Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Recently my cousins came to town. It had been years since the three of us had been together, so I thought it might be fun to pop in a DVD of Dad’s old home movies in which they figured prominently. I’ve been having them transferred from film in the past few years.

Dad loved the new technology. He bought the absolute latest 8mm home movie camera when I was little more than a toddler. I remember cumbersome black cases with lights that screwed onto the base of the handheld camera, light meters, you name it. He was Louie B. De Mille.

What I hadn’t realized was how fond he was of taking sweeping views of whatever town he happened to find himself in. I have absolutely marvelous footage of South Beach and Lincoln Road Mall in 1965 which I will someday post.

I tell you the story because one of the movies was from about 1961. There I am at three years old. We live in a three room apartment, where I usually sleep on the couch. But my aunt and my two cousins are living with us, because my uncle was taken off the plane from Cuba to make room for Alicia Alonso, and Castro has decreed no more flights, and she’s alone with two children and no skills. So we set up a cot in the living room, and my cousins sleep on either side of the sectional. I don’t even know where I sleep.

But the night of the movie, it’s a big Noche Buena celebration. The house is packed with relatives and friends. It’s late- we children are coming in from the street, only to discover Santa has been there. As we open our gifts with that wholehearted childhood glee, the camera pans to my aunt, so young and so beautiful and so terribly haunted.

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