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Gates Of Vienna
Christmases previous needs to be hung up to dry here at Gates of Vienna.
A Merry You-Know-What to everybody. And a cheerful, Holy Season to these whose hearts are so inclined.
Christmas at Saint Mary’s
Yeah, Christmas at an orphanage sounds bad. But when you’re six years outdated, what do you know It was Christmas, similar to everyone else.
There are parts that stand out for me. One is the hymns we ready all through Advent so we’d be prepared for Christmas morning (years later, in center faculty, the Gregorian choir was my introduction to midnight Mass. Besides getting to stay up till midnight to sing, there was the pleasure of singing “Adeste Fideles to a packed house which emitted sufficient alcohol fumes to share a little bit cheer with us, way up within the choir loft). There have been robust delineations between the hymns we sang and the Christmas carols we prepared for the college social gathering. By some means they didn’t mix again then.
Then there was the celebration on the Naval Air Station. Christmas for the Orphans, placed on by the sailors. All of us bought a current from Santa Claus — he smelled like moth balls — and loads of food. The primary year’s occasion was my introduction to black olives. I put a number of in my mouth pondering they were grapes — I ought to have been suspicious since these “grapes” had been subsequent to the carrot sticks and celery on a plate, however again then grapes were my ardour and I’d by no means seen an olive. The deeply salted style shock scarred my little gustatory psyche for years. I was twenty-three and in an Italian restaurant earlier than I ventured close to one other one.
That first yr, I used to be younger sufficient to sit on Santa’s lap. When he asked what I wanted for Christmas, I instructed him — duh — I needed to go house to my Mom. Big silence. Then he said “sure, positive, little lady,” and handed on to the lady behind me. Since I’d been praying to go dwelling ever since I’d heard about “ask and ye shall receive” I tried it like a key on anyone who gave me the opening — now not expecting an answer but impelled to ask anyway. At the social gathering, though, with the band playing carols and all the food, I by no means ruminated lengthy.
On the long ride again to the city on the Navy bus we sang Christmas carols and ate a lot of the little boxes of hard candy they’d handed out on the way in which out the door. To at the present time, “O Little City of Bethlehem” makes me think of that darkish journey on the warm bus, watching the stars first, and later the street lights as we neared town once more. It’s a song I affiliate with sleepy sweet sadness.
We additionally had our own Christmas social gathering at school. Everybody obtained up on stage and did their own solo. Mine was normally “Jolly Previous Saint Nicholas,” because of my favourite line: “Neddy desires a pair of skates, he thinks dolls are folly.” “Folly” was so international, so antiquated: I loved the concept that somebody may consider a method to use “folly” in a song. Now that I consider it, nevertheless, when “Good Golly, Miss Molly” got here to be written, my favourite phrase would have slot in effectively. But it surely never crossed Little Richard’s lips. He was obviously considering of other things in his song.
As Christmas drew nearer, we made loooong paper chains, pink and green. The paste was white and came in massive jars with brushes contained in the lid. Later, after we’d hung them on the tree, we obtained to place up angel hair as the final touch. “Angel hair” is lengthy gone as a Christmas decoration. It was made from fiberglass, finely spun, and little pieces of it became attached to the spots of glue and inevitably created myriad splinters which labored their approach into the pores and skin on my arms. I referred to as it “Christmas tree itch”; the agony took days to go away.
The nuns took us purchasing the Saturday earlier than Christmas. It’s exhausting to believe they herded sixty little women down the street to the dime retailer close to the Florida Theater, however maybe they took us in teams. After all, again then, weirdoes weren’t stalking the aisles of stores checking for free youngsters, so possibly they did take us multi function fell swoop. We every obtained a dollar to spend and we deliberated lengthy and thoroughly over our decisions. It actually was a dime retailer. Most years I received my mom my heart’s desire: a box of chocolate coated cherries, which left sufficient to purchase a handkerchief for my brother. One yr, although, I splurged and got two sherry glasses for mom and nothing for Mark. I nonetheless have a kind of glasses, etched with grapes.
There was a nickel to spare from my buy so I used it to buy some sweet hair layer guide for my greatest buddy, Sylvia Rivera. I beloved her dark, curly hair. The truth is, I deeply envied her dark, curly hair but saved this fault to myself as envy was not a sin I used to be prepared to share in Confession. In the future her father arrived from Cuba and took Sylvia out of St. Mary’s. I was totally shocked — so was everyone else — and thus ended one of many world’s nice friendships and began my intense dislike of surprises. “She went home” was all we were informed. I looked up Cuba in a geography e-book and came upon they grew bananas there. That old satan, envy, popped up again. Not solely did she have curly hair, she had a daddy and all of the bananas she wanted.
Christmas morning was exciting — that was the big deal. After Mass (you couldn’t break your fast before Communion back then) we got here into hair layer guide the dining room to find a stocking on every chair. There were no strange Christmas stockings, both. These had been the nuns’ personal discarded black cotton stockings, too worn to darn anymore, however very lengthy and capacious. Significantly better than a fancy stocking, which couldn’t have held half of the loot in one of those long black issues. And as a substitute of the usual burned oatmeal (the older girls actually couldn’t cook worth a rattling) we had toast and tea and eggs. It was all relatively magical, digging up one delight after one other out of those massive black bulges and sipping tea like a grown up.
In the afternoon I used to be permitted to go dwelling overnight with my mom. Our tree was tiny — in any other case it wouldn’t have match within the living room — however the Nativity scene had a tiny yellow light behind the angel. It lit the manger indirectly, as though it was star shine. I was always impressed. Years later, after i had a household of my own, Mom gave me the Nativity set.
The Baron, not as pious as I, would arrange the sheep in compromising positions. I’ve by no means known a man who could have a lot fun with so little materials. Little plaster sheep