When I was young, despite our reduced circumstances, I always find Christmas the most exciting time of the year; better than New Year which is always dominated by extreme noises and possible fireworks casualties. I remember going from house to house all over town wishing the occupants merry Christmas and in return, you will get small change or sometimes a meal. A privilege reserved only for children. As an adult, it is seen as morally wrong doing the same thing.
I had a small pink plastic piggy bank for my holiday coins. All the cents I gathered on my tour, I put in there. It helped for the rest of the year when I needed money for school projects or to buy snacks during recess so, I will not feel left out and different from other kids. When my coins were finished, I put white wildflowers in the slot of my piggy bank; it looked good in my playhouse, just like a flower vase.
But the Christmas I will never forget was when I was a freshman. After 11 years of managing the fishpond, my father found himself in dispute with the owner. Proud as my father was, he rather dragged us down the drain than give into something which was against his principles; we found ourselves homeless overnight.
Out of desperation, lacked of other immediate resources and nowhere else to go, my father built a one-room shack just outside the perimeter of the fishpond (how stupid and embarrassing that was, but I believe if he didn’t think about us, I have a very strong notion that he rather pack his bags and move to another town very far away from our then-current location – he done this before – and never come back. But as it were, he swallowed his high pride and settled us in temporarily) you can read the rest of the story in details here.
That particular Christmas eve we locked our door early and tried not to hear the merriment outside, pretending we were asleep; in the dark, I could hear my stomach growling, we didn’t eat supper that night but no one complained. We all suffered in silence.
Out of a sudden I heard someone calling my name outside, my father put his finger on his lips and gestured for me not to open the door; I went back to my place on the mat next to my sister.
But the person outside the door kept knocking and calling wishing us the usual holiday greetings and begging me to please open the door.
After a while, my father gave in and allowed me to see our visitor.
When I opened the door, I was surprised to see Macedonio; he was one of the seven brothers who just moved to our village a couple of years ago.
I remember when we were still living in the fishpond; he initiated an introduction between his brothers, me and my siblings by purposely landing a big kite in the middle of our place, which was separated from the rest of the neighborhood by an electric fence. He managed to convince my father to let them in to retrieve their kite, the rest is history.
Macedonio courted me briefly till my father (as always) pointed him to the fact that I was still underage and will not be available for such things until I’m 100 years old or so. He remained a trusted friend of the family as well as his other brothers who for some reasons don’t look like each other. Not a single resemblance. As if they are handpicked from different places and by some chance ended up together as one family. I have never seen more good-looking young boys in my time than Macedonio and his siblings.
Opening the door finding him standing there smiling at me was a (pleasant) surprise. He was wearing his usual lopsided grin which if I was more experienced at that time, I will recognize as designed to melt every girl’s heart. But I wasn’t. What caught my attention was the enormous plate he was holding full of Christmas delights. There was a mountain of pancit, a loaf of bread, suman, kalamay, sinukmani, half of a fried chicken and rice cakes! I looked at him full of disbelief! Still smiling, eyes twinkling, he poked his head inside and looked around. When he saw that my father wasn’t looking; he gave me a peck on the cheek and said: “Merry Christmas you gorgeous.” He winked at me before turning his back and disappearing into the night. I was left flabbergasted.
He must have been aware of our situation (not much one can hide in a small village like ours) and how kindhearted of him to think about us in that time of the year and provide us with a holiday meal without hurting the sensitive pride of my father. Bless the people like him. Not only for making our Christmas unforgettable but restoring my fate in humanity…