My Christmases in Buenos Aires (I left in 1954 when I was 12) seem unreal every time Christmas is in the air in Vancouver. Some of the hottest days of the Buenos Aires summer happen around Christmas. It can be 40.
It seems more so that we used to spray our trees with a product my mother would bring from her friends at the American Embassy. It was called Noma and it was labeled as snow.
Before globalization took a firm grip Santa Claus in my Argentina was not all that well known. We called him Papá Noel. Much more exciting for us was the Epiphany on January 6 which in Latin America is called el Día de los Reyes (the Three Kings Day). On the fifth we would put shoes outside our bedroom door. The next day the shoes would overflow with toys, not the practical clothing we got on Nochebuena ( Christmas Eve). Christmas Eve was celebrated by going to Misa de Gallo (midnight Mass) and then at around 1:30 in the morning we would return to the presents.
I did not have the ordinary Christmases that my friends had. Because of my English father and the fact that my mother had friends in the American Embassy, I was given really nice toys for Christmas.
My parents would have never dared give me the wooden toys that Eva Perón would send us on January 6. Had I kept those terrible and useless wooden toys they would not be worth a lot of money.
My father’s most memorable gift was a red Schuco wind-up racer that had a real suspension and and steering. It was not long after I opened the box containing this exciting toy that I lost the key. I cried. But my father miraculously removed another key from his pocket.
From my mother my favourite gift as an American version of the English Meccano (and far better) an Erector Set. It had nuts and bolts and all kinds of metal pieces that I could have swallowed and died on the spot. It was marvellous! It came with an electric motor. I remember that I made a robot which I called Gilbert that would roll along.
I am happy to report that the Erector Set is available in the expensive Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue.
But in this day and age I would probably not find any kid with my Buenos Aires age who would be excited. When was the last time any kid you know state that when they grow up they wanted to be an engineer (of a train or of the other kind)? The kid would be disappointed not to get a smart phone or computer game.
All the above is another reason why I get depressed on Christmas Eve. I miss the Buenos Aires heat. I miss my parents and the excitement and challenging strain of attempting to stay awake at Midnight Mass.
In those long gone days we were careful in opening our gifts. Now my granddaughters rip off the gift wrapping that my Rosemary does so well.
And finally to end this pre-Christmassy rant I have to point out that when I arrived in Vancouver in 1975, while watching TV I found out something about myself I did not know. I told Rosemary who was in the kitchen (or somewhere else), “Rosemary, according to this TV ad it seems I have something called dyslexia.”
If I were to start again on my career in Vancouver I would become a lawyer and sue Toys Are Us for their backwards R.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.