This morning was the first time, I think, that I have woken up in an empty house on Christmas Eve morning: Mattie has been staying with a family not far away and will not be back until eight tonight. And Michael, who went to our house in Corpus Christi yesterday to speak to a couple of workmen about replacing the patio, will not return until this afternoon. I did not join him as it was my greeter duty at the McNay Art Museum; although relatively quiet there, I enjoyed seeing the staff and the splendid Christmas tree with its audacious Mexican-style baubles beautifully created out of coloured paper.
So I was missing Michael and Mattie when I first awoke! Then, as always, I got up and made myself a cup of coffee, using the Italian espresso maker my sister Molly and her husband Tom bought for me during their visit last year. I always think of them as I grind the Guatemalan beans and then fill the pot with water. Whilst waiting for the coffee to bubble, I put on my favourite seasonal CD, ‘Christmas in New York’, featuring songs by opera singer Renee Fleming. My mother also has a copy and whenever it is playing I wonder if she is listening to it, too. Not this time, though, for as I poured the coffee into my mug, I glanced up at the kitchen clock and knew that she and Dad were on their way to London, to spend Christmas with my youngest brother and family.
I drank the coffee in bed whilst reading ‘Christmas Stories’, an anthology of short fiction that my mother gave to me during my first Christmas here. It has become something of a tradition for me, re-reading my favourite stories from it each year. The first I always read, even though it is so sad, is Nabokov’s simply titled ‘Christmas’ because the language and rhythms are so achingly beautiful. Then I tend to read Truman Capote’s ‘A Christmas Memory’, followed by Dickens’ ‘The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton’ from the Pickwick Papers. Finally putting the book down, I decided to finish crocheting a hat that I am making for our trip to Washington DC on Boxing Day. I rarely, if ever, crochet or knit in bed but this morning, alone, and with the weather looking gloomy and inside feeling so cosy, it seemed the ideal thing to do.
Later, I telephoned my brother David, to wish him a happy Christmas, knowing that he and his close friend Annique were about to leave for Molly’s. The line was poor so we said our goodbyes and then I got in the car headed for Eisenhower Park, in the far north of the city. I only discovered this park recently and it has become my favourite for it is just like being in the heart of the hill country. The trails, which meander through prickly pear, yuccas and cedar are a favourite of roadrunners, too. Today the weather was rather gloomy but occasionally a speck of blue could be seen through the cloud and the sun managed to poke through and there were some lovely views from the higher points. A couple of doggies accompanying their owners gaily sported Christmassy kerchiefs around their necks.
As soon as I arrived back home, Mattie rang to mention a doggie she herself was keen to have, a stray she had seen wandering around, and could we have him or he’d go to a dog pound? I replied that we had enough to think about at the moment, what with Christmas and our trip to Washington. ‘I need a dog in my life,’ she insisted, dramatically, before calling off. Then Michael rang to say he was due to come home around three and I mentioned, somewhat sadly, it must be the first year that Mattie hadn’t rushed excitedly into our room in the morning to declare it was Christmas Eve.
Later today, after I have wrapped all the presents, we will have tamales for dinner, a typical (Mexican) dish for this time of year. Our neighbour John said he enjoys tamales the way they ate them when he was little, covered in chilli con carne, and he looked at me askance when I said I like tamales with salad and avocado. Michael will drink a Mexican beer to accompany his and I, a spritze (New Zealand Sauvignon mixed with Topo Chico, a Mexican sparkling water which is fizzier than the European ones). Later, we will have a drive around San Antonio to see the lights. Oh, and before I forget, Merry Christmas everyone!