Christmas in July (1970-something)

HAZY, HOT and HUMID--Hate it!

HAZY, HOT and HUMID--Hate it!

Man, is it hot. Hot and humid. I hate hot and humid.

But it’s okay. Madrinha, Padrinho and the cousins are coming today. And that’s always good. Of course, it’s even better once they’re here, Mom has been in her cleaning frenzy for two days, and I just want to hide in my room when she’s like this.

All the windows are open. Dad insists the huge fan upstairs is enough to ventilate the whole house because it’s set on “exhaust.” None of us has the courage to tell him otherwise.

The lawn mower din outside the window whirs down and sputters out. The sudden absence of that noise helps my nerves settle a bit. I feel like I did the time I drank too much of Dad’s coffee, all wired, jittery and fluttery inside my chest and belly. I can’t wait to see my cousins. Our ages mostly match up; there are five of them and six of us. And we’re double cousins, Padrinho (which means Godfather in Portuguese) is Mom’s brother and Madrinha (our Godmother) is Dad’s sister.

I feel like I did the time I drank too much of Dad’s coffee, all wired, jittery and fluttery inside my chest and belly. I can’t wait to see my cousins.

My brother Bob spots the motor home. He sticks his head into the living room and smiles, “They’re heeeere.”

We pile out the front door, waving like crazy. Padrinho pulls the gargantuan Winnebago into our driveway. They’re waving, too.

Finally, the moment we’ve waited and prepared for—the cousins come pouring out. The air is full of squeals, hellos and laughter. For all my family’s insecurities and emotional intensity, it’s full of love, laughter, and good will that always surprises me when I don’t find it elsewhere.

“Amy Cakes! Kim, Froggy baby!”

“Debbie-kins!” We give each other big hugs and kisses. I love how it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, it’s like no time has passed.

All of us make the rounds. Always when we see family, we hug and kiss hello, and ask the grown-ups a blessing.

Abençóe,” which sounds like, “Bansa,” when I say it.

Deus abençóe,” my aunt replies, and it sounds like “Deshtabensoo” to me.

We kiss hello, “Cursa querida.” She takes my face into her soft hands and looks directly into my eyes, “Cursa linda,” she says warmly. We give each other a big hug. She is my favorite grown-up in the world. I love the way she still uses the Portuguese words. They sound so much prettier than English—“dear thing, beautiful thing.”

I give my Padrinho a big kiss and hug, too. He’s my favorite uncle.

Abençóe,” “Deus abençóe.” “Bless me,” “God bless you.” I think the world would be a nicer place if we all greeted each other this way.

ABUNDANT BLESSINGS. Abençóe,” “Deus abençóe.”

ABUNDANT BLESSINGS. Abençóe,” “Deus abençóe.”

We help them unpack. The grown-ups stand in the shade of the big tree out front and talk. I head inside. When I open the door, the warm aroma of coffee swirls around me, as welcoming as my relatives’ hugs. The dining room table is covered with coffee cups, plastic cups for soda, and sweet treats—donuts and Danish.

Everyone else starts filing inside, too.

Then we get another treat. As everyone grabbed food and drinks, Madrinha, Amy and Kim had disappeared into the motor home.

Now there’s a knock on the front door, and the jingling of bells through the open window. In come Kim, dressed like an elf; Madrinha, dressed like Santa; followed by Amy in a brown, furry reindeer suit. Madrinha puts a large canvas bag down with a thud and a “HO! HO! HO!”

"PRESENTS FOR EVERYONE!" Though their presence was the real gift.

"PRESENTS FOR EVERYONE!" Though their presence was the real gift.

“Oh!” I clap spontaneously. We all look around the room at each other, wide-eyed.

“It’s Christmas in July!” she pronounces, raising her arms and giving a slightly gravelly, mischievous laugh. She claps her hands together, “Presents for everyone!”

My Dad, Tio Louie my cousins call him, is next to me in his corner couch spot, and I see him smile between glugs of coffee. My Mom, her name is Lillian, but they call her Auntie Peep, has come out of the kitchen and stands behind the recliner, drying her hands with a dish towel. She’s smiling, too.

I love Christmas in July. I love this surprise. I love my family and am so glad they’re here.

As Madrinha hands out the last of the presents, with the help of her elf and reindeer, I think they really must love us, too. They drove all that way, then put on those costumes on a hot, humid day in the middle of July.

And that is very cool.

WICKED COOL--July's heat tempered by a cool yule. "Christmas in July" is an excerpt from my memoir-in-progress, Kale Soup: Life by the Spoonful. This piece was chosen as part of the Memoir Project, "Bookmarks: Family at the Holidays," at The Arts Center of the Capital Region.

WICKED COOL--July's heat tempered by a cool yule.

"Christmas in July" is an excerpt from my memoir-in-progress, Kale Soup: Life by the Spoonful. This piece was chosen as part of the Memoir Project, "Bookmarks: Family at the Holidays," at The Arts Center of the Capital Region.