It was about this time of year every year that Mom would pull out the box that contained the totality of all the Christmas decorations she put out every year. Our experience did not include fresh pine trees, or snow, and most years, not even a freeze (which worked out just fine because balmy Decembers meant we all got to ride our new bikes, Big Wheels, use our skates, ride our skateboards, whatever was left under the tree either on Christmas day or the day after because the weather always came through for us). No fresh cut Christmas trees were ever brought into our home, or most of the homes we visited for that matter. Many folks we knew decorated their palmas, mesquite trees, bougainvillea bushes or matas de tulipan in a big way and as big as any tree. My Mom would pull out her trusty, never failed Aluminum Christmas tree that was set up next to a rotating color disc that would change the color of the tree as it rotated from red to green to yellow then blue, she would throw aluminum “icicles” on it and wrap it in a red with white border felt base cover. All in all it stood to the towering height of 3 feet. She also has a plastic Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer that she would talk someone into placing on the house roof for her. Last the big bulb Christmas lights were nailed around the window and door frames for “that” holiday touch. Sometime between the tree getting put up and Christmas Day, Mom made sure my brother and I went and posed for the annual Christmas photo at Gulf-Mart or Sears, and then later it was Amigoland Mall. For that month that passed between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, Mom purchased and hid Christmas gifts in the trunk of the car. My brother and I were not allowed anywhere near the trunk of the car during those weeks for fear that we would discover what Santa had entrusted my Mom with for us. We rarely had capirotada but Mom played a good game of hunting tamales down from either her old friend from Edelstein’s or the lady who worked at Garden Park Elementary School and made tamales out of her home in Las Prietas. It was a time full of hustle and bustle and countless of things to do and take care of: parades, buying gifts, driving downtown by way of Palm Boulevard and neighborhoods along the way to see how other homes were decorated, Dad making sure he had his bottles of Bacardi and Presidente, baking banana bread to give away to friends, Mom making sure she had all the ingredients she needed for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, attending obligatory Masses, checking everyone off her list . . . regardless of how much time has passed, those valley holiday memories are alive and kickin’ today. Decorated palm trees, tamales and high balls take me back to those family memories in warp speed. Time flies que no gente? Here’s to my 53rd holiday season, one during which memories will be made, but I can honestly say today’s memories still can’t out last those memories that started to get made all those years ago.