Acervo pessoal. Década 70. Helena Arcoverde e Verbena Angélica, sua mãe.
by Helena Arcoverde
The entryway was almost a room. At the end a middle-sized tree, a few days before Christmas. The tree decorating had been announced and the children anxiously awaited the 19th. Half a block away, in the other house, the announcement was always made in advance and it brought together just two children, although the others also waited for it. The Christmas tree of the two children heralded unusual happiness. The mother reappeared on celebration dates. At Christmas, however, the preparations were special and thus they were until the end. The exception-time had put an end to her absence and everyday she would arrive from work with a full bag, braided with red threads.
The decorations were almost too big and the topper placed at the tip was rarely substituted. Cellophane paper, whose tips were tied with a bow, held sugar-coated walnuts, which at times were mixed with other sweets, even though they predominated. Later on, the little packages were distributed to the children at both houses. The gifts varied from dolls to wooden crates containing small pop bottles, back in those rare days. The girls knew very early on about the impossible existence of the one who brought the presents, but preferred not to think about it; they would enjoyed the full bliss. The other women in the house would leave the scene; that was the mother´s time and, during that period, she would have no substitutions.
The memory of those days will probably be among the last ones to die. I used to observe the decorations of the houses in that ordinary street while remembering those long-gone days. The decorations disappeared gradually over time and, this year, there would be none in the house. For a decade, they died down to a decoration on the door, perhaps just not to be the only one in the building not announcing the festivity. I saw in some houses decorations reused from years past. In one of them, a tree with a round top, with a miniscule trunk, lively thanks to the string of also round lights, with peel-off paint. The owner of the house sprinkled water from an old hose on her children. They did not notice passersby on the sidewalk; they were concentrated on the happiness that precedes Christmas.
I almost stopped to stare at them, were this kind of curiosity not an inappropriate behavior. Even so, I turned around while walking towards the house with no decorations. Maybe I would prefer to be a mother all year long, but I had never been. I kept a file with recipes for the celebration, but I knew I would never use them. Christmas was over and I would not even have to announce it. The children already knew it. Hope had disappeared and everybody at home had decided to deny these dates. I went on observing the façades of the houses while thinking that if I would in any way change the sequence of events I would dress up as Santa for my children.
But time – always warning about regret – would stop me. It makes it impossible to reorganize and it transfigures what we love the most. Were it not like this, I would go against it; we would make chocolate sweets after a long day´s work, I would buy the anxiously-awaited but never handed out gifts, I would make up for the small mishaps with kisses, I would make more fuss about a flower brought home from school, I would understand happiness, and would watch over it carefully to prevent it from breaking. I went on walking until I could no longer see the woman sprinkling happiness. I turned the corner. I stopped in front of a store and bought a decoration that would never decorate any door. At Christmas, I would wait for the tiny packages of sugar-coated walnuts that I never learned how to make.
The bond of belonging would be – for a few moments – strengthened. She would arrange the little packages on the door and between movements she would seek advice from me with a look. And, without further objections, I would nod to her. And this would be the best Christmas ever, the one I can’t, to this day, accept having lost.
ARCOVERDE, Helena Sobral. A Christmas Chronicle. In: blog Helena Arcoverde. Translation: SCHLEMM, Martha. Curitiba, 2014.