Geraldo a Christmas Tale
A CHRISTMAS STORY
My hope for our species reignites when simple acts of generosity, love and human compassion become batons of magic passed on to future generations. The following is such an act.
The first time D'Anne mentioned a Honduran boy named Geraldo was when she and my brother Jerry returned from an adventure in Central America. D'Anne was in the middle of describing Copan, its Mayan pyramids, and an extraordinary meeting on Christmas Eve when were interrupted.
She reminisced about Geraldo a second time on December 19 as we sat on the deck of Papa’s Taverna, a Greek Restaurant, on the Petaluma river. This would be the last time we had lunch together, D’Anne died January 4th. Twice, I’d told her how Geraldo’s story affected me. There was the omnipresent smile in her voice, “Please write it, Tuck. I’m pretty busy right now. I think you have more time. “
So now, ’ Geraldo’s Christmas’ tale is up to me. I’ll try to do D’Anne’s words justice and be as faithful to her descriptions, emotions and recollections as I remember. It won’t be the same. D’Anne spoke with wonderful vocal inflections and vivid imagery. But I’ll try.
“In Copan, on Chrismas Eve something happened to Jerry and me. We’d spent two days, traveling back and forth from Copan to the Mayan ruins. We climbed the pyramids, joined other tourists walking down ancient boulevards. If you cupped your ear could almost hear the Mayan people hawking their wares, singing, or complaining. It was almost outer body. But, the most wonderful moment was when Jerry met Geraldo. You know your brother and how he loves to speak Spanish.”
It was Christmas Eve we’d eaten dinner at Mi Tio’s a local restaurant recommend by Maria Stelas who owned our B & B. After a wonderful dinner we took a walk.
It was almost dark when we ended up at the Plaza Central, about eight blocks from our B & B. It was getting chilly we were ready to head home when Jerry spied a young boy sitting on park bench. He was stick-thin. Maybe eight years old. The bench wasn’t high but the boys’ feet barely touch the ground. His legs rocked back and forth in the air. Jerry joined the boy on the bench and in his own version of Spanish language began. “Feliz Navida.”
“Tuck, you know the song Mr. Bo Jangles.” I nodded. “When Jerry started speaking Spanish Geraldo literally leapt from the bench, kicked his heels and did a little dance.
He saw my amazement, smiled a brown-eyed smile, snapped his fingers, spun, and did a flamenco tap.”
“Merry Christmas,” The boy smiled and Jerry continued to ask him questions.
I was going to sit down….” This was the first time D’Anne paused in her narrative. “I was going to join them. I was about three feet away and I heard the boy’s stomach growl.
I mean growl. Jerry did too. We looked at each other. We exchanged the did you hear that look.”
“Why aren’t you with your family?” Jerry asked.
“No food. Trying to find some.”
“How old are you?”
“Tuck, he was so bony and small. He looked about seven or eight.”
“What’s your name?”
“Jerry did a double take when he heard, Geraldo. Your brother could have done an Olympic tumbling routine including back flips and triple what-ever. Jerry pointed to his chest and said Jerry. Jerry. I remember Geraldo staring blankly and me trying to stifle a laugh over the miscommunication. Your brother’s smarter than you think” D’Anne smiled.
“Jerry pointed to his chest again and annunciated perfectly
I am a ‘Gerald’ too.
Geraldo leaped on to the bench pointing a finger to his chest, “Geraldo.” Then pointed back to Jerry laughing, ‘Geraldo?’ Jerry grinned, nodded and Geraldo fell into his arms.
Dried mucus covered the area below his nose. Some good sized scabs, some healing and some not, riddled his cheeks and forearms. He had a definite aroma. Not the overpowering odor of some three hundred pound athlete. It was a child’s, I’ve been playing in the dirt, need a change of clothes and a long bath, odor.”
D’Anne stopped and looked at me. “Too see that little snotty face, peer over your brother’s shoulder, his chin nestled under your brother’s ear lobe, brown on brown eyes beaming, blinking….
In your mind’s eye picture the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen, all the yellows, reds and oranges. This picture was a hundred times better. I melted. I loved everyone in the world. Your brother and Geraldo most of all.
Jerry asked Geraldo where he lived.
Geraldo pointed up to the clap board homes that seemed stapled to the side of a mountain above the village. On day one we were warned stay away from that part of Copan. A dangerous for tourists and a horrible place to live.
“It’s getting late.” Jerry said.
“Yes.” Replied Geraldo.
“Isn’t it time to go home? It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Why.” He looked from Jerry and me. “There’s no food and my family is not happy.”
D’Anne reached across the table, took my hand. “Tuck, here’s how I remember these minutes. Geraldo was matter of fact, He wasn’t begging. He didn’t ask for money. He didn’t ask for anything. He kept on smiling to Jerry and Me.
He said in Spanish, ‘This is how it is for me.’ It was a simple comment. No regrets no apologies
“My new friend.” He touched Jerry chest.
I never felt excluded. But suddenly he left Jerry’s side took my hand and kissed it, “to your beautiful wife.”
It had to be a gesture he’d seen in a movie or on t.v. , but I didn’t care. I would have swooned. As I said earlier, I melted. Geraldo had snared my heart.
Then abruptly he waved, “Adios, Geraldo mi amigo,” turned into the night and started across the plaza.
Geraldo was quick. Your brother was quicker. In short order he caught Geraldo and made a as he led him to what passed as the Costco of Copan. In reality, it was more of a walk in closet than a grocery store.
“Geraldo it’s Christmas Eve. D’Anne and I will pay for everything you can carry home.”
“His eyes darted back and forth between Jerry and me. They finally settled on me. His eyes asked if I was in on the agreement. I remember giving him a vigorous nod.
The grocery clerk gave our trio a suspicious look, but Geraldo was on a mission. He paused at the candy section for a moment, then disappeared into a corner of the store returning with two burlap sacks. There goes the candy section I thought.
Geraldo looked at your brother holding out the sacks and asked if this was cheating.”
“Anything you can carry,” Jerry grinned.
Geraldo took one more peek at the candy and then went shopping. I mean family shopping. In the sacks went flour, tortillas, coffee, rice, cilantro, peanuts and various squashes. With each addition, he’d heft the sacks to see if he could carry them. After all a deal was a deal. Eggs and avocados were the last items laid carefully on the top of the stacks.
Your brother and I never stopped smiling. Neither did Geraldo as he tied the two sacks together and yoked them over his neck on to his scrawny shoulders. “My name sakes a genius,” Jerry said getting ready to pay the bill.
“Feliz Navidad. Mucho Garcias mister and misses,” Geraldo said heading across the plaza.
Jerry had his money out when the proprietor went into a quiet tirade.
Simply translated the tirade went. That boy will never get home. He’s too small. You’ve got him overload. You know he lives on the ‘hill’ don’t you? Gringos sometimes your heart is a good place. But your mind is not.
While Jerry dashed after Geraldo. I called our B & B, explained that Jerry and I might be in a dangerous situation and would she mind calling a taxi. She had a cousin and he would be there quickly.
I’ll never forget Geraldo’s face on the ride from the plaza up Avenida Rosalila. He waved to everyone. He sang. Kids on a Disney ride never showed such enthusiasm.
Geraldo’ s home was mostly mud with a corrugated steel roof. While the taxi idled outside, Geraldo made two trips back and forth from his hut. Instantly, shadows appeared in the doorway and windows. From the house came a chorus of gracias and Feliz Navidads.
I don’t know how your brother did it, but on Geraldo’s last trip to the cab he handed Geraldo a bag. Geraldo looked inside and grinned his grin.”
“Mucho garcias, Geraldo.”
“Es nada, Geraldo.”
Geraldo returned to the arms of his family.
I looked at your brother.”
“A bag of candy,” he shrugged as we taxied back to our B & B.