Monday, December 25, 2006

Season's Greetings from Southern California

Or, Better Late Than Never.

It's been a bit tough this year with FIL in the hospital, but here's the obligatory (though entirely voluntary) Holiday post.

Though I converted to Judaism over 12 years ago, I still miss certain aspects of Christmas. Not, surprisingly, the tree or opening gifts Christmas morning. I miss the festiveness of it: the decorating, the gatherings, the music. We were never religious when I was growing up; Christmas was the Santa holiday and we never graced the inside of a church. I knew about the Nativity of course, and we sang Christmas carols, but it was never a religious holiday for me. I do still allow myself the indulgence of listening to some Christmas music ("Charlie Brown Christmas" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio mostly) and I did spring for a fir wreath this year (love the smell!), but that's about the extent of my recognition/celebration of the holiday.

But I was thinking about some of the more memorable Christmases in my life, and these few come to mind:

1. 1974. Back when I was in high school, we lived sort of out in the country. My parents had divorced a couple of years prior, and we'd had to sell the house we lived in at the time so the assets could be divided. We ended up renting a house just a couple of miles away, and my mom got to be friends with the couple who'd bought our house. The husband was active in the Rotary, who sponsored college and grad school students from other countries to come and study here. Abbas, one such student, was from Egypt, and was studying/teaching grad-level physics at Stanford. He was a very nice fellow, and also became friends with our family. That Christmas, he was house-sitting for the people who had bought our house. He went out to get the paper that morning in his pajamas, and locked himself out of the house. This was before the days of cell phones, and he knew none of the neighbors. So in 35 degree weather, he walked in his pajamas the two miles to our house. Abbas was probably about 6'5" and weighed all of 135 lbs. As he warmed up by our fireplace wrapped in a blanket, he joked that he must have looked very strange walking down the road and was afraid that if any people had looked out their windows and seen him walking by they'd think that Jesus had come back. That was also the year mom got drunk and dropped a can of soup on top of the glass lid on the Corningware dish that held the green bean casserole which shattered. She served the beans anyway and poor Abbas ended up chewing on a large sliver of glass. Somehow at that point eveyone else at the table lost their enthusiasm for the green bean casserole.

2. 1977. I was in college and was travelling Christmas night back from home to San Luis Obispo on the Greyhound. The guy sitting next to me was from Peru, and had been a child during the really bad earthquake in Lima in the 60's. He said that all of the buildings there were made of limestone, and just turned to airborne dust in the quake. Panicked people were running around crazily trying to find their loved ones. He was trying to get home and at one point in the chaos a woman he'd never seen before ran up to him and grabbed him by the shoulders, and put her face right up to his (she was apparently trying to find her child). He told me that as long as he lived, he'd never forget the look in her eyes. The way he told the story was so vivid and evocative, I'll never forget it. You meet the most interesting people travelling on Christmas.

3. 1980, and another travelling on Christmas story. I was working at a radio station at this point, and again was heading back home to San Luis Obispoon Christmas night from visiting my family. My sister by this point had inherited the Mustang, and she was driving back to Santa Barbara where she was in college. I'd agreed to give a ride to the engineer who worked at the station, and we were supposed to pick him up at a friend's house in Gilroy. When we got there, everyone was high on mushrooms and they had just returned from spending several hours in the emergency room due to one of the friend's run-in with poison oak while they were out wandering the hills playing wood sprites in their hallucinogenic state. We ended up giving the heavily-calamined friend a ride too, and I recall a bottle of Ouzo being passed about. I also recall that Sis was pissed, but I can't remember whether it was because of my drugged, giggly friends or the delay due to picking them up, or the open container. I'm sure she'll chime in and add her recollections to the pile.


Anonymous citizen spot said...

Yup, I remember #1 & #3. Regarding #1, I see Abbas around campus (the engineering buildings)every now and then. He kind of looks at me like he knows me, but I haven't found the courage to actually speak to him, given the "glassy bean casserole disaster", but I think I will talk to him next time I see him. He looks pretty much the same, but with gray hair now.

Regarding #3 (and #2 by default), funny how we always had to head back to anywhere but mom's on x-mas. I had forgotten about the shroom/uzo/calomine trip from hell, but I think I was mostly pissed about the open container. I was such the paranoid little shit back then. Now I am just the pissy shit! ;)
And it is funny you mentioned that road trip, because I was walking around the arboretum at stanford yesterday, and was thinking about how cool it would be to see wood sprites romping around in there. There was one guy dancing by one of the modern art sculptures, and I can only assume his spritely display was due to alternative chemistry, although I doubt it was shrooms or ouzo. Happy New Year!

Hope the FIL is doing ok.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Deja Pseu said...

Well if you do see Abbas, please tell him I said hello and that we both begged mom not to serve the green beans.

I was going to post about this tonight, but FIL passed away last night. He went suddenly downhill, and Doug's brother called him last night around 9pm and said "come now." We'd been there earlier in the day and Doug had planned to go back late in the afternoon, but when he checked in around 4, his mom said, "don't bother, he's mostly sleeping and his vital signs are stable." He was gone by around 10:30 or so.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous citizen spot said...

You all have my most heartfelt condolences.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Deja Pseu said...


5:51 AM  
Blogger Maya's Granny said...

I'm so sorry about your FIL.

4:27 PM  

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