First Mexas Christmas (or: A Very Shrapnel Holiday)

Ok, Christmas.

Officially started with vigil mass at (reportedly) 6 pm on Christmas Eve. Actual start time was closer to 6:15, which is uncharacteristically late. I’m not sure if their clocks were off, or if they were waiting for the whole electronic-bell sequence to finish playing. I’ve never heard church bells in Mexas before (though they were a familiar sound back in SJ) so maybe the bells were enough of an event to warrant starting fifteen minutes late.

At any rate, mass with the older priest is always an adventure. He’s an Italian, from Pennsylvania (I know!) and he really



loves to talk.

Not that I’m trying to stereotype Italians or anything (they’re all so unique, it’d be hard to do), but it’s been my experience that Romance-language cultures are talkers. Which, if I go back to my linguistic studies at the ol’ alma mater (Rutgers, have I mentioned?), makes perfect sense. It’s all semantics. Obviously.

We’ve timed this priest’s homilies (sermons) before, and they generally go a good 20 to 30 minutes, well beyond the time any priest speaks back in the golden land (lots of Irishmen, or Irish influenced homilies up there, and the Irish are not talkers). Our Mexas Christmas vigil service included, however, the added awesomeness of a full-on Nativity reenactment.

Complete with a duct-tape Star of Bethlehem.

The art teacher slash cat-lady (all conjecture, of course, we have no idea what she really does) was the narrator. Her voice is very deep, very husky, and very smooth. It sounds like a marriage between sandpaper and velvet. Also, she wears her hair in a ponytail, with some of that awesome “extra” ponytail you can buy at the little kiosks in the middle of the mall, to increase the volume. Also, she had extremely large, very artistic looking glasses, which she wears at the extreme tip of her nose. I would go on, but I think we can all agree. This lady is a treat.

Upon completion of the last song (I knew every song the choir sang on Christmas Eve, which is the exact opposite of my usual experience), Hubs and I rushed to HEB (Texas version of Acme/Shoprite/Kroger) before it closed (announcements were some variation of the following: “the store will close in TEN MINUTES! doors will be LOCKED IN TEN MINTUES… GO TO THE REGISTER NOW!”) to pick up some extra milk and eggs. Because here, everything is closed on Christmas. There is no Wawa to save you.

Home, and time to open our Christmas Eve gift! I’ll just put it out there right now that I am a staunch advocate of waiting as long as possible to open your gifts because it increases the overall effect once you finally get ripping into that paper. I think this was ingrained in me at an early age.

One childhood Christmas, our curfew was seven or eight in the morning (we did a reverse-curfew; weren’t allowed to leave our rooms until the time set, or so help us). Zee and I were not too old, and at least Cay and Prose were present, if not baby Hawk. Four small kids plus a Christmas curfew equals about four and half hours of feverish, frustrated waiting before we were released. I don’t specifically recall what we received on that Christmas morning, but I do remember the five hours of waiting (and watching the sun come up) had heightened the anticipation to such a pitch that approximately 50 tons of awesome were added to every gift we opened.

Thus, I have become something of a Christmas-present-opening-nazi, to my poor husband’s eternal despair.

So Christmas Eve gift-opening was fabulous. Hubs got a GNC gift card (what else do you give He-Man?) and Rae (that’s me) got a Wonder-Woman coffee mug. Into which I immediately poured some of the sweet wine we had discovered on our 10 minute trip of excellence at HEB.

Hubs had work on Christmas day. I woke up with him, at 4:15am (just like old times!) and drank some coffee out of my new WW mug while he dressed and pressed. Despite the ungodly hour, we were both amped up; Christmas was finally here, we would be able to open the gifts that had been taunting us for weeks, and we were getting a new kind of Christmas dinner (Puerto Rican!) at our friends’ house later that evening.

With Hubs safely at work (text messages shot back and forth all day in anticipation of present-opening), I got started on some cookies. Halfway through the chocolate chip phase, our Christmas dinner hostess called in a panic.

The immense pork shoulder that had been cooking merrily away in the oven for hours had taken a turn for the worse. In fact, the glass baking pan it was being held in had exploded.


I ran over with every piece of bakeware I own (thanks to all you wedding gift-givers, it was quite a bit) and stood (kind of crouched over, really) laughing for a full three minutes before I got to work peeling chunks of tempered glass off the most fragrant piece of pork I’ve ever had the pleasure of rescuing. Red, who had been notified of the explosion by a loud “BOOM,” followed by the sound of many pieces of glass hitting all interior surfaces of the oven simultaneously before collapsing into a two inch deep heap on the oven floor (right next to the red-hot heating coil, I might add), was not nearly as amused as I was to begin with.

But, thankfully, the girl is from the Northeast (and thus blessed with the best kind of humor on the face of the planet) so she was laughing merrily along by the time we were done cleaning.

Of course, I did not manage to include my camera in the pile of goods I rushed over with. Thankfully, the young lady of the house was on the job, and many fabulous photos of the Christmas shrapnel were snapped while we cleaned, swept, and laughed. Our gracious hostess wasted no time in sending them out, and I include them in my Christmas picture collage as an homage to the epic-ness of the event.

Later, after the sugar cookies were out of the oven and the peanut butter kisses were sufficiently cooled, I headed back over to the party house to “help” make a dish called pastelitos, a pastry that is extremely popular in PR (and in PR communities throughout the world). They’re similar to turnovers, but (according to the experts) pretty much always fried in PR cuisine. Can I just say here, that I love fried foods. And I love breads. And I love cheese (which is what went into the Christmas pastelitos). So after having been introduced to this goodness, I’m convinced that it is a foodstuff that is served in heaven, and am renewed in my faith in the existence and love of a supreme being. Does anyone else ever have these kinds of epiphanies when eating Puerto Rican pastries?

{While searching for some useful info to share on pastelitos, I found this blog, which I will now go back and visit periodically for the cute heading, if nothing else.}

Here’s the Christmas pics, to break up the class-A narration I’ve been gracing you with.

If you’re interested in just the photos, and who’s in them, and what’s going on (ie: captions!), clicking here will take you to the Picasa album, where all will be revealed.

The boys got home, so I returned to my humble abode to meet Hubs and present-opening commenced! We had some “wow” moments (hello, Helzberg necklace AND gorgeous dress that fit perfectly, while Hubs got his kettlebell) and some good laughs. I got a cast iron skillet, which I’ve been pining for, Hubs got his box of Sham-Wow (he recites along with the commercial every time it comes on), and we both unknowingly bought each other action figures. I bought Hubs an authentic 1964 replica of the Action Marine G.I. Joe, complete with dog tag, insignia, and field manual. Hubs bought me a Jane Austen action figure, with writing desk and quill pen (Weapon of Choice: Character Study). We’re precious.

THEN we headed (together) over to Christmas dinner. Not only were the delicious pastelitos and roasted pork shoulder (glass-free!) waiting for us, but they made potato salad (SO LONG since we’ve had any) and a rice concoction (whose name I forgot) that was to die for, especially when pared with huge slices of avocado. (Um, for all my SJ readers, you may want to consider adding avocado to Christmas dinner. Just a suggestion. But the best one ever, in case you were wondering.)

After we ate, the adults sat around in a food-induced coma while the kids entertained us with a running commentary slash demonstration of every gift they had received including but not limited to a talking dollhouse, a work-bench complete with goggles, a real cap gun, handcuffs, swords, jumpropes, marbles, and many, many cars. I’m not going to lie. I was a little jealous.

We went to bed early on Christmas night, tuckered from a long day, bellies full and living room crammed with new toys. When given a chance to reflect, I’d have to say this is probably the most laid-back holiday I’ve ever experienced, exploding glass-shrapnel notwithstanding. It was one of the best as well, if for no other reason than that me and Hubs got to share it together, in our own home. And the next morning, when we woke up, we were still together.

Every year gets better.

Happy Holidays, folks, from our family to yours.

Video is a collaboration between Pomplamoose (Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn) and Wade Johnston (he’s the younger of the two guys).

4 thoughts on “First Mexas Christmas (or: A Very Shrapnel Holiday)”

  1. Rae,I loved the alt-Come All Ye Faithful! The blog is fabulous, but you know that. Still, it doesn’t hurt to say it or hear it! Vince from Sham-Wow is the best salesman I’ve ever seen. I liked the guy immediately, even though I know for a fact he is totally absorbed in selling me something I don’t need.Love you.Dad

  2. What a fun blog!Loved the action figures! and the Sham-Wows!I started looking for my credit card after watching the video.Mom L

  3. thanks for sharing your amazing Christmas! I just love your Jane Austen action figure!!!! and kitty’s tower looks like cat heaven.. seems like you had a wonderful time,despite the exploding pyrex, oh and I did enjoy the childhood Christmas memories too.. 🙂

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