When I was 5 or 6 years old, I used to live in a ranch with my parents. It was my grandfather’s ranch in those years. My dad used to come into town to take my grandfather to the ranch, so he could be with us during Christmas.
I remember one Christmas, it was so cold, the trees were frozen with ice. The fire in the fireplace was going full blast. My grandfather had bought oranges for me and asked me if I had ever had a cooked orange. I said, “No,” so he put the orange under the hot ashes and, with a stick, kept turning it until it was done. Then he peeled it with his knife. It was so delicious.
One thing I didn’t like about him was that, every September, he would go to Dr. Miller’s office and pay for my flu shot without telling my dad, and Dr. Miller would send the letter with the scheduled appointment. Oh, how I hated that letter! But it would ease up, because on the way to the clinic, we would go to grandfather’s house, and he would always say, “Instead of thinking about the needle, think about this: It’s a dollar, but you will not get it until you come back from the clinic.”
But what hurts me more is the memory of one Christmas. I had dropped my mom’s face powder on the floor and, well, got my reward with the belt. When I started crying, he picked me up, sat me on his lap and said, “Don’t cry. I am going to tell you a very, very old story that my mother used to tell me when I was your age.” I asked what the name of the story was, and he said it was called “Las Mil y Una Noche.” (He didn’t speak English. But, even with that, he had a lot of friends on the Anglo side that knew Spanish. They were all his friends.) It was a beautiful story.
I am elderly now, and the other day as I was watching television, an announcement came up on an Anglo channel. It said, “Tomorrow at 6 p.m. the musical story “The Thousand and One Night” will be telecast on this channel. The next day I saw it — it was the same story my grandfather had told me. When I was seeing it in my loneliness, I could feel the sweet, hot orange in my mouth. And now that Christmas is coming and, with tears in my soul, I will say it in Spanish: “Papa Genaro, yo te hecho mucho menos alla donde estas en el cielo. Feliz Navidad. Tata.