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07 December, 2011


Feliz Fiestas, gente!!!  Merry Christmas!!!!  Alot has happened (as usual) and in the next blog I will catch you up, for now though, I am going to set aside with the info dropping on this blog and take the time to take part in a writing project/virtual tour set for the Holidays!!!

So the way this goes:

23 writers were organized by la mera, mera, Icess Fernandez to write poetry, prose, or fiction based on the Holidays - throughout the month of December, you will be treated to over 20 different writers lending their talents to this writing project tour.  I am the 6th stop of the Holiday Blog Tour - if you want to catch up on the previous day's blog, check out that here . If you want to get more info, then check out Icess' blog and keep a look out for the Holiday Blog Tour 2011.

So here is my contribution:

Worst. Christmas. Ever. (A Memoir Piece for the Ages)

Picture a young me at seventeen years of age. Clinton was President of the U.S., Boyz to Men were still big, gas was cheap and I had just received the keys for the hand-me-down F150 (navy blue) in November. THERE WAS NO INTERNET, beppers were for doctors, and cell phones were for drug dealers and heavy. I was single, somewhat broke (I had only been working for Moody Garden's catering department for only like 6 months).  School was good and were just about to plan and vote for the next year's Spring Musical at my high school. I was knee deep in school, girls, a few books, and Quinceneras.

One of the many family traditions in the Mendez household including a few low-key events: my parents were far from having parties at the house (in fact, if you have ever been to Mardi Gras at my house, that Spring in '94 would only have been the second time I would have friends at the house. Well anyways, for Christmas, we would always, I mean always,  head to our church -  Reina de La Paz (sadly, Hurricane Ike took out the building and they are now located on Bolivar Penninsula) for Mid-night mass.

Now for those of you who are not Mejicano, Mexican- American, Latino, Brown, etc - let me explain for a moment what Catholicism is like for the different family members :

Mothers - you go, unless you are in a coma, have rabies, are possessed or invalid, and you rule with an iron fist any member of your family when it comes to religious aspects of the family. You make sure every sinverguenza goes to church. You watch all your family like a hawk. You and only you are allowed to help las cocineras de la iglesia to prepare dinner after mid-night mass. You make sure everyone eats a little something, you talk to your comadres after service and you absolutely make sure that you AND ONLY YOU are the one who can turn around in the middle of mass and stare, with disgust at the people who arrive late to mass and follow them with your eyes until the sit down. Pendejos. Pues, para que vienen tarde?

Sons or Daughters - you shut up, you get dressed, you call your friends that you hang out with and that go to your church and you tell them to go to church. YOu tell them you are going to be bored and don't want to be alone for the service. YOU will get roughly twenty minutes max, to hang in the salon after mid-night misa is over. When in church, shut the F**K UP, say all the prayers, don't check out the guys/girls that came to misa as well (well you can, but do it on the sly) and give the limosna. You will get to eat food, but make sure to sit with your friends. But only for a little while- someone is always judging you; la vecina, el cura, tu madre, el puto de las clases de CCE.

Father - You have two options A) Drag. Ass. Get. Drunk. Act disinterested. Fight with the wife with shitty questions like, "Why don't we just go to eight o'clock mass?" - knowing full well, you won't go.  Take for ever getting dressed, after all, since you were draggin' ass, you are the last one to take a shower and get ready. Make sure you take a beer and drink it all seconds before you enter the church. Ponte sombrero y no te lo quites cuando entres a la iglesia - chinge su madre. 
B) See beginning three sentences under what MOTHER does. Then add - lead family prayer when you enter the car, be neurotic and get to church a whole hour and half later and make all your family members prep the church for mid-night mass. Be stern and when the church is filled up and you have front row seating in mass, smile. Smile as if its going out of style and think to yourself -chinge su madre.

Additional Family Members - Do what you are told, go with the flow, after all you don't have to live with these people for the rest of your life.  Honest.

So now that you know what's what, let me get on with the story(its somewhat short):

Picture a small wood paneled church, full to the brim with every type of latino from Mexico to Costa Rica. Picture a nativity scene that takes up half the altar and blinking Christmas lights around La Virgen de Guadalupe. Yes, I know. shhh. It gets better.

So, that particular Christmas was very memorable for all the wrong reasons. Its one of those times that now you can laugh at, but no one would believe it actually happened.  Well, anyways, Christmas Eve was upon and my mother had made plans to attend Mid-night mass and had intended for all the family to go along with the program. No problem - except for some variables that would prove to be too much for one seventeen year old later that night: add one cucharada de postpartum depression and another of Mejicano filled with budlight and you have the makings for a great night.

A few days before Christmas Eve, my cousin had just given birth to a beautiful little girl and begun her her life as a mother. But before that feeling could last, her husband and her had decided to let him take the newborn to Mexico for Christmas. The idea being, he could introduce her to her family in Mexico and since my cousin had no papers at the time, she would have to sacrifice and stay here. With us. With postpartum depression.

So now add this heartbreaking situation on top of the fact that I was already not in the mood to attend mass and add my father who con puro gusto began to drink it up until he was a hot mess, and you have an angry mother of the house.

We make our way to Reina de la Paz. We get there so early, we are able to get in on the left side of the church, in the third pew no less. Left side  was great. As a young man, you could check out any girl in the crowd, see who was falling asleep and lead an escape or "early release"before mass ended. But no, that all goes to hell when you sit in the front, You can feel people's eyes digging into the back of your head. Judging. Whispering, and if you have any friends or potential dating opportunities, they get to see you and yours like a scientist views slides in a microscope.

We arrived at church, took a seat and soon the place was packed and service had begun. Now the fun begins. Our section of the pew contains a drunk man, a really depressed new mom who keeps crying, a pissed off mother and me, totally at a loss for words. Service begins and there is now a new variable that, at least for me, makes the evening enjoyable: the priest has a hot body mic. It picks up the bass in his voice and the noise his throat makes every time he swallows. I don't know how many times it happened. I had to spend the majority of mass trying not to bust out laughing as those noises and sounds kept waking up viejitos and babies the rest of the evening. Yeah, that body mic was hot and loud.

So there we are. thirty minutes into the service, my father keeps dozing off, my mother has her arms crossed and my cousin is sobbing every few minutes.  The priest gets us though a long, body mic hot homily about how family unity is important - cue my cousin and her now loud ass sobs. So now it feels like everyone my age is watching a bad train wreck.

Once Homily is over, we prep for communion and thats when the real fun begins. As the cura takes the body and blood of Christ down so he can feed the masses, I realize I have one chance to get a peek as to who is behind me. All I have to do is go get communion and wine, then walk slowly back to get to my seat. That would be the best.

Well it happens, I am even able to smile at a young lady who I have been wanting to ask out for a few weeks. I return a bit relieved to my seat. The bonus to this was that the young lady who I had been eyeing, had managed to take her and girlfriends and go take communion, but from my side of the aisle. She was even able to slip me a note and tap me on my shoulder. I was able to whisper hello to her and to some of the girls that followed. They all knew what was to transpire. Once more, they even went along to support and draw away suspicion from all the comadres in crowd. I was upbeat, slightly feeling a bit successful with this young lady. But that ended too soon.

You see, I mention the body mic and my dad's debauchery for a reason. It was what made the night unbearably painful and now funny.

As these young ladies are passing by (on the way back from getting Communion and wine), I was able to make eye contact with most of them and as I was setting my sights and enjoying the view, it happened. My father, who had gone the entire mass without even reciting one prayer or response, managed to say the one phrase that made it all a hot mess:  He sits up, looks at some of the young ladies taking communion, some of then drinking wine from the goblet, and some of them on their return. He studies them, and he looks at me. He tries to focus on them and then on me and then out of blue comes a whisper so loud, the priest's mic catches it an projects it throughout the church - He looks at them, then at me and he leans over to me and "whispers" mira mijo, mira esas putillas comulgando. 

The one good thing that came from this was my cousin stopped sobbing and crying and just stared at my dad. My mother stared at my dad and then my cousin began to cry harder. Me, well, I looked up to see the girls as they were walking past and all the faces of contentment turned to bitter angst. I could hear some gasps, I could hear some snickering (probably friends) from the back. It was rotten. It was funny. It made my mom angry, but at least, we got to get our of church early. Embarrassment, that night served its purpose - to get us out of there.  I lost the girl, but at least we were together.

That night when I got home, my mother yelled and screamed at my dad, my dad tried to defend his actions by saying "yo nomas dije la verdad" and my poor cousin, finally went to bed. My parents fought on their way to bed and by 1:45 I could still hear them until finally by 2:00am in the morning, it was silent.   In all the chaos, no one had opened any gifts. So, feeling as if i deserved a reward for such a crazy night, I reached under the Christmas tree(totally decorated in simple lights) and pulled out a small envelope. I opened it. It was a blue/snowy background of a card with a snow covered Christmas tree totally decorated in silver trimmings. There was no writing on the cover of the card. I opened the card and it was blank, except for six words:

Para un gran hijo, Feliz Navidad.

I smiled, for in the card, aside from the writing, I found a smaller envelope with sixty-five dollars - one half of the money I needed to pay for my graduation ring. To this day, I don't know how they knew I only needed the sixty-five dollars.  I had never told them about the ring, nor the design, nor that I had already made the first payment in October and that the second and final payment was due in January. I never brought the Josten order brochure home, never even mentioned a wanted a damn graduation ring. But they knew.  It was then that I learned not to care about what other people were doing outside my house. Mi gente, my family, my mom and dad, as nuts as they seemed were spot on the best they could be. I could ask for nothing better, and, I never have.

They still fight when they go to mid-night mass, and my dad still has a shot of tequila before the leave, and they are late when they get there, but they get there. Who could ask for anything more? Best. Christmas. Ever.

Hope you liked it!!!  - Now, please, please, please, check out the next stop on the Holiday Blog tour with the lovely Natasha Oliver . Her Holiday blog should be up tomorrow. Enjoy!!!


  1. This a great story, Lupe. I know all too well those midnight masses, those wooden pews that bruised our preteen knees. My parents wouldn't allows us kids to open presents until we came home from midnight mass. Call it an incentive, call it a bribe. Yet, I admit I miss those times. My grandmother was alive, my stepsister was still in Houston, and all my siblings were little, innocent, free.

    Great story and thanks for sharing!

  2. OMG! I would have sunk through the floor. What a great story. Definitely one worth retelling. And isn't it wonderful how Mami and Papi always know what you need? Congrats. --maria ferrer

  3. Super story! I laughed with the options given to the poor Father...Feliz Navidad!