A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


A Meccano - A Searing Flash From A Christmas Past
Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yo siempre te tengo presente, pero en un día como éste vos y yó hemos sido grandes protagonistas de esa hermosa ilusión de Navidad, a nuestro regreso de la misa de gallo.

¿cuántos regalos inexplicables? Nunca me voy a olvidar de tu "meccano" con ese motor eléctrico. Alex, te mando un gran abrazo para vos Rosemary, tus dos hijas y tus nietitas, esas flores que son orgullo de tu cámara fotográfica.


The above Christmas email from my first cousin Wenci from Argentina opened in me all kinds of memories of extremely hot Christmas Eves as I watched the snow fall last night. My granddaughters Rebecca and Lauren opened their presents. I had been unable to convince anybody (a joke of mine every Christmas) that we had to wait until midnight to open the presents. Rebecca could see through it all and simply said, "We are either going to open them before the Christmas portrait or after."

My cousin Wenci's email is accurate in every respect except for that Meccano. It wasn't a Meccano. My mother had somehow obtained from someone at the Buenos Aires American Embassy a much better (and cooler) American Erector Set invented by A.C. Gilbert. It came with that electric motor that so impressed Wenci and I remember making a walking (it really only rolled) robot that I affectionately called Gilbert after the inventor. Here is Wenci's email translated:

You are always in my thoughts but on a day like today, you and I, have been protagonists of that beautiful illusion that is Christmas when we would return from Midnight Mass.

How many unexplainable gifts? I will never forget that Meccano with its electric motor. Alex I send you an abrazo to you and Rosemary, to your two daughters and to your two flowers, your granddaughters who are a pride of your camera.

Abraham Rogatnick told me he felt too frail to come particularly when he looked out of his window and saw all that snow. His presence was palpable at the dinner table as I had cooked without onions. Abraham is alergic to them. Even Rosemary did not put onions in her trademark stuffing for our large roaster chicken.

My son-in-law Bruce Stewart was working late into Christmas Eve so his side of the family was represented by the presence of his mother Marjorie Stewart (in the photos here she is on the right). In the second picture, which was really the first one I took that evening (with b+w Polaroid), I attempted to include our cats. Rosemary is holding Toby and I my female Plata who was not in the least happy. After one exposure that was it. The second picture is better as we are not worried about the cats. I am wearing a plastic crown that came in the Christmas crackers that Rosemary buys at VanDusen every year.

Today is a perfect day to do nothing and to somehow try to incorporate in my mind the memories of those hot Christmas Eves in Buenos Aires and the sense of loss that they will never return. For me, every Christmas is like dying a bit. Something is taken away to be lodged into the back of my head only to be brought back as a searing flash by an unexpected email. I wonder if my father thought about it in the same way? Did he also think that Christmasses are the occasions in which we adults prepare fond memories for our children so that some day they will be in the same sad/happy situation I find myself now?

Christmas to me is watching (but more so listening to the sounds of) Rosemary carefully wrapping all those presents and then seeing the very same presents torn open with the wrapping all but ignored. Christmas is a time to be sad. And as far as I can figure out that seems to be an altogether good thing.


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