GERALDO - A CHRISTMAS MEMORY
A CHRISTMAS STORY
Geraldo a Christmas Miracle
Hope for our species increases with every act of generosity, empathy, love and human compassion. Each act becomes a baton when passed on to the next generations.
The following is such an act.
At a party on New Year’s Eve , D'Anne told she had something wonderful to share. A story about her and my brother Jerry. We found a corner and she began describing their recent Christmas visit to Copan, its Mayan pyramids, ancient boulevards and an extraordinary meeting with a young boy named Geraldo. To0 soon her story was interrupted. D’Anne was sick. But fighting! Her multitude of friends wanted her attention. They wanted to console and be consoled. I understood and backed away from the crowd.
It was eleven months later, we sat on the deck of Papa’s Taverna, a Greek Family Restaurant on the Petaluma river, when she brought up Geraldo again. This time there were no interruptions. Geraldo’s story affected me deeply. It was a story that should be shared. I suggested D’Anne should write it.
D’Anne smiled her omnipresent smile, “Please, you write it, Tuck. I’m pretty busy right now. And you have a bit more time. “
This was our last lunch together. When D’Anne passed away on January 4th,
I asked my brother if he would put Geraldo’s Christmas Eve down on paper. Understandably, he wasn’t ready to relive that night.
Geraldo’s Miracle was up to me. Either write it or let perish… I couldn’t do the latter so…
I’ll try to do D’Anne’s words justice and be as faithful to her descriptions, emotions and recollections as I remember. D’Anne spoke with wonderful vocal inflections and vivid imagery. But I’ll try.
Papa Taverna’s Greek Restaurant Dec 4, a few years ago
D’Anne and I ordered, and our server returned with a diet coke and Mythos, a greek beer for me. We brushed over a few bits about family, bicycles and horses and somehow we ended back at last Christmas and their sojourn to Copan, Guatemala and Geraldo. D’Anne’s face glowed in remembrance…
“We met Geraldo on Christmas Eve in Copan. Your brother and I’d spent two days, traveling back and forth from town to the Mayan ruins. We climbed pyramids, joined other tourists weaving our way along well-worn coble stone boulevards and if you cupped your ear, you could almost hear ancient Mayan’s hawking their wares, singing, or praying to their gods. Tuck, it was almost an outer body experience . But, the most wonderful moment was when we met Geraldo.
“It was Christmas Eve; we’d eaten an incredible dinner at Mi Tio’s, a local restaurant recommended by Maria Stelas who owned our B & B. Afterward we decided to take a walk through the town.
“The sun was setting and growing chilly as we entered the Plaza Central. We were ready to head back to the B & B when Jerry spied a young boy sitting on a park bench. He was stick-thin. Seven or eight years old. The bench wasn’t high but the boy’s feet barely touched the ground. His legs rocked back and forth in the air. Well, you know your brother and how he loves to practice his Spanish. Jerry joined the boy on the bench and in his own version of Spanish began singing ‘Feliz Navida.’
“Tuck, do you remember the song Mr. Bojangles?”
“When Jerry started singing the little boy 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.” D’Anne’s eyes teared over. “I swear he did the dance just for me. And through his purple lips and in pretty darn good English he sputtered ‘Merry Christmas.’ I ‘Merry Christmas-ed’ him right back. “
Here was the first time D’Anne paused in her narrative. She grimaced. I knew her mind was traveling back in time. She glanced at her half- eaten Souvlaki sandwich.
“I was going to join them… I was about three feet away… I heard the boy’s stomach growl. I mean growl. Jerry did too. We looked at each other. We exchanged a ‘did- you- hear- that?’ look. I could tell Jerry was concerned. So was I. “
¿Por qué no estás con tu familia?
“ ‘Why aren’t you with your family?’ Jerry asked in Spanish.
“No food.” The little boy replied simply.
¿Cuantos años tienes?
“How old are you?”
“Tuck, he was so bony and small. I choked. Jerry gave him a questioning look.”
“The boy caught the doubt in Jerry’s eyes.”
En tres meses cumpliré doce
“In three months I’ll be twelve. “
¿Cuál es tu nombre?
“What’s your name?” Jerry asked.
“I did a double take when I heard, Geraldo. Your brother could have done an Olympic tumbling routine including back flips and triple what-evers. Jerry pointed to his chest and said ‘I’m Jerry. Jerry.’
“ I remember Geraldo staring at your brother blankly. I had to stifle a laugh over their miscommunication. Ah, but brother’s smarter than you think” D’Anne smiled.
“Jerry pointed to his chest again and annunciated perfectly ‘ I am a ‘Geraldo’ too.’
“The younger Geraldo leaped on to the bench pointing a finger to his chest, ‘Geraldo.’
Then pointed back to Jerry laughing, ¿También eres un Geraldo? You’re a Geraldo too?’
“ Jerry grinned, nodded and Geraldo literally fell into his arms.
“Now we both know your brother tends to be a neat fr… well a tidy fellow to say the least. But he didn’t flinch when the Geraldo snuggled up. And Geraldo was a mess!
“Dried mucus covered the area below his nose. Some good sized scabs, some healing, 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, deep brown eyes beaming, blinking….
“… In your mind’s eye picture the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen, all the yellows, reds and oranges. What I saw was a hundred times more beautiful. Suddenly, I loved everyone in the world. But your brother and Geraldo most of all.
“Jerry asked Geraldo where he lived.
“Geraldo pointed upward to the clap board homes that seemed stapled to the side of a steep mountain above Copan. On our first day we were warned stay away from that part of town. ‘It’s very dangerous for tourists.’
Se está haciendo tarde
“ ‘It’s getting late.’ Jerry said.
“ ‘Yes.’ Replied Geraldo.
¿No es hora de que te vayas a casa? Es víspera de navidad
“’Isn’t it time for you to go home? It’s Christmas Eve? ‘”
“’Why?” He looked from Jerry to me. “
D’Anne reached across the table, took my hand. “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 smiling from Jerry to me.
“He shrugged and said in Spanish, ‘Así es como es.’This is how it is.
“It was a simple comment. No regrets no apologies. No request.
Ustede es mi nuevo amigo.
“’ You are my new friend.’ He touched Jerry chest. Then looked at me.
“I never felt excluded. But suddenly he left Jerry’s side. Hopped off the bench. Took my hand and kissed it, ‘y amiga’.
“Maybe it was a gesture he’d seen in a movie or on T.V. but I didn’t care. I melted. Geraldo had snared my heart.
“Just as abruptly he waved, “Adios, mi amigos,” he turned to the night and started across the plaza. Jerry and I went into a quick huddle.
“Geraldo was quick. Your brother was quicker. In short order he caught Geraldo and we guided him into what passed as the Costco of Copan. In reality, it was more of a walk in closet than a grocery store.
“Your brother said, ‘Geraldo, es Nochebuena. D’Anne y yo pagaremos todo lo que puedas llevarte a casa.’ ‘Geraldo it’s Christmas Eve. D’Anne and I will pay for everything you can carry home.’
“Geraldo’s brown eyes darted back and forth between us. Finally settling on me. His eyes asked if this was true? I gave him a vigorous nod and a hug.
“We caught a suspicious look from owner of the store, 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 held out the sacks and asked your brother, ‘¿Es esto una trampa?’ Is this cheating?
No, cualquier cosa que puedas llevar.
“ ‘No, Anything you can carry,’ Jerry grinned.
“Geraldo took one last glance at the candy and 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. Two avocados were the last items laid carefully on the top of the stacks.
“Your brother took my hand. I don’t think we stopped smiling. Neither did Geraldo. Finally, he tied the two sacks together and yoked them over his neck on to his scrawny shoulders.
“’My name sake is a genius. ’ Jerry said starting to pay the bill. A Mensa candidate for sure, I agreed.
“Geraldo struggled out the door. ‘Feliz Navidad. Muchogracias mister and misses,’ Geraldo said as started across the plaza.
“The owner of story handed me your brothers change and with a worrisome look said, ‘ The boy will never get home. He’s too small. He lives on the ‘hill.’ Much danger is there. Sometimes your Gringo’s hearts are in a good place. But your mind is not.’
“ ‘Get a taxi! ’Jerry said and dashed after Geraldo. I called our B & B, lied 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 in minutes.
“I’ll never forget our ride from the plaza up Avenida Rosalila. Geraldo became a celebrity. With his head out of the window he waved to everyone. He sang. He giggled. I don’t remember ever seeing a kid on a Disney ride ever showing as much enthusiasm.
“Geraldo’ s home was mostly mud with a corrugated steel roof and a flapping piece of cardboard for a door. While the taxi idled outside, a crowd gathered. Geraldo talked to everyone as he made two trips back and forth to his hut. His family appeared in the doorway and windows. From the house came a chorus of ‘gracias’ and ‘Feliz Navidads.’
“An elderly woman accompanied Geraldo on his last trip to our taxi. On the way, they stopped at various neighbors’ huts and placed articles into their hands. ‘Gracias. Gracias.’ filled the night.
“At our taxi the elderly woman smiled warmly, tussled Geraldo hair and said ‘Es un milagro.’ He’s a miracle.
“Jerry motioned Geraldo to the window and handed him a bag. Geraldo peeked inside and grinned his grin. ‘Mucho gracias, … Geraldo.’
“’Es nada, … Geraldo.’”
“Geraldo leaned through the window and planted a boyish kiss on your Jerry’s cheek. Quietly, the elderly woman and Geraldo returned to the arms of their family. I looked at your brother. Jerry shrugged. ‘So I bought some candy.’ We kissed. And looked into each other’s eyes . I said, ‘That felt wonderful. ‘ Your brother nodded. Kissed me again and said, ‘Well, Mrs. Claus.’
“Jerry leaned forward and asked the driver to take us back to the grocery store. “
D’Anne – We miss you.
Happy Holiday’s to one and all,
tuck & barb