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Our Christmas in Mexicali

Our Christmas Turkey

Our Christmas Turkey

Before any of our family members arrived, Jim and I went to pay our respects to our landlord, Señor Medina in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. It was also time for us to pay the rent.

Señora Medina greeted us at the door, and invited us in, which was a first! We felt this was a true honor to be invited into someone’s home in Mexico. Señor Medina asked us to sit down at the dining table, and Señora Medina asked if we would like to try her pozole.

Now, we had ordered pozole once before in a restaurant, because everyone in Mexico just loves pozole.  Since we go for hominy grits Jim thought pozole would be real good. After a couple of spoonfuls of the hominy, Jim saw the pig’s feet, and that was the end of that. Pozole is a dish of pigs feet in a brown soup sprinkled with hominy grits.

Very politely, Jim said, “No gracias,” to Señora Medina. So instead, she gave us a bunch of home-made tamales. Tamales are OK. Real nice folks, the Medinas. Anyway, after some polite conversation we returned home.

The next day, Christmas day, the first of our family to arrive were our son Jesse, his wife Maude, and their kids, Wilbur and Orville. Jesse and his family live in the Oil Junction section of Oildale, California, just north of Bakersfield, where he works as a personal trainer. They started driving in the early morning, as it is about a 6 hour drive to our place. As they got out of the car, Jesse’s wife, Maude, gave me a gallon jug of wine . Maude is such a thoughtful girl.

Next to arrive were our daughter Heather, husband, Spike, and their daughter, Savannah. They came all the way from San Mateo, where Spike is a computer analyst. They stopped overnight in Anaheim, as Mexicali is a 9 hour drive from San Mateo.

As soon as they stepped out of their car, Jim and I were struck at how grown up Savannah looked for her thirteen years.

After hugs, Savannah said, “I don’t know if Mexicali is a good place – I don’t see any black people here.”

“Well, yup,” answered Jim.

After everyone got settled in the house, I opened some cans of eggnog, and everybody marveled at the seven-foot Christmas tree that Jim and I had set up. It was a real tree, and you could smell the pine.

Then we all sat down to catch up on everyone’s business. Orville and Wilbur were destined to be football players, according to Jessie. Savannah said she had no idea what she wanted to do, and asked, “What do you do all day, here? There’s totally nothing to do here.”

“Oh, plenty,” I answered. “We go down to San Pedro Mall, shop at Wal-Mart, do a lot of things.”

“Whatever,” answered Savannah.

Spike, our son-in-law, asked Jessie, what he was up to.

“Personal training,” came back the answer.

“Oh like for celebrities?” asked Savannah, brightening up.

Jessie looked around at everybody, and answered, “Training celebrities is for sissies – I train cage fighters.”

“Cage fighters? Oh good,” Spike replied. “Wonderful,” said Heather, exchanging a glance with Savannah.

Luckily, Jessie took this to be a compliment. At six-four, and over 300 pounds, Jessie could be a cage fighter, himself. He did try, but suffered a bad knock-out in his first fight. Jim and I were so worried about him. Spike, our son-in-law, may be computer-smart, but at five-ten, and a hundred and sixty pounds soaking wet, he is no match for our boy Jessie.

“Wonder when we’re gonna see Matthew,” said Jim, a bit worried.

Well, after going around like that, Matthew or no Matthew, the turkey was ready, so we all sat down at the table for Christmas dinner.



Christmas in Mexico is a bit different than in the U.S. In Mexico, Christmas dinner is on Christmas Eve. We stick to Christmas day.

Along with the turkey, Mexicans usually have tamales and pozole. After dinner, there are a lot of fireworks and firecrackers – all night long – and all through Christmas day.

So, to the tune of popping firecrackers, we all sat down to Christmas dinner, which was a big hit with everyone, but Savannah. “Why don’t you have some of your turkey, honey” I said to her.

“Like I want to get fat!” she answered, pushing her plate away.

Dinner over – it was time for presents.

Willie got his checkered woolen shirt with the two crisp one dollar bills, and we gave Orville the same, which was only right. Somehow, both boys thought the dollar bills were funny, and started laughing and waving them in the air.

It was a lot tougher for us to get a present for Savannah – we really had to think hard…

Savannah slowly unwrapped her Christmas present, as we all watched. When it was opened, she stared at it for a moment, looked at me, and asked, “Grandma, what is this?”

“I knew you would be surprised, Savannah – it’s a pink ballet mouse back pack – you wear it on your back – look at the instruction photo,” I said – happy that we were able to give her something so unexpected.

Pink mouse pack

Pink mouse pack

Savannah looked at the photo, which showed how the pink ballet mouse back pack straps onto your back. She passed it to Spike, and he showed it to Heather – then, all of a sudden, they all broke out laughing. They were happy! Jim and I were happy too. It’s not easy to please kids, these days!

“Try it on, try it on, Savannah,” Spike said, still laughing. She did, and I have never seen Savannah look cuter than with the pink ballet mouse back pack strapped on her. She is such a doll!

Once the laughter died down, our boy Jessie, who was not laughing, said, “Mom, Dad, I know we have all agreed to give presents only to the kids, but I have one for you…”

Jessie was interrupted by a knock on the door – it was Uncle Matthew!

Jim sprang up and gave Matthew a bear hug. Then it was hugs all around.

“Matthew, sit down, sit down – eat your Christmas dinner,” I said.

“Well of course, but first I have to do something…”

“What?” we all asked.

With a theatrical wave of his hand, as only Matthew can do, he said, “I must sing for my supper.”

“But Matthew, we’ve got no piano, or anything,” said Jim.

“No bother,” said Matthew, “I shall sing a cappella.”

“Hey, where did you learn Spanish?” asked Jessie.

Without further ado, Matthew sang Amazing Grace, Jim’s favorite. By the time Matthew was halfway through, Jim had tears in his eyes. What a performer! What a great Christmas!

Bowing at the end of his performance, Matthew took his place at the table.

“Mom, Dad, as I was saying, I have a present for you,” said Jessie, standing up.

“You know, a lotta folks joke about Oildale,” continued Jessie, “but Merle Haggard comes from there, and his famous boxcar boyhood home is still there today, with folks livin in it.”

Then, looking directly at Spike, Jessie finished, “I too know a bit about history and stuff.”

Jessie passed the wrapped present to Jim, who passed it to me. Slowly, I opened it. Now the tears came to my eyes – it was just beautiful! “Oh, thank you so much Jessie. Look, Jim, we can put this on the wall.”

Jim took a look and said, “Yup, sure can.”

Jessie had given us the most beautiful plate to put on the wall. It contained a photograph of Merle Haggard.

This was the best Christmas of all!

Merle Haggard plate

Merle Haggard plate

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