Not Your Usual Kind of Christmas

My mother is a strong, focused lady and nothing will stop her in reaching her goals. In her younger days she worked her fingers-to-the-bone to be successful. She got her degree and even had her own business. She was so focused and so motivated.

She had this dream to get the whole family to the United States and people in her town did not understand why she wanted to leave. They would make fun of her and even call her names.

My mother is a strong, focused lady and nothing will stop her in reaching her goals. In her younger days she worked her fingers-to-the-bone to be successful. She got her degree and even had her own business. She was so focused and so motivated.

She had this dream to get the whole family to the United States and people in her town did not understand why she wanted to leave. They would make fun of her and even call her names.

When we got here, she remained focused. Still worked her fingers-to-the-bone so time to make friends was not a top priority. Looking back, I can see that her tough character & her focus were a way to protect herself from people’s opinions.

But now that we are settling into our new house, it looks like she is ready to try again. She has made friends with a few ladies at church. But again, her tough coat has been misunderstood and there are a few ladies who do not get her level of focus or her motivation.

Yesterday she had an argument with the wife of a deacon. Mom had been asking around if any of the ladies needed a seamstress to make dresses for Christmas. My mother explained “I’m starting a new business…” and the deacon’s wife interrupted her.

“Why do you consider yourself to be better then the rest of us?” She complained to my mother.

“Isn’t a job at a factory good enough for you?” the lady stabbed deep into my mother’s ego.

But I know a ‘job’ is not enough for my mother. Needless to say mom butt heads with this lady and several other ladies from the church group.

But mom just lets this go…

A few weeks back, this lady was doing a collection of unwanted clothes for the poor & needy. My father committed himself to donate clothes. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had donated several bags of clothes, that we did not use anymore.

At the Wednesday service before Christmas, the ladies’ church group made one last request for more unwanted clothes. “There is a desperate need for these items…” was the last plea. Nobody raised their hands, and at the last minute my father raised his. Once again, he committed the whole family.

Now for Saturday service, we dragged a big bag of clothes with us on the train. Danny & I taking turns to carry the heavy bag. We carried it for the 1hr commute to the Adventist Church. There my father handed the bag over to this lady. Danny gave up a green hooded, parka. It’s only problem was that it was old & had holes in the pockets. I gave up my US Navy blue Pea coat. It had beautiful brass buttons & only a small tear in the elbow. Mom gave up a nice brown coat with a white fur collar. Even though the fur was fake & a little dirty, she liked it.

begrudgingly she too gave it up for those more needy…

All because my dad said “the poor do not have clothes to keep them warm this winter and you have plenty to spare!”

Saturday church service was beautiful and the Christmas theme left us feeling that giving up our items for the benefit of others was a good idea.

It is what a “good Christian” should do – right?

But now walking out of Saturday service, we see a difference in the floor mats the church is using. Stretched out on the floor were my mom’s fur-collar coat; my blue Pea coat & Danny’s green parka there on the floor for people to wipe their feet.

This cut deep, like a knife, straight thru my mother’s heart. She had allowed herself to be vulnerable and allowed people in. But now this lady had taken a direct hit at mom. I don’t know why… envy… anger… jealousy…

But again my mother lets this go and just moves on – like always. This time, I know the pain was a little deeper.

A neighbor saw us walking & offered us a ride home. Mom was quiet all the way home and nobody else dare break the silence. All we could do was listen to Delta Dawn playing on the radio. I guess mom being vulnerable is now like a faded rose from days gone by…

When we got home, mom went straight up to her room. I hope we can find a way to cheer her up before Christmas.

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Catholic Girls Start Much Too Late

When I got home from school I went straight to mom’s factory. Mom is preparing an order that needs to be delivered today. Marga was feeling sick, so I had to sit at the blindstitch machine and finish off some hems.

BlindStitch MachinePatty was turning the belts inside out & as soon as I finish off these hems, the dresses go to Nancy. She trims off the excess threads that may be hanging and cleans the garment. From there Nancy will pass them off to dad for a steam ironing. Then Daniel will place them on a hanger & bag them.

We need to finish the last fifteen dresses and the order will be ready to go. The order is finalized by around 3:30 and Daniel needs to drive into the city – into Chinatown to deliver the order.

“No mom, I don’t have any homework! Can I go with Danny?” I lied to my mom so she can let me go.

We loaded up the bug and off we go. The car is so overloaded with garments that my seat on the passenger side is pushed so close to the front that my knees are hitting the dashboard.

We drive north on the New Jersey Turnpike. Get off on the Holland Tunnel Exit No 14 and cross into the City right before 5:45pm – right before they closed the receiving dock. This order was a test of 50 garments to see if mom would get the full order of 1000 garments. If we were to miss the deadline, she would not have gotten a chance at it, so luckily we made it in time. He goes upstairs to make the delivery, while I sit in the car keeping an eye on it.

Now we can drive back into New Jersey without a worry. Getting back in the car, we drive uptown and towards the Lincoln Tunnel.

“Daniel! where are we going?” I question.

“We have one more stop before we can go home.” Daniel tells me. “We need to drop off a sewing order to Sra. Garcia in West New York.”

I lay back – now that I have some leg room – and decide to take a nap. When I wake up, I hear Daniel playing some brand new songs from Billy Joel’s latest album, The Stranger. Sitting in traffic, we are enjoying the whole album

As we pull up to Sra. Garcia’s house, the song “Only the Good Die Young” comes on and I just realized why we drove north for an extra 1/2hr. This is where Maria lives!

There she is walking home in her Catholic School uniform. Daniel is so excited.

“Come out Virginia, don’t let me wait…”

“Pass me that bundle from the back seat!” Daniel asks me.

He puts the bundle on his lap and brushes his hair. I reach for the door handle & he stops me.

“No, I need you to wait here & keep an eye on the car.”

OK I guess I can use this time to actually get my homework done.

As Daniel goes into the house, I turn on the overhead light & the radio.

I go back to listening as Billy Joel continue…

You Catholic girls start much too late…

But sooner or later it comes down to fate.

I might as well be the one...”

I completed my homework & am still waiting. I’ve listened to the whole tape and its now repeating again.

Ice is forming on the windows, from the cold outside. Daniel is still not back and I’m starting to get pissed.

They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the sinners are much more fun…

you know that only the good die young
that’s what i said
i tell ya
only the good die young…

“What is taking so long. It’s freezing in here!” I yell out loud in frustration…

I coverup with some of the fabrics and doze off for a bit. Then I am awaken by Daniel banging on the glass! I freak out not realizing it’s him banging. He walks in with a smile on his face. It looks like he might have gotten a kiss from Maria – but he’s not talking.

“She’s a nice girl!” I can’t kiss & tell.” He replies as he pulls out into the street.

Its now 9pm and away we go! We are heading home having accomplished more then we had originally planned.

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Have You Never Been Happy Just To Hear Your Song…

Tonight is the final dance of the summer. All summer long I’ve wanted to dance with Joan.

There is something about her eyes that makes my heart beat twice as fast.

Just the idea of holding her soft hand makes my knees buckle.

And being able to stand next to her and smell the sweetness of her skin just warms my soul.

All year long I’ve wanted to say hi to her, but I’ve been too shy and could not even bring myself to walk up to her. Now summer camp is almost over and I still have not gotten the nerve to talk to her.

So imagine! Actually getting to dance with her tonight surely seems unlikely.

Eddie, my best friend, laughs at me. He says all I have to do is ask. “The worst that could happen is that she says no…” But this is what scares me! “What if she does say no?”

“Forget that man! The dance is about to start and we need to check out the hot girls.”

Eddie, a couple of friends & I are are hanging out in front of the dance hall. Checking out every girl that walks by. I do not notice any of them. The only girl I’m looking for is Joan. Sadly, she is nowhere to be found.

“Lets go in. The dance is starting!” Eddie yells out. I hang back to see if maybe Joan is coming around the corner of the building. But no luck.

Half hour into the dance, Eddie comes running up to me. “Joan is here! Are you going to get your nerve up and ask her to dance?” he asks.

“I don’t know if I can do it!” I reply. But deep down inside what I was really thinking is more like “I don’t know if I can – handle the rejection.” I can’t take that chance.

“You know what your problem is? You need to man up!” When he said this, I knew he was right. I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin.

“Go for it!” He eggs me on “She’s standing right over there by the punch bowl. You’ll never know until you try.”

TODAY that has to end! Summer is almost over & I’ve had my head up in the clouds. I may never get another chance.

Eddies strength & courage has given me a surge of courage.

“Eddie, I’m gonna do it! I’ll ask her to dance!”

I walk right over to her – before my injection of courage runs out. As soon as I approach her the dance song ends. I freak out & freeze for a second. But I ask anyway! “Do you want to dance?” and to my surprise she replies


I grab her hand and we walk out towards the dance floor. I’m expecting another fast dance song, but I can’t believe it – they start playing a slow romantic song.

I pause and look her in the eyes, as if asking “still wanted to dance?” – and she tugs my hand towards the dance floor. Waiting for Olivia Newton John to sing the first words, Joan whispers “Why haven’t you asked me before?”

As I’m searching for an answer, Olivia Newton John starts with…

“There was a time when I was…”

Joan steps closer to me. Suddenly the song fades to the background and all I can hear is the beating of my heart. As she tilts her head and leans in towards my shoulder, I feel my heart pounding like a drum. The beating rhythm creates a sense of peace & stillness. I allow myself to be in the moment & enjoy Joan in my arms.

Wow!! This is the greatest moment ever! We danced close together for what felt like a sweet eternity. Dancing cheek to cheek, I keep my eyes closed and savor the moment. Her hair and skin are sweet smelling – almost like roses. Her hands are soft and warm. Her fingertips firmly squeezing my hand.

The 3 1/2 minutes of this song, felt like a sweet eternity. I wanted it to last, but the song finishes with…

“Have you never been happy, just to hear your song…”

Yes, I am happy and a song of fulfillment is now playing in my heart.

Joan’s friends came up to her and swept her away. She turns and as she is pulled away, she looks over her shoulder and smiles at me. Her friends, giggling away, are oblivious to a moment in time that I will never forget.

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