asleep first.

What's worse though is the two statuettes he has representing the baby Jesus. There is a dark-skinned Jesus that resembles the majority of the people in the congregation. Then there’s the blond-haired, blue-eyed baby Jesus that looks more like the Aryan kid on the Kinder brand chocolate bars at supermarket checkout stands everywhere here.

After the mass, the little statues are lifted from their plaster of Paris mangers and walked through the chapel so everyone can wish the “newborn” a happy birthday. Pious old women snatch up their toddler grandchildren and elbow their way through all of the other grandmothers and grandchildren to give Blonde Jesus a birthday kiss.

Meanwhile, an altar boy giggles uncomfortably as he carries Brown Jesus around the chapel to arm’s length fanfare: Everyone including the priest on his microphone, jokes how sad it is no one shows poor Brown Jesus any love. “Haha!”

Haha? There’s so much that can be said about this thing with the Baby Jesus statuettes. Be my guest. For me this year, it’s enough to say I'm not up for being there for it.

So I don’t go to mass. I stay at home and make mashed potatoes.

By the time everyone gets back from mass, the food is ready. We make a toast, eat dinner, tell stories, eat even more. We share stories about Christmas where we everyone at the table is from: Here in Sonora, in Mexico City, and in Arizona.

Fireworks outside signal it's midnight. Christ is born. Time to open presents. Time to say thank you and fib about liking the clothes you just got. Time to smile for pictures. Time to try and stay awake just a little longer.

After the guests leave and the dishes are washed and the open bottle on the counter is finished off, Hiram and I walk out onto the patio to see if it is still raining. Nope. We’re stuffed and exhausted and regretting the second piece of pie. There are still fireworks going off and and banda music in the background. Oompa, oompa, boom, boom, boom. It is almost 3:00 in the morning. We wish each other a Merry Christmas.
“Merry Christmas, Churro.”
“Merry Christmas, Pipo."

Then we turn, look up at the sky, and fart for thirty seconds straight before going inside to bed.

Notes · · Hermosillo

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Gum Head at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo by Chris Clogg

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Modified Volkswagen Beetle out on a Friday night

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Greeting the playground with a breathe of fire

Greeting the playground with a breath of fire