The rest of the story: David and I watched the clock for twenty minutes and then headed for the nearest movie theater to see Hitchcock. Of the seven viewers, six lasted to the end of the movie. One bailed out early. He looked too young to know who Alfred Hitchcock was. If he’d stayed, he’d have seen a pretty good show.
Tuesday marked my first visit a movie theater on Christmas Day. For my first four or five decades, my mother’s family clumped together every Christmas, singing carols, tearing into packages, eating too much, laughing, watching my grandmother try out a toy in the living room accompanied by protests that we kids had to play with them out by the garage.
But time passes and things change, and now David and I are the family. Our holiday was quiet. Since we’ve been married, I’ve cooked Christmas turkey, duck, Cornish hens, and goose, the last in homage to the Cratchit family. The experience of parboiling a goose prompted me to give up the pretense of enjoying domesticity. After the movie, we went to a Chinese restaurant, where the scales fell from my eyes. Everybody in Austin was at the Asian Lion, most of them queued up in front of David and me. But the chicken and green beans made the wait worthwhile. I came away feeling no guilt for breaking with tradition.
That wasn’t the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone around the holiday. Our first Christmas together, David and I spent Christmas Eve night in Cuidad Acuna, across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas. It was cold. David managed to turn off the hotel room heater the wrong way, and it refused to come back on when needed.
He had originally wanted to spend Christmas in San Miguel de Allende, but I knew we would be beset by banditos or federales and wouldn’t get home for New Year’s, so he settled for Acuna. I should have kept my mouth shut. I didn’t realize at the time that David knows what he’s doing, and he has no intention of walking into danger. But the moment has passed, and now I’ll probably never get to see the church that I’m told looks like a birthday cake.
Come to think of it, there was an atmosphere of anxiety during the trip. That was the Christmas Osama bin Laden had threatened to attack the U. S. At that time, I was oblivious to the possibilities (as were most of us before 2001), and focused on eating tacos Tapatios, tacos pastor, and tacos barbacoa, and on using as much of my thirty-year-old Spanish as I remembered, which consisted mostly of saying to David things like, “Como se llama soap?”
Anxiety arose on the way out of the country. A lot of traffic goes across the International Bridge every day, and pre-9/11 it seemed a mere formality. But, showing my drivers license to the guard, I remembered that this weekend, authorities were on alert. The guard asked where we were from. David, with his lawyerly background, answered the question he was asked:”Austin.” The guard looked a me, and my mind shattered: I was from Austin, well, I’d driven from Austin, but I lived in Fentress, but I was born in Luling…” I forgot to mention three years in the dormitory in San Marcos.
The guard gave me a l-o-n-g, speculative stare. I looked him straight in the eye. Finally, he nodded us through. I resumed breathing. I’m sure he’d concluded that if I had a secret, it would have tumbled out by then.
Well. I started out to say we had a good Christmas, and I wind up nearly eight hundred words later trying to get back across the Mexican border. But it’s a pleasant memory, right down to my bare feet on that cold, cold tile, so I’m glad I allowed myself to meander.