On the 11th Day of Christmas María Mercedes Romero Day gave to me…
Christmas was scorching hot in this corner of the world. The only white was the shimmer of the water as they lazily floated around the swimming pool, looking up at the cloudless sky. The kids only crawled out of the cool embrace when Grandma said it was time to set the tables.
They could hardly sit still through dinner, the promise of midnight sparkles sending a thrill of anticipation through the group in between mouthfuls of vitel toné. Weeks before, they had bought the usual firecrackers and what felt like a million fireworks in their holiday minds. Dessert couldn’t come fast enough – nor could the end of Uncle’s joke:
“Un argentino, un chileno y un gallego entran a un bar…”
There he went again, laughing loudly half-way through and ruining his own punch-line. A hint of appreciation was obvious in the gentle smile of that dear old walrus of Great-Granddad at the end of the table: mustache, pot belly and wrinkled skin.
Was it time yet? Please, let it be time for the fireworks.
A synchronized nod from the mothers sent them running to the garden, matches in hand. The kids’ eyes glowed brighter than those little marvels of powder each time a colorful boom filled the sky.
The most experienced child decided that, in order not to burn their hands with the biggest firework of them all – an enormous pasteboard tube with a wobbly stick and a short fuse, guaranteed to create the most astonishing effect in the modern history of fireworks – they should place it inside an empty bottle, light it and run. The youngest was chosen for the highest honor: Match Striker.
Match. Strike. Fire.
The thing soared into the air, whistling fiercely, and it seemed for a second that it would meet a brilliant end.
Here’s the thing about physical space: when something moves away from a location, it’s bound to be drawing nearer to some other one. Here’s the thing about physical space when you’re ten: that’s not something you necessarily consider.
Maybe the frail stick, maybe a mysterious breeze, sent the firework zooming directly on to the gigantic window of Grandma’s living-room.
All the children under five, partly amazed and partly scared by the explosives that drew flowers on the sky, were all lined up behind the glass, enjoying the view. They must have regretted quarreling over the best seat in the house when they saw the firework moving towards them at an alarming speed. Nothing to be done. The Match Striker watched horror-struck as the glass cracked and the curtain caught fire. The most astonishing effect was there all right, precisely below the little feet that hurriedly tap-danced away.
Children cried. Mothers cried. The Match Striker cried, too. But most fathers laughed – there were worse things than being one curtain short in the living room.
“We’ll all laugh about this someday,” someone said.
Not everyone agreed then. But I do now. Perspective is powerful – I should know: I lit the firework.
María Mercedes Romero Day
María Mercedes Romero Day is an EFL teacher from Mendoza, Argentina. Her educational background in English language and literature has led her to pursue writing as well.
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