Christine’s Café on the Corner

Christmas at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

The Holiday Kitchen

The family's heart: hot summer days
filled with potato salad, baked ham
and Fourth of July cole slaw,
watermelon dripping on the firefly lawn at dusk.
Winter's Thanksgiving and Christmas,
vast beyond words. September begins the
fruitcakes and cookies in endless variety,
pies, cakes, coffee cakes, stacked neatly
up the attic stairs pantry.
The formal crocheted tablecloth groans with
roast turkey and dressing, trimmed with
seven sweets and seven sours.
There are two of many things: with and
without onions. for those who like them and
those who don't.
For each, there is a favorite.
Best of all are the pies: apple, cherry,
rhubarb, grape, peach--from jars filled with
love and sunshine
tucked neatly away in the cellar.
Soul food, smells and tastes that make
childhood the happiest place to revisit time and again.

Karen DuChateaux

Erik’s first Christmas

They Pulled the Plough
Grannie met Grandpa Woods at school;
they only had eyes for each other.
He left school before he could read or write,
and her life was hard as she pulled the plough.

Grannie Woods got married in grey
because she thought she’d go far away;
but the farthest she went was the farthest she’d been,
and her life was hard as she pulled the plough.

Grandpa Woods, one Christmas eve,
with a hungry family of eleven to feed,
poached the most graceful water bird,
and his life was hard as he pulled the plough.

Grannie Woods prepared the “royal fare”
but couldn’t eat a mouthful-for fear.
Not a child of theirs went hungry that year,
and her life was hard as she pulled the plough.

Grandpa Woods in deep midwinter
for a farthing he’d tie skates on those
skating across the River Ouse..
and his life was hard as he pulled the plough.

Grannie and Grandpa Woods had a fight,
in a temper he left for good...
went as far as the pig sty and fell asleep!
And their lives were hard as they pulled the plough.

When Grannie Woods applied for “Parish Relief”
and was told she didn’t qualify-
proud she was and degraded she felt,
and her life was hard as she pulled the plough.

Old Grannie Woods loved Grandpa.
Without a beast when the ground needed tilling,
they took turns with the boys in the harness,
and their lives were hard as they pulled the plough.

Grannie and Grandpa Woods,
did all they could for their family.
Of flesh and blood and bone am I,
and their lives were hard as they pulled the plough.
By Gillian E Shaw-Pichalo

Jack London Square, Oakland

Chapter One.... continued

It (meaning my life)started in Brazil. Well, I know. I don't sound Brazil but we're not talking ancient history here. People got around in 1938 and my folks happened to get around to Brazil. It was pretty nice for me. First of all, I wasn't the firstborn so I didn't have to deal with being smart. There was no way I could catch up to my brother,Bobby, six years ahead of me and first in his class at the German School. Secondly, I was a girl in a country where girls put ornaments in their hair as I am wont to do, and thirdly, I
had good looking pets. There were three sloths, five monkeys, six rabbits, a crowd of parrots, and two dogs. I tried to teach one of the parrots to sing Cara Nome but she was tunefully challenged. The army ant parades over the stone wall were worth pulling up a chair to, and rounding up the scorpions beat Concentration any night, especially when we had to have blackouts. Fortunately, I was born in the late evening on the eve of the summer solstice,south of the equator(12 degrees, 58 minutes) where summer is winter during the time of the Festa da Sáo Jáo, a harvest festival.Throughout June, there are fireworks. I arrived to the sound of forró bands (accordians, hand-drums, triangle)and starbursts in the city by the Bay of All the Saints of the Savior. In the short form Portuguese, we called it Bahia.

Change of tone. It’s my book. I can do it.

The faded photo shows a family “before.” Mother is dressed in soft cotton, with

sprigs of mignonette entertwined in the dainty pleats. Father has a white, long-sleeved linen shirt which will never be crisp. The older brother by six years peeks over the head of the baby. He looks to be part of the group, although in later years he will seldom by seen by them. The girl, since it is a summer scene, is perhaps six months. She is held by her mother. Her brother’s skinny right hand holds her right arm gently. Father is standing, proudly gazing at the little child. Mother is seated in a rattan chair. Brother crouches. Behind them are fat columns on which bougainvilla vines lean heavily. There is a wrought iron fence connecting the columns and checkerboard tiles completing the decor of a terrace. This is the girl’s first house. It is provided by the government of the United States of America. Foreigners and Americans of all sorts come to this house continually. The smile on the face of the nearly bald baby is worthy of a painting by Botticelli. It is angelic, infectious, hopeful. Born on a stormy night, surrounded by the hymn singing of a Methodist missionary and the agonizing cries of her mother, this child will carry with her a mix of faith,resiliency, and danger and will think of these people as her Helpers. “Who will come and go with me? I am bound for the Promised Land.” Her first baby gift is a necklace,an ebony fist, a powerful symbol of a voodoo religion which she will add to her Christian beliefs. She will never be too far from darkness.

That’s one side of the story. darkness. It's what happens late at night when the merry-go-round is stilled and the music stopped but in Bahia, darkness was disguised by dazzle. Salvador overlooks a bay. There are 38 islands in that bay. I probably never went to one but the view shaped my outlook. I am an islander at heart--enriched by an enclosed environment requiring a different kind of transportation so visitors would have to want to go there. It's not a loner existence but a special, set apart one. The state of Bahia is bigger than Texas.The cobbled streets near our house were steep. There was an elevator, Lacerda, built from the cidade alta to the cidade baixa (upper and lower city). It is like a construction project in progress jutting out streamlined, modern, a rival to Rio's more famous massive protective Cristo with outstretched arms. I doubt that I rode the elevator or sailed on the bay. I was content to nest and sing in our beautiful house. I was given the name Christine by my father who had seen Greta Garbo in a talkie playing Queen Christina of Sweden. My godmother didn't like it. She had a silver baby cup inscribed 'Irene' and wouldn't change it. How did I get a godmother when my parents were agnostics? Leo Wrench, married to "Big Bob" Wrench, was a good friend and influential. Leo didn't like the name Della(my mother's name) so Della was arbitrarily changed to Judy, which stuck for forty years. My parents were also good friends with the British consul, a Catholic. Within a month of my birth I was christened Christine. The certificate is elaborately embellished. The christening dress could fit a small animal. It's curious that the agnostics branded me with a destiny-- follower of Christ.The Hindus say the awaiting soul choses its parents. I can see it. I can see me also choosing that house in that place.The house was stone and, strangely for a South American house, had a large fireplace. It was a lesson in contrasts. There is a picture of me in front of the wintery fireplace dressed in summery batiste with my favorite object, a flyswatter. No blanket or doll for me. Judy said the bathrooms were like Grand Central station. I laid claim to the garden and my mosquito netted nook where I could hear the birds. I was carried about by the cook and her assistants, Alma and Zsa Zsa. My world consisted of music, comfort, my necklace and my flyswatter. My brother's existence was opposite to mine as he was going to a German school where he tackled his work dervishly and was first in his class by the end of the year. He spoke German & English. I spoke Portuguese in a waterfall sort of way. He was very busy and accomplished. Our encounters were friendly but we were already on differing paths. I preferred to sing all day and sew. Except for the times I almost died (of a fishbone stuck in my throat, a tropical fever going too high) my days were pleasant. My observational skills were honed by the visiting dignitaries. My mother thought it significant that Walt Disney was one of them. The Magic Kingdom coming to me.

to be continued in the New Year

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