“Remember that Baci is Italian for ‘kisses’!”
I have a recurring wonderful Christmas memory. I searched my blog for some mention of it and was AMAZED I’d never written it down. So, I decided, the next few days will be pretty hectic for me. I might as well do it today so that it can be documented once and for all.
One Christmas, I gotta say I had to be about 13 or 14, it was one of THOSE Christmases. Not a whole lot of gifts under the tree. Not a whole lotta cheer cause Grammy moved away to Florida so she was so far when we were wanting her near. It didn’t snow… you know… the whole… Dry-kinda-Christmas feeling. Except for one thing. Mommy had off on Christmas day. My mom was a nurses aide at Physician’s Hospital in Jackson Heights and any of you who have family members in the medical profession understand that there are UNDERSTANDABLY? no days off. Not real ones. You could schedule just so… but you can’t close the hospital down and expect the patients to care for themselves. So someone always has to be there. It was a rhythm… if she had off on Christmas one year she’d work New Years that year, but have to work on Christmas the next year but have New Year’s off – you get the idea. So we knew it was going to be great because she’d get to be with us all day. And for me and my brother… that was pure Christmas ANY DAY mommy had off. Life was just better with mom around. Happier. Quieter. Wonderful. So to have her there on Christmas DAY? was like four Christmases rolled up in one. Despite the lack of presents.
At about 13 / 14 you still are quite excited about Christmas (at least, I was). I was in the Handbell choir at school as well as the Adult Chorale so we had midnight mass the day before and the spirit was alive with me. It wasn’t about Santa so much… it was about a rejoicing. A rejuvenation of your soul. A closeness to God that you were able to proclaim audibly and not be judged if you did it… say…. July 20th. I just loved the whole essence of it. So I woke up relatively early. However, the rest of the family was just happy to be asleep. So I put my robe and slippers on… kissed my mom on the cheek as I passed her bedroom and sat in the living room. The Christmas lights were ablaze from the night before (Christmas Eve was the only night we left them on over night) so I sat and stared at the blinking lights and the shrubbery of our Christmas tree. We put Baby Jesus in his manger when we got home from mas so there he was… arms outstretched, looking quite aware for an infant and Mary, hands clasped over her heart, gazing down at him in amazement. I was taking in the whole thing and feeling very much at peace when I heard my mom’s footsteps shuffling in from the back room. She stopped in the kitchen to make coffee first and then brought out 2 cups. She came into the living room and set the cups down, put her hand on my neck and shoulder and said, “Merry Christmas, Vic.” I gleefully responded, “Merry Christmas, mama!” She went behind the tree and pulled out a gift bag – average sized gift bag and set it on the table in front of us and then sat on the love seat. “I got this at the grab bag at work yesterday, I thought you might like it.” So I tore into it thinking it was a gift for me. But it was a rather large box of Perugina Baci Chocolates. So I looked at my mom like… umm… chocolate in the AM? Can that be? And she gazed back at me and winked as if to say, “I won’t tell if you won’t tell.”
We opened the box and started each with one piece of chocolate. Wrapped in silver and blue adornment, when you unraveled it, a small piece of wax paper separated the foil from the chocolate and they had writing on them. Each little wax piece had a pretty expression of love written in 4 languages: English, French, Dutch and Italian. And then there was that sumptuous chocolate candy – sorta looked like a nipple, but I bypassed that because it was just glorious hazelnut draped in dark chocolate goodness. We savored the first piece… eyes closed and everything. When in the afterglow of our first piece, my mom picked up her wax paper and read aloud her love saying to me in french. I giggled and said that was pretty. And I picked up mine and read it to her in Italian. And this process repeated all morning long while the men of the house slept. We reveled in our chocolate delight and adorned one another’s hearts with love sayings in many tongues. I never felt so close to my mom as another human being before. In between chocolates, we talked, she shared stories of her child hood with me. And I admired her more and more with every sentence and hung off of every word.
Eventually, the boys woke up and ruined everything with their… boy-ness. LOL. But my mom hugged me closed and kissed my forehead. That was the sweetest love expression right then.
I kept the box full of wax papers for years, just to remind myself of how much I loved that day and love my mom. I don’t know where it is now. I sure wish I did. That was the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.
I love you mommy. Te amo, mami. Je t’aime, ma mere. Ti amo, mi madre.