Chapter 12: December 24, Last Year
Ah, it's a good place, there's even a fresh breeze that goes well with this damn heat. It comes from the ridge, doesn't it?
Is it São Bernardo yet?
No? But we're close, aren't we?
Yeah, I thought so. Look there, you can see Imigrantes! Geez, how full it is! People are going to the beach – are they going to get there on time? The Sun is already quite down. I think they'll spend Christmas on the road, oh yeah! What a thing, huh?
But this view is very pretty: orange sky, Sun setting quite strong behind the building... Very pretty, indeed, oh yes.
Sorry for what, brother?
Ah, there's nothing to be sorry for. We know that things are like that. This place near the zoo was good even, you were right; but how were we supposed to know that there was going to have those angry people there?
Yeah, they were angry indeed, they got us out the moment they saw us, hehe! But it won't be a thing, brother, you can be cool, it's like that, we already knew... But look now, what a cozy and calm place we are! Let's spend the night here today and tomorrow, and if God allows so, we'll think of what to do. Tomorrow is Christmas and you know how it is: the bins will be full of nice things for us, hehe! Who knows if we can even grab a good piece of pork ham, right? Hmm, pork ham would taste quite well, don't you think? If God allows so, we'll find one tomorrow...
See, I got the pork ham on my mind! Actually, in my mouth, hehe, I'm watering.
Yeah, I like pork ham very much, yeah. My late mother, may she rest in peace, used to make a pork ham that was unbeatable. She would spend the whole day on Christmas Eve taking care of the kitchen but mainly the pork ham. Pork was her forte, she had a very good hand for spices. She would bake it right, the pork wouldn't be rare or dry, you know? It would be well done!
In the evening, we used to go to her place for the Christmas supper. It was always like this, since I was a child and it kept on going after I got married. My brother would always go, too. Only my sister would spend Christmas with her in-laws and New Year's with us. And just so we wouldn't argue, my brother's in-laws and mine spent Christmas with us, too. Plus some uncles and family friends, and the house would be crowded. My mother, due to the rush, got very irritated and blushing, hehe. Everybody tried to avoid her or else, you know, hehe, Italian lady, you know how it is. But it was when she would come back from the Mass of the Rooster, put on the table and everybody would make a prayer, that she would calm down and had her big moment then: everybody feasting with the supper she had prepared. The prayer was made by my father, but after he passed away, my brother started doing it. He was the oldest and I was just a boy. But I was never keen on making the prayer, I never thought I was good to make prayers in public and my brother did it as well as my old man used to!
But she wouldn't serve the pork ham with all the food. She would leave it for later, for its moment. We started to eat and after a few minutes, when she made sure everybody was already eating, she would bring, proud and with a fat smile on her face, the tray with the pork ham still smoking. It was a very beautiful scene, you know? She got very glad in that moment and, mainly, when she saw the satisfaction in the faces of everybody.
We would eat and we would eat! After we would have our Secret Santa, exchange gifts and talk until late at night. And you think she would go to bed early? No way! She would still get everything in place and helped putting the kids to sleep. My mother was a very strong woman, she suffered a lot, but I never saw her faltering. She got widowed early in life and ended up raising the kids alone.
Christmas was always a very important date in my family. My parents would follow all the religious and festive rituals strictly. My mother wouldn't let anything changing after my father died. I think it was on Christmas's Eve that she felt closer to him. You could see the changes in her from the beginning of the month. Sometimes I saw her on the backyard, while the food was on the stove, taking short steps and with red eyes.
Christmas Eves were always very pleasant at home. I mean, except for one night, in which I was already lost and, as usual, got drunk, blew everything up and saw my mother crying for the first time. I know she wasn't crying for the way my life was - especially because that was always seen as my slacking off by all my family - but for the failure of all her work for such expected Christmas evening. That was the last time I participated, and after that, things got worse. My mother got sick in between and in two months she died. It was very quick.
Yeah... It's not easy, oh no!
But it was very good. I can still see the scene clearly: the table all set, everybody gathered with happy faces eating, drinking and having fun. My kids eating fast to go back to running and playing with other kids. My wife all dressed up, sitting by my mother, talking as if it were her own mother, smiling. My mother proud and, at the same time, with a zealous look. A beautiful gaze! My mother had a beautiful gaze! It looks like I'm seeing the two women of my life, right in front of me now, smiling at me while I eat my pork ham, hehe.
That's why, brother, that I like pork ham so much. It brings me back very good memories, of a time in which there was a lot of joy, difficulties were other ones, but we were always together. One helping the other... What a good thing, a time that won't come back anymore...
Yeah... Everything passes by in this life. We have to take care always, otherwise we're without them... My father was right... Yeah...
Isn't it, mom?
You are very beautiful!
You are surpassing yourself with this pork ham, huh?
Yes, mom, it's better than ever, hehe! Don't you think, honey?
You see, mom, I did mean it!
Honey, don't the kids want to eat more?
Ah, let them play, then, they are having fun with their cousins, hehe!
I love you, too!
Mom, can you pass me the rice, please! Yeah! Thank you!
Would you like some pork ham, doc? It's delicious, my mom did it! There it is, help yourself. Give some to your missus, too.
Dad, are we getting at the beach in time? The road's too crowded, can you see it? Isn't it better if we go back? If we arrive late for the supper mom's going to get really angry!
Tomorrow you'll take me to play soccer?
Yay! Can I take the new tanned leather soccer ball I got?
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