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    Red Rock Christmas Story

    By walt | December 16, 2008

    I got a call from my  brother Billy asking me about a Christmas story I wrote years ago. He said he told the story to someone else and they wanted a copy of it. Took me two weeks to search through all my writings but I found it today. It was among the old “Follow Your Bliss” newsletters. Volume 5, Fall of 1996, inside one of the “Myth of Red Rock” stories. It was fun seeing the  old newsletter again maybe I will revive it somehow on this site. Yeah, like I don’t have enough to do already. Anyway Billy here is the story of one year during Christmas, in honor of our father Emmett and mother Gerrie.

    Once upon a time, outside of time, before clock radios, digital watches kept time. Long ago before time was captured so we would know what time looked like. There was a time of spirit and a place called Oak Forrest where we as children lived.

    It was in that forest along the waterways of White Oak Bayou my nine siblings and I grew up. There in the bend of the bayou, where the stream slowed and the water went deep, cutting through a shear high sandy bank  lined with weeping willows. Several sloping trails cut through the bush that lead to soft white sugar sand near the waters edge. Here just far enough not to be able to leap onto but close enough to bridge with a plank of wood was a magical spot, a Island of red clay “Red Rock” at least that is what us locals called this safe harbor. Here time stood still. The veil of reality opened up to the experiences of the moment, allowing us to transcend space and time. Here is where my great, great, great uncle Stanku’s  Watonga tribe roamed a millennium ago.

    On the way to Red Rock one early winter day I sensed Uncle Stanku’s Spirit in the cool breeze. I looked upstream and there he was near the beaver dam. He was praying . I could tell ’cause he always danced in a slow circle when he talked to the Great Mystery (his words for the Creator). I stood still out of respect. No need to holler out I was coming because Stanku had sensed my presence miles back. My Head dropped in reverence, then I too looked up at the blue sky and began my own grateful prayer. I saw him sit down, then I approached him, waiting his nod then sat facing him. “Nephew how goes it with you.” he asked. I told him I was heading to altar boy practice to get ready for the big Christmas Eve High Mass Ceremony.

    “Yes” he softly spoke “ceremony is very important”!  He continued tenderly, “When human beings gather with intention, and prayer magic happens, we become one with the Spirit. Each tribe is responsible for their role in joining with Creator, to breathe life into the universe, in their own special way.  Just like each one of us has a mission, to line ourselves up with the Great Mystery’s breath. Then we flow in the song and dance meant only for us. That is the power of ceremony. Even the Tree Tribe has it’s ceremony of giving of it’s self so the oxygen tribes can live. Remember the Spirit of the Give-a-way.

    He stood up to leave. He held his hand flat in front of him signaling a good smooth journey. I left heading south toward the old gas pipe line that crossed the bayou near Red Rock. I could shave off twenty minutes crossing via the pipe and going through the woods.

    Crossing the pipe was a Rite of Passage in it’s self – you could get real wet. This time I found the slightly bent six inch pipe dry about three feet above the bayou. Attitude is the most important thing when  approaching the crossing pipe. As my tennis shoes first touched the pipe I felt its curved sandy surface.  I would tell myself “You can do this ” and then start walking before my doubts had a chance to form. Using my fear to help me focus on the next step I would practically run across this balance beam like bridge to the opposite bank.

    Later at church the Pastor  would shout “who brought this sand onto the church rug?”. My black high top P. F. Flyer’s tennis shoes didn’t  hide white sand very well. The little Italian Priest continued his rant, “this is our last practice before Midnight Mass and I want it to go real smooth. Each one of you has a job to do and I expect each of you to do it perfectly, be back here at eleven o’clock sharp.” My brothers and I looked at each other kind of  scared of this Napoleon.

    That evening at the dinner table on Christmas Eve Mom and Dad asked all ten of us to go into our rooms and find some clothes and toys we where willing to  give away to a family in need.  I remember the excitement and the spirit we all had as we each put our own items into the give-a-way box. Some pain hit my stomach as my older brother Rich put his baseball glove in the box. I always wanted that mitt and was hoping for a hand me down when he got a new one someday. I was really struggling with my feelings as I tossed my  Robot into the mix on top of Jimmy’s Lincoln logs. We boys came back to the kitchen with our cache.  The girls entered w ith a  box filled to the top with toys and clothes. There where old jackets, colorful dresses, assorted shoes, wool blankets, denim pants, a pocket knife, worn pencils, coloring books and a not quite full large box of crayons. Dolls some brand new but the majority in  states of anatomical disrepair from the us boys playing ruff with them. I know I had chewed a few fingers off Julies favorite one during a  nervous night of “Twilight Zone”. Mom and Dad came into the Kitchen  with their loot. Dad carried old grey Stetson hat, brown belt, pair of black dress pants, old wallet, and stainless steel money clip with ” Jacuzzi Pump’s ” logo engraved on it. Mom saw the clip  and said ” Dante Jacuzzi gave you that”. Dad didn’t respond just gave her his iconic grin. In her hands mom had a laundry basket full of things. A half dozen maternity pants with mismatched  tops, old iron, costume jewelry necklace, pair of green high heel shoe’s and a complete set of baby bottles, rubber nipples, brush and steam sterilizer,

    “This will do” Dad said to us all honorably. “Take it all outside and load it into the station wagon”.

    The plan was to deliver the gifts at dusk then after dark watch the Xmas lights come on as we returned and get ready for church. Oh and if we where good we might get some hot chocolate. Dad told us all to load up. So we piled inside the Red 1950 station wagon fighting for our favorite territory along the tweed covered seats. My brothers Steve, Billy and I crawled into the way-back with the boxes. A fight irrupted when someone got elbowed by another that started a chain reaction like dogs inside a movable den. One push from one caused another to feel squeezed  and rebounded through the Kids area’s. We where all being reprimanded. Dad lost his temper and burst out with threatening words of force to calm the tribe. Mom promised to call the whole thing off if we didn’t settle down and behave. I thought yeah like a normal family of twelve cramped inside a station wagon. But we all snapped to attention when she threatened “HOLY MARY” to take away the hot chocolate.

    It was getting darker by the minute we backed out the driveway on Saxon and headed towards the old brick yard along the north west Rail Road tracks off Mangum Drive. Some houses where already lit up. Anne-Karen said in unison “let’s sing some carols!” I didn’t feel like singing I was still stuck in my warrior mode trying to find just a skouch more room. I was also feeling sorry for myself cause me and Steve seemed to always end up in the back and the heater never seemed to reach the way back. I was pouting so where others I could tell cause there was no spirit in “Frosty the Snowman”.

    The windows where fogging up just like the tension inside the wagon as we drove to the other side of our neighborhood. Across the tracks and down a dirt road. The caravan pulled up in front of small shack at the end of the brickyard road. The house was a old shot gun style shack  broken down and barley standing . Everyone was quite now staring straight ahead. We could see by the headlights my father walking up the rickety old steps he banged on the loose door.

    A man came to the door my father spoke Spanish to him I could tell because dads mouth, cheeks and tongue always morphed into a totally different shape when he poke his child hood Spanish. Then I heard the man respond” Buenos Notches Senior’ then,  Se Senior, Mochas’ Gracias. I noticed some people looking out the partially boarded up  broken windows. Dad came back to the rear of the wagon opened the tail gate letting in the freezing blue Northern air. “Help me with these box’s and gifts” said dad. Instantly we all rolled out of the wagon, doors flying open  totally interested in helping. We began ferrying boxes and clothes and tricycles into the cabin. I will never forget what I saw inside that rundown house. In one corner some children where huddled together inside of a cardboard box with some newspaper covering them to keep warm. The little girl’s nose was running and she had little clothes on but a diaper made of an old green rag. The other four seemed older but they two where shivering from the cold. Next to them a woman sat on stacked card board breast feeding a infant she held wrapped in  worn newspaper. The smell of musk filled my nose until I walked forward into another smell. Onions. the delicious smell of onions frying. In front of me was a one burner hotplate where a old woman dressed in a ragged red dress stood kneading tortillas, now and then stirring onions in a handle less bent pan.  The old woman smiled a toothless smile. The children where wide eyed now looking over at the loot we just brought In. I  went outside and down the steps for another load of gifts, only to find they hand all been taken into the house. Work goes fast when everyone is chipping in.

    “Gracias…Muchas Gracias,” the father was saying over and over to my father. My mother carried my brother Billy on her hip walked up to the man  hung her purse strap by her teeth opened the purse and handed him the envelope with our hot chocolate money in it. I felt a lump in my heart that tasted like marsh mellows it was the love I was seeing through the power of giving.

    As we drove away there was a reverent silence you could feel in the old wagon, broken only by my sister Cathy’s words” My stomach is sad Mommy.” Ann and Karen began singing “Silent Night…holy night” Mary said “all join in” it was the best I have ever heard. We continued to sing together and to ourselves, the CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SEEMED  SO MUCH BRIGHTER , the wagon was warmer , we sang our way  back home to get ready for midnight mass. “all is calm all is bright”…

    Back in the home it was a scramble to get dressed for church. With only one and a half bathrooms there was always a lineup at the doors. Finally I was dress and got my turn in the john.

    “Hurry up Walter! We are supposed to be there a hour before mass starts,” my brother Steve voiced through the closed bathroom door. I was scared really scared about my role as a altar boy in this evenings ritual. I could hear Richard go out the front door and when Dad didn’t see me with him began honking the horn. I was panicking so I kept looking through in the cabinets for something to put on my hair cause i had a terrible cow lick from my hooded sweat shirt. there’s got to be something baby oil or Brill-Cream or Wild Root  darn where is everything. Richard must be hiding his stuff for his Hollywood. Honk Honk Hooooonnnnkk honk honk. My hair stood up like I’d seen a ghost. There in the back of the cabinet some clear bottle of oily substance. I opened it and splashed it on my hair rubbed it in and drug a comb through it . Yes it laid the hair flat like a row of cut hay. Out the house I ran, jumped into the wagon and the remarks of disgust from everyone but little Mary she was glad to see me cause there was talk about leaving me again. Off Dad drove the short cut to the church. The singing started immediately. Oh come.. all ye.. faithful…

    The church was beautiful with flowers and candles and full of people already. Veteran mid night mass Catholics know to come early for a guaranteed  seat. Cause the not so regular parishioners who come to church only a couple of times a year and you wouldn’t want to be out seated by those sinners. Didn’t matter to me cause as a altar boy we had to suffer in reverence standing the whole hour and a half.

    In the vestibule all the boy’s where getting their royal maroon robe on with the pure white caste on top. There where not enough smalls to go around and someone grabbed the last one out of my hand. Now all I coud find was a medium that was dragging the floor when I got it buttoned and stood up I almost tripped. Steve saw my dilemma and helped me do the nerdy last one to get dressed improvise job of taking off my belt and wrapping it  around the lot then we tightened it with a fold at my waste Steve laughed cause now I had the high-water look with white socks showing. Out of time we grabbed our candelabras and lined up outside according to height for the procession into the church. Steve in front of me and Richard behind we all began the slow march into church. Incense burning my brother started sniffing my head as he was nose to head next to me. “What is that smell?” Richard said Then he blurted out the answer to his question. “That’s 6 -12 insect repellent on your hair isn’t it?” “Yeah it was the only thing I could find,” I said back sheepishly. But Steve overheard it and busted out laughing setting of a chain reaction of muffled laughter between the two of them, I wanted to die. The whole church is now looking at us and smelling me I thought. Well those two better stop laughing before we pass our families pew or Dad will kill us. The laughter seem to die but I couldn’t stand it, I did what I always do when scared. I cracked a joke turning my head towards Richard and saying “Don’t see any mosquitoes do ya?” Now all three of us where laughing and can’t stop cause we are doing the laughing in church thing. When splash I got thumped up side the head wth the holy water wand by Napoleon and Steve was hit with the incense smoker and we all became holy again.   Merry Christmas Everyone!


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