Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Nothing better than to lay about on a sofa with a new friend on Christmas morning. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taxi Christmas

Taxi on Snowy Christmas
Christmas has always been a special time of the year for me. In Cuba, as a child, my mother would spend days setting up our Nativity. It was composed of hundreds of pieces that depicted the manger and its many animal and human participants. My father would get a crane to light a huge pine tree in front of our house with what were normal size colored lamp bulbs. When we came to the United States and lived in Chicago there was great wonderment upon seeing snow for the first time. As a student in France, I was amazed by the cultural richness of the Christmas feasts. With friends in London, I shared Dickensian holidays full of similar joy. Through the years, our Christmas Holidays offered great opportunities to mix our celebrations and share the bounties of two cultures. Around our table friends shared in food known and foreign with a sense of adventure and delight. I miss my family and some of the wondrous Noche Buenas feasts we enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

I am off to share at my friend's table and festivities. It will be the first time I celebrate in North Carolina. I am taking a break from the blog though I might find something to surprise you from my travels while the garden sleeps. I wish you the best of holidays wherever you are and hope for us all a healthy and happy 2010. Until then.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Is New Jersey Flooding?

My yard after the storm with the back flooded for the first time in years

It appears that we are heading for a very wet season. This week we had snow on Saturday and Sunday and last night about 3 inches of rain fell in and around the region. So far we have 40 inches for the year and we have the balance of December, January and February to still come in for the count. It was also 68 degrees today and Monday it was so frozen that an inch of ice had accumulated in my rear steps. On a hurry as a usual, I failed to recognize this and took a flying leap and landed on my butt. It is fortunate that age has given me a little extra padding there.

One neighbor with flooded playground

I wonder if I should send this weather report to the folks meeting in Copenhagen on the World Climate Summit. I hear a lot that a third of Bangladesh may fall underwater as continual climate change raises oceans around the world. I wonder how much of New Jersey will fall into similar situation. Not that too many people will care if a bunch of us fall underwater inNew Jersey. It does appear that we have a wonderful appreciation of caring for some things and not for others.

My other neighbor with the garage island

It is hard anymore to get real statistics on anything. The web in all its grand appeal seems to list everything you ever wanted but can you count on much of it for statistical accuracy? I think not. Case in point: I just checked for the elevation of Collingswood above sea level. You would think this would be precise and accurate and consistent? Well, guess again. I have visited sites claiming 6 feet above sea level up to 23 feet above sea level and everything in between.

Well for those of you that spent $10.00 bucks and saw the latest disaster extravaganza film “2012” it would not really make any difference for we are all going under except for those living in Africa or using the salvation cruise ships provided by the film. Hope I did not spoil it for you, it was a lot of fun and I laughed all the way through for the fantastic entertainment it was. Those around me were dismayed by my reaction and I guess were waiting for the water to start flooding the cinema!

My newest neighbor where we are trying to mitigate the rain issues. He now has a nice planting bed and room for a lake. It used to be all lake.

I digress; my point in all of this is that we might consider not only those in other countries as the only ones that are going to be affected by the change in climate. Whether 6 or 23 feet above sea level we are all facing interesting choices. We better get a hold of a little reality and see how it affects each of us. One of my neighbors was upset about the rain and the fact that it flooded his yard and basement. His answer to the problem is that we who have tried to remedy the problem with plantings and water containment are the ones responsible for the rain that fell in his yard and caused his flooding. Go figure!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Peter Pans

On December 3 1961, at the age 10, my mother put me on a plane with the hope that she could join me very soon away from Cuba. It was an act of desperation and of the fear that modern Cuban parents felt of indoctrination and of a newly imposed military conscription that required boys as young as twelve to be available for military duty that would last until the age of 28. So strong was this fear that parents in Havana placed 14,000 of their children (mostly males) in planes bound for the United States alone. For roughly 18 months children were flown to the safety envisioned in the US as boarding students before Castro would shut down this escape valve. This, very little known bit of history, was called Operation Peter Pan.

Many came with notes pinned on their clothing so that relief agencies would assume parenting of these temporarily orphaned children. Brothers carried younger siblings and all were destined to uncertainty. Bryan O. Walsh, a Catholic Priest initially assumed responsibility as Director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau finding homes and temporary housing. Eventually the Federal Government assumed financial responsibility and took over the placement of all the unclaimed children into families around the country.

Carlos Eire tells his story of the Pedro Pan experience in the acclaimed book Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. This heroic work tells the story that most Peter Pans shared in Cuba: of education, a certain level of affluence and comfort that suddenly vanished and was left behind. He and his older brother came at the tail end of the Peter Pan Operation in 1962 and were separated for a year into different foster homes in Florida and eventually reunited in Illinois waiting for the arrival of their mother( they would never see their father again) many, many years later.

I was luckier in that I was alone and not traumatized by such a separation from a sibling. I was also luckier because I was picked up by my old neighbors from Cuba and spent a day of bliss playing with my old best friend. Sometime, after the end of the TV show Lassie I was taken to the home of an Aunt, whom I barely remembered, and who had forgotten the day of my arrival. In spite of her scatter brain approach to life, I learned some very valuable lessons of survival from her that I will never forget.

Taken at my 10th birthday, 4 months before all hell would break loose!

My Mother joined me seven months later and not a moment too soon for Castro shut down Cuba shortly after her departure and direct immigration between the two countries ceased for almost ten years. Many families were split with some family in one country and the rest in another.

My father who had helped Castro come to power was the first member of our family to leave Cuba. Under warrant of death for statements made in public against the regime he took refuge in the Argentinean Embassy where he was virtually imprisoned until diplomatic efforts got him released. His destination was Buenos Aires and then to rejoin his family here in Florida. This trip took a year of illegal border crossing and imprisonment in Brownsville Texas where he crossed the border into the US. At Brownsville he was accused of being a Cuban spy and was held until finally cleared to rejoin his family.

So on this December 3, I celebrate 48 years in the US. Initially, a refugee, since I turned 21, as an American Citizen. I honor the memory of both my crazy parents and their sacrifice to give me a better life. I wish all other Peter Pans a continued and joyous life.