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My Lone Star Christmas by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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My

Lone Star

Christmas Story

THE CHRISTMAS TREE_resized

 

Silver

Christmas Tree

Christy Warren, Leneil Saldana, Rayniel Saldana, Ranilo Saldana, Junea Tanahale and Esmeralda Tanahale, all worked to create the artificial silver Christmas Tree at One Warren Way, Barangay Baras. Every time I look at the tree I am reminded of the silver artificial tree that my Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey used in Houston, Texas in the 1960s. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Opal M. DeLong Warren, my mother, was a savvy business woman, who learned at an early age how to manage and save her money and the only “risky” investment she ever made was in land that “always paid for itself.”

 

In childhood, I always had a remarkable Christmas. Both of my parents had had “a hard life” growing up on the farm in rural Missouri and rural Texas.

 

The secret to “My Lifetime Of Privileged Childhood Christmas Days” was my mother and father, especially my mother.

 

Both parents, “were bound and determined” if they ever had a child – that child – would have a better life “growing up” than they did.

 

I did.

 

My Childhood Christmas Celebrations” were always outstanding. The devotion of my parents to make life better for their child guaranteed that the slightest detail was never overlooked.

 

Christmas Shopping

 

Texas LogoIn Houston, my mother always planned my Christmas holiday celebrations with the precision and intensity of someone required to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Momma never overlooked any details.

 

I remember Momma taking me with her to go shopping downtown at Woolworths and grocery shopping at Weingartens, in the suburbs.

 

The Airline Shopping Mall was one of the first major shopping malls built in our section of Houston. It was a place of wonder, when I was a child. There were so many shops with so many items to a five-year-old boy it looked like you could shop nonstop for a week.

 

Momma would swing by Aunt Bill’s house and pick her up or she would take a bus and meet us in the cafeteria of Woolworths.

 

Momma never left me with a babysitter, so wherever she went – I went.

 

Of course, Aunt Bill would take me by the hand and we would go shopping in the toy department, while Momma would shop for other items on her shopping list.

 

Aunt Bill never had a driver’s license until after her 48th birthday, when she passed the test.

 

Nights close to Christmas, Momma would have daddy set aside the night shift job to go Christmas shopping with us. There was a huge store called, “Globe” that seemed to stretch for acres across the horizon in all directions. We would make evening shopping trips to Globe to browse the long aisles.

 

Momma and I loved to shop. Daddy was the traditional American male shopping stereotype, who always just wants to “go in get what he needed and get out of the store.”

 

Southern Protocol

 

The United States is the United States from sea to shining sea. Americans are pretty much all alike in all the 50 states and trust territories. However, “The South” is still “The South.”

 

The southern United States definitely has a distinct sense of protocol that is missing from the northern states. It is a sense of protocol and etiquette not much different from any branch of the United States Armed Forces.

 

The best way to describe “Southern Protocol” —- imagine “The British Monarchy in Stetsons and dress cowboy boots.”

 

What It Means To Be A Texan

 

At heart, “A Texan Is A Successful Hybrid Of An Israeli And A United States Marine.”    Texas Logo 

 

Like the Israelis, Texans know they too are “God’s Chosen People – Texans are The American Version Of God’s Chosen People.”

 

Like a United States Marine, a Texan is all about God and Country, which means “The Battle Of The Alamo” is engineered into your DNA and the follow-up report of where General Sam Houston and the Texicans caught up with Santa Anna and his men is engineered into your RNA, which translates to “The Lone Star” will find a way to shine through any adversity at all costs.

 

Citizens of the other southern states have their sense of pride. Texas and Texans citizenship genetics is a unique blend of confidence, arrogance and pride.

 

Louisiana Pride

 

Louisiana citizens share a state pride that is similar to the Texan’s. Some of the original settlers of Louisiana had been forced to leave their native land and essentially found sanctuary in Louisiana. Then, you factor in the French heritage and the Caribbean cultural influence to create a unique state.

 

New Orleans’ magick, superstition, Voodoo, Hoodoo, Santeria and varying degrees of Roman Catholicism has always been “A Busty Bright Red Bra Waving In The Face Of America’s Conservative Religious Right.”

 

Factor in lawyers trained in the Code Napoleon, who practice law within the United States’ modified British legal system and Americans at large consider Louisiana an oddity best visited during Mardi Gras.

 

All the states of the United States have unique cultures based on their histories. The southern states have always had the European heritage belief that suggests your heritage should be a part of who you are —- rather than just an old family history book in a box packed away in a storage unit and forgotten about.

 

Texans and Louisianans simply seem more ready to embrace their family heritages and proudly live in the spotlight. The traditional southern culture concept is based on respect and politeness.

 

Children in the southern states in 2012 may not be as formally trained as I was as a child.

 

I was taught: “Please.” “Thank You.” “Yes, sir.” “No, sir.” “Yes, mam.” “No, mam.”

 

I was taught to always respect my elders. I was taught to be polite. I was taught if you disagree to do it in a civil manner. Only the adults got to cuss or lose their temper, but, that was only after they had exhausted all the civil rules of politeness and protocol

 

Smart Aleck ?

 

When I first went to “boot camp”, my first Military Training Instructor, Technical Sergeant Carr, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, accused me of being a “smart aleck” because I answered, “Yes, sir” and “No,sir” as soon as I got off the bus at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

 

Airman Basic Warren are you being a smart aleck with me,” he grumbled at the top of his lungs loudly into my face.

 

Sir. No, sir. Daddy is a Texan, sir.”

 

Titles Of Respect

 

I was taught that children did not interrupt adults talking in a conversation. You let people finish saying what they have to say, before you reply.

 

Anyone older than you are is always Mr., Mrs, Miss, Mz.

 

You never ever call anyone by their last name without a courtesy title like Mr., or Mrs., in front of the last name, especially, if that person is middle age or a senior citizen – it is a sign of respect,

 

Never ever refer to a middle-aged or senior citizen by their first name, even if they tell you it is okay. You would still call them by their respected title and last name.

 

When Momma and I moved to Missouri, my first three years of school I always felt weird because the Southern Protocol had been engineered into my DNA.

 

Classmates would look at me weird when I added Mrs before the last name of their mothers and added Mr before the last name, when addressing their fathers.

Ozarks Informality

In the Ozarks, kids call adults by their first names. In the Ozarks, kids could answer, “Yeah.”, “Yep.”, “Nope”, or “Nah.,” I was never allowed to use the informality.

 

I was taught it was okay to call kids my own age by their first names and if they had a brother or sister only one year older.

 

If the brother or sister was two years older than my classmate then the Texas and Southern Protocol default kicked in and I had to add Mr., or Miss.

 

The Southern Protocol was always comfortable and normal “Down South” because everyone did it. But, using the “Southern Protocol” procedures in the Ozarks always made me seem like a “foreigner” to my classmates, their siblings and their parents.

 

By the fourth grade, I didn’t care what my classmates thought of my “Southern Protocol.” Daddy expected me to do it. Momma required me to do it. I did it. By fourth grade, “Southern Protocol” was like eye color – it was a part of me.

 

Momma The Hillbilly

 

Momma took pride in being known as a Missouri hillbilly. She often referred to herself as a hillbilly. People would nod. Then, of course, when she called someone “Mr. Keithley” or “Mrs. Keithley,” Ozarkers would frown at the Mr., or Mrs.” being added before the last name, when they expected to hear a first name.

 

Usually an Ozarks’ family member would whisper or speak up, “Opal spent years living in Texas.”

 

As a child I would smile and wonder why Texas just didn’t issue a passport that the other states would recognize.

 

Texas Protocol and Southern Protocol in day to day business affairs in the Ozarks was like being a diplomat from a foreign country.

 

Texas, and maybe, Louisiana, should have their own embassies in Washington D.C., even as states of the United States because Texas and Louisiana really are still foreign countries to their fellow Americans.

 

Political Awareness – NOT

Political Correctness

 

Momma was a politically astute woman. She did not do or say things because they were expected or because it was the “politically correct fad” of the moment.

 

A politically aware person bases their actions on the situation and their beliefs. A “politically correct” person, is like America’s wimp politicians of the 1970s, who all had the “backbones of jellyfish.” Instead of standing up to controversy or working to find a solution, the “politically correct wimps” went with the “fad of the moment” and made America appear like a moody school girl in domestic and foreign policy matters.

 

Momma was politically aware. She made it a point to vote in every presidential election, every election for sheriff and the school board election. She voted for the other offices like county clerk, governor and the others, but, she really focused on the president because he or she calls the overall shots that can lead to war or peace. The sheriff has massive amounts of power in a county. The school board simply means they can go off the deep end and do things that are really going to send your property taxes through the roof.

 

Momma knew and dealt with politicians in the Ozarks, but, they never really knew if Opal was a supporter or just a polite woman.

 

Subtle Messages

 

Momma had learned the Texas Protocol and Southern Protocol custom of referring to people as “a personal friend of mine” or the remark, “they are an acquaintance of mine.”

 

Down South people understood the remarks identified a level of response. It was a subtle endorsement or a subtle rejection of a candidate, leader, official or the person next door.

 

Down South the “personal friend” and the “acquaintance” remarks were a polite way of showing where you stood. In the Ozarks, people shrugged off the remarks as though it was a boast.

 

Momma didn’t brag or boast. She always reminded me, “No one likes a braggart or a blow hard. Don’t blow your own horn.”

 

Family Holidays “Down South” in Houston, in the 1960s, were treated like “an audience with the Queen of England,” “a formal state dinner at the White House” or “an audience at the Vatican.” The significance of the holiday determined the level of formality.

 

The Generals And The Realtors

 

One of the major differences of the 1950s and the 1960s “Down South” as opposed to the Ozarks was in the “formality” of the American Woman.

 

In the South, once you sat foot in a home, it was comfortable, warm, functional and organized like a commanding general’s office. In the home, everything had a place and everything was in the place.

 

Here To Stay

 

There might be lace dollies on the furniture. Even if the home had kids, you still felt at home and everything was organized. It was formal and lived in, but, never gave the feeling that there was damage or that you were “under attack.”

 

Kids grew up with the expectation that all the important formal ceremonies of life would be within the four walls and under the roof. Home for Christmas really meant you had to be “Home for Christmas” to truly enjoy the holiday.

 

The home always had a comfortable sense of “relaxed and functional formality.” The South had a “home” mentality. The Southern “home” was a base of operations and the “wife” was the general in charge who made sure “the base was there to stay.”

Ready To Redeploy

 

In the Ozarks, in the 1950s and 1960s, women seemed to still have “the log cabin mentality.” It was the feeling that, “We cook in here and sleep in here, but, once we get some money, then, we will go find a ‘real ‘ home to live in and a realtor can sell this one.”

 

There was usually the feeling you get on being assigned to a base on a closure list, which is we do the job, until we get orders somewhere else and the realtors show up here or the bulldozers to start the closure procedure.

 

Kids seemed to grow up with the expectation that their homes were more like “bus stations”, which meant “Christmas On The Road” indicated you wouldn’t have to be home for the holidays.

 

The Ozarks had a “temporary and looking for something better” mentality. The Ozarks’ “home” seemed a “deployment area” and the “wife” was “the realtor in charge who stood ready to load the kids in the car and head for the state line.”

 

Texas Logo

 

Christmas Itinerary

 

Christmas meant you pulled out all the stops and went for “A Norman Rockwell Christmas” that could be filmed by a major motion picture studio for possible showing on the screens of theaters.

 

Zero Hour for Christmas Day relied on the children. The child was the “On Scene Commander,” once the child got to the Christmas Tree the mission kicked off.

 

Like a Strategic Air Command Operational Readiness Inspection,you knew it would happen; you just didn’t know when ? Parents hoped the child would wait until sunrise to begin Christmas Day.

 

Operation Christmas Tree” means the parents watch the kids be kids and have fun. Have the video movie cameras and the film or digital still cameras loaded with charged batteries and recording media positioned nearby. After all, children don’t learn about “photo opportunities ” until they grow older.

 

Once Operation Christmas Tree ends, then, Mom and Dad will have their plans to implement for the rest of the day.

 

In Houston,plans after Operation Christmas Tree, meant Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey, would go to church and then show up for Christmas Dinner. Daddy and Uncle Audrey would shoot the breeze, while Aunt Bill and Momma would cook Christmas Dinner,

 

Usually the day would extend past Christmas Dinner, while the adults talked until the early evening, when Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey would head home.

 

Christmas in Houston meant a 98 percent chance of “No Snow.”

 

C – Day !

 

December 25, 1959

The Home of Samuel E. and Opal M. DeLong Warren

313th East 26th Street

Houston, Texas

 

I have never been a morning person.

 

C – Day ! Christmas Day was always the exception to my genetic programming.

 

I bolted out of bed.

 

By the time, my tiny feet hit the floor, I was already halfway down the hallway and into the screened in porch room.

 

The huge Christmas Tree was only six foot tall, but, when you are a five-year old boy, the tree in the corner is always as huge as a California Redwood. Momma had massive amounts of matched decorations on the trees. The ornaments were the painted glass ball ornaments of the era.

 

The bubble lights always mesmerized me like a deer in the headlights. The plastic UFO shaped disk bulbs were two tones of color like red and green or blue and yellow. A glass tube contained a red fluid that when heated by electricity would “bubble.”

 

I would shake off my bubble light trance and dive for the brightly wrapped boxes under the tree. It helped that Momma and Daddy were workaholics because I always got what I wanted and more that I didn’t even know existed.

 

 

Marx Electric Robot

 

The centerpiece of this Christmas celebration for me – the Marx Electric Robot. It was an ugly toy.

 

Looks are not everything.

 

My robot came out of the box, to display a casket gray and dark maroon paint scheme.

 

It had a face, only a mother could love. It had a square, alphabet block style head. It had a Voodoo mask expression with a hideous toothless grin. The original toy designer must have worked on the sets of Hollywood Halloween Horror flicks because the toy looked scary.

 

It had a toolbox drawer in it’s stomach, which was cool because it had a wrench or two and the rectangular drawer looked like it belonged at that position.

 

The pedestal base leg design was misleading. You thought the robot would walk like a person with one leg in front of the other. Bur, actually, it’s walking function was more of a “rolling” function.

 

The fact that the big robot took two D sized batteries, “flashlight batteries” to move like it “walked” was a big selling point for kids and parents.

 

The C claw pincher hand at the end of the arm allowed the robot to pick up a “Junior” robot, a smaller robot that came packaged with the main robot.

 

I don’t remember the junior robot “doing anything.” It was a sculpted piece of plastic that sat on the floor for the main robot to “pickup” with the pincher arm.

 

The major selling point of this robot was “The Morse Code function.” You pushed the button on the back of the maroon blockhead and the large yellow eyes on the face would “flash out” Morse code.

 

My robot had The Morse Code key printed out in yellow on the back of the robot, so you knew how many dots and dashes you needed to spell out a letter or a word.

 

In the 1950s this robot was “technology.” In 2012, you can find the non-working robots listed on ebay, without the “Junior” plastic robot that always seems to have disappeared.

 

The moving and the Morse Code function of the robot “amazed me.” I always had to show my aunts and uncles this nifty toy when they came by to visit.

 

Everyone always laughed at the ugly little robot with the flashing Morse Code eyes. Even the adults thought it was “swell” because of the Morse Code function.

 

The Space Race Is On

 

The “simplistic technology” of this robot in the Cold War years of America and “The Space Race” always served to remind you that the Russians may have beat the Americans into space with Sputnik, but the “Race For The Moon Is On.”

 

By 1960, it is impossible to imagine a boy in America from age four to 13 that wasn’t ready to pack his bags and report to NASA to become an astronaut. Robots and space toys were all the rage from the date Sputnik launched in 1957 until Man Walked On The Moon in 1969.

 

Battalions Of Boy Astronauts Downsized

 

America could have been and should have been the nation that made Gene Roddenberry’s United Federation of Planet’s Star Trek future a reality.

 

Alas, the 1970s and “lily-liveried politicians” decided to choose” wallets and worry” or intelligence, imagination, creativity, desire, drive and ambition. Generations of America’s “Battalions Of Boy Astronauts” grew up to become “clock punching peasant taxpayers.”

 

While the future rests in the ether of time, I rip through the paper and become surrounded by a science fiction lunar landscape of discarded boxes and strange paper trees, the floor under the tree would disappear under the revealed toy inventory.

 

My

Marx Three Keys To Treasure Bagatelle Machine

 

 

December 25, 1961

The Home of Samuel E. and Opal M. DeLong Warren

313th East 26th Street

Houston, Texas

 

I rush to the Christmas Tree in the living room and began ripping into the brightly wrapped packages. I ripped into the Christmas paper on the oblong box and unleashed “The Future.”

 

Walk into an American bowling alley, cafe, restaurant, hamburger joint, drive in, bar, or beer joint and you would almost always find one and sometimes several bagatelle machines.

 

They were loud, noisy, gaudy and they mesmerized generations of people until the 1980s when the coin-operated video game industry began to install their annoying game machines.

 

Everyone seemed to love the bagatelle machines. You could even buy smaller versions in toy stores and the toy sections of drug stores and grocery stores.

 

America loved her pinball machines.

 

My Marx Three Keys To Treasure Bagatelle Machine was a child’s version of “The Wheel Of Fortune” television game show.

 

Inside the large maroon dial of the wheel were shiny, bright, gumball machine novelty prizes. At least, one marble has to align in the three spaces of the maroon plastic selection device. Then, you move the peg, which activates the contraption that opens the door on the wheel to reveal your “treasure.”

 

Momma, daddy, Aunt Bill, Uncle Audrey, and I would crowd around the kitchen table on a Friday or Saturday evening and play the game. The adults seemed to enjoy the game as much as any kid.

 

There were spaces printed with points listed, which meant if you got a pen and notepad, you could keep track of your points and figure out who had the most skill with the game.

 

One trip to Texas and the game got loaded in the Impala for the trip back to Missouri. In Missouri, whenever the game was placed on the kitchen table, adults and kids always crowded around the machine and the evening passed with people laughing.

 

There was a few years in the 1970s, when the toy occupied a space in the living room closet, but, even in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the toy would appear on the kitchen table and people would crowd around for a game of pinball.

 

In December 2011, the toy was packed into our household goods for shipment to the Republic of the Philippines. Travel turned the pristine, but dusty box into a pathetic version of it’s former glory.

 

The toy survived the trip, with a minor amount of damage. Nonetheless, when the machine is set up on the kitchen table, the kids crowd around for an afternoon of pinball.

 

I salute the Marx toy company workers because any company that can create a product that from 1961 until 2012 is still standing the test of time is a company that had a “great idea.”

 

And, 51 years later, the bagatelle machine is still bringing smiles and keeping kids and adults entertained for an afternoon or an evening to create a “Treasure Trove Of Memories.” – “What A Toy !”

 

My Immortal “ Kodak Moment ”

 

Christmas morning in Houston, I would look up from the rising sea of discarded Christmas wrapping paper. I radiated, joy, happiness, excitement, like a new sun sending light and energy through space.

 

Mom and Dad would heard the commotion of my childish exaltations.

 

Yes !” “Gee whiz !” “Alright !” “Oh, boy !” “Swell !.” “Neat !” “Neato !”

 

They would step into the room, smiling, wearing pajamas and bulky red Christmas bath robes. Each had a cup of piping hot coffee that they sipped on.

 

The camera in my mind snapped the picture of Mom and Dad standing there smiling at me sipping their coffee. Click ! That “Kodak Moment” is forever framed in the photographic gallery of my memory.

 

I was a blessed little boy. I was a spoiled little boy.

 

Back in the 21st Century, One Warren Way, Barangay Baras, Leyte, Republic of the Philippines. I watched Christy and the kids cut out the letters for a holiday banner like a New York City jeweler facets a diamond. They were meticulous and precise in their use of the scissors on the paper.

 

As the days until Christmas Day pass, the kids talk about and look forward to their school Christmas parties.

 

My wish is Christmas morning, the kids notice Uncle Sam and Aunt Christy stroll out on the porch to watch them release their “inner kid” on the brightly wrapped boxes under the Christmas Tree.

 

I hope they pause only long enough to capture a “Kodak Moment” that they can place in the photo folders of their minds to hang on to in the years to come.

 

Early in the morning, Christy and I will both be sipping from hot cups of coffee. Of course, Uncle Sam with his camera will be ready to take a few family snapshots.

Sam

Texas Logo

 

Sidebar

 

Rubber Toys of the 1960s

 

The nice thing about being a kid in the 1950s is you got tin and metal toys at Christmas to play with.

 

I had a collection of Auburn hard rubber cars and trucks to play with. They were fun toys to play with.

 

I didn’t like the plastic toys because they broke too easily.

 

I loved the metal and tin toys because they were durable and could take whatever you through at them. Usually the worst thing that happen would be you might knock off some paint from the toy.

 

You could leave a tin or metal toy out in the rain or snow and it would still be where you left it. And, even in the salt air of Texas, the toy didn’t “rust out” that quickly.

 

In the mid to late 1960s, parents began to complain to Congress that the tin and metal toys had sharp edges that might hurt the child.

 

Then, in the 1970s, some kids had put the metal toys in their mouth. Parents complained to Congress because many of the metal toys were coated in lead based paint, which was suppose to create health problems and lower the child’s I.Q.

 

Congress, of course, passed the laws.

 

No one , apparently, ever had the common sense idea to remind parents : “They are your kids. You are suppose to look in on your kids every so often to make sure they aren’t misusing, abusing or destroying their toys. Parents are suppose to check on their kids to make sure they are not using their toys in a manner that will hurt or injure the child.”

 

Kids aren’t born knowing how to play with toys; you have to show toddlers and three-year – olds how to play with toys. It only takes a couple of minutes to sit down on the floor and show a kid how to roll a car on the floor. It only takes a moment to remind a child that you don’t throw the toy at people or furniture.”

 

The rubber toys were fun and would last for generations.

 

The metal and tin toys were durable and would last for generations.

 

The plastic toys were cheap. Accidentally, drop a plastic toy and it could smash to smithereens. Usually, a plastic toy lasted only a few minutes.

 

Sam

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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December 21, 2012 at 3:55 AM

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“Happy Birthday, Marife !”

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Happy Birthday, Marife !

May 29, 2012

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The Birthday Girl – Marife Saldana Roa, the birthday girl, opens her birthday cards. The kids and Tito Sam used their best creative efforts to make some birthday cards for the special day. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Marife Saldana was about 14 when she came to Angeles City and her sister, Christy, enrolled her in Dau Academy.

The Sisters — Christy Warren and Marife Saldana Roa, the sisters, talk and joke for a fe moments, before the birthday party gets underay. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I met Marife, when she was the teenager.

Like her friends in the school’s white uniform blouses and required green skirts they talked about the things teenage girls talk about like: boys.

It was the late 1980s, so cell phones had yet to be invented, thus, classmates talked about things on the way to and from school

“Girl Talk” — Pina Gempis and Marife Roa talk in the kitchen. Pina spent the morning, cooking spaghetti and pancit canton for the birthday party. In the Filipino culture, pancit canton is the Filipino dish you expect to find at a birthday party because tradition states that pancit canton is a symbol of a long life. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

and on weekends because “texting” had yet to be invented.

May 29 is Marife’s birthday.

Even as a teenager, Marife had a smile and a quiet personality. In 2012, Marife is married to Ninoy Roa and the mother of four boys: Gilbert, Glen, Chrismar and Mac Mac.

“Happy Birthday to you.” — Christy Warren lights the candles on the birthday cake.
Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Today was a milestone, other than age. The last time Christy bought a birthday cake and had a birthday party for her sister, Marife, she was 16. Christy returned to the Republic of the Philippines in December 2011, and this was the first opportunity, she had to have a birthday party for her sister Marife.

Although Marife Saldana Roa is my sister-in-law, I have always believed, “She is the daughter I should of had.”  As a teenager, Marife was always respectful to her elders, did well in school, and never hesitated to use her English skills to tell me what was going on in school.  As a teenager, she always treated me like a father and since our return to the Philippines, Marife continues to be the daughter I should of had.

The Good Morning Bakery Birthday Cake. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

May 28, Christy went to the “Good Morning Bakery” in Palo and ordered the birthday cake. Christy looked through the pictures of the birthday cakes and picked out the design.  The selection of the birthday cake became a Major Military Operation because I went along to order the birthday cake.  I’m one of those people, who as a child was always “picky” about the kind of food I ate and “where I ate.”  As a senior citizen, I remain “picky” about my food from birthday cakes to anything I eat.

While the bakers were discussing the cake with Christy, I had questions about the size and flavor.  Christy remembered that Marife like vanilla.  One of the baker’s assistants brought out a cake pan to show up the size.  I took one look and figured three people would get birthday cake and everyone else would watch them eat.  I smiled and asked bigger.  The assistant then explained that they had a cake pan about twice the size.  I nodded, “Texas size.”

When selecting the novelty to place on the cake, Christy remembered as a teenager that Marife liked the TV show, “Darna.”  Darna is a Filipino super heroine, whose American counterpart is “Wonder Woman.”  Like “Wonder Woman” in the United States, “Darna” is a character in the Philippines that is always portrayed by the most beautiful Filipina actresses of every generation in the movies and on TV.  Darna has always been a positive role model for Filipina girls.

Back in the 1980s, whenever a Darna TV show or movie came on, I plopped down on the sofa beside Ramon and Marife to watch.  Thus, the Darna super heroine doll stood tall in a corner of the cake.

The Good Morning Bakery birthday cake was pleasing to the eye.  I was impressed by the taste.  The vanilla cake was moist to the tongue.  Regardless of where I have been in the world and had birthday cakes or wedding cakes, one thing I always remember is that sometimes the cakes are dry.

Once the cake comes in contact with your tongue you dash like a man in the desert for the nearest source of liquid to quench your steel wool thirst.  Christy overcomes the dryness problem with cakes by using butter to keep the cake moist.

Christy Warren serves up a helping of birthday cake and pancit canton to Edwin Mora. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I do not know how the Good Morning Bakery kept this cake moist, but it passed my tongue test and I enjoyed the cake.  Naturally, I would of liked the cake to be a tad more moist, but, when it comes to food I am “picky.”  I am a Scorpio, but, when it comes to food, my taste buds and stomach are obviously Virgo in the extreme – my eyes and digestive system give new meaning to the phrase, “Attention To Detail” and the word, “Perfection.”

The smiling faces of the attendees and the second-helpings were a testament to the flavor of the birthday cake.  And the icing was a favorite with the adults as well as the kids.

Marife is not the only Saldana relative, who celebrates May 29 as the birthday. Randy Abano, a second cousin, is a close family member, who also shares the Gemini day.

All Western astrological signs have their positive and negative values and Gemini is a sign often considered to be “moody.”  However, Marife and Randy remind me of  the famous American Gemini, who served as a United States Navy PT boat commander, who went on to become a great American President – John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Before the birthday party began, Ranyiel Saldana handed one of the pet pigeons to Randy Abano to examine. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Randy is a quiet young man, who is always ready to help out.

Perhaps, he is “picky” about dating because he is still a single man.

Before I conclude this birthday article, I leave my readers two points to ponder.

Point Number One

In my lifetime, at birthday parties, I have always noticed that usually it seems the birthday boy or the birthday girl is expected “to cut the cake.”  Why is that ?

The birthday is the day of days, when the individual can truly celebrate the anniversary of their birth into this world.  It is the one time every year, when every man, woman and child should be respected as one of “God’s unique gifts to the Universe.”  While family and friends usually do try to honor the person, the glitch always seems to come at cake time.  Instead of a family member or friend stepping up from the ranks to do the honor, the birthday boy or birthday girl is usually left positioned behind the cake to decide how to cut if, while the fate of the Free World and human civilization hangs in the balance.

Someone hands them a knife, and leaves the birthday boy or birthday girl to decide, “How do I cut the cake ?”

On my birthday, I always smile, step back and would hand the knife to my mother, Cousin Donna, or my wife, Christy, and reply, “I do a lousy job of cutting a cake.”  I knew my talents in life did not include cake cutting, thus, one of my trusted love ones had to have a more precise skill of cake cutting than I would ever master.

In my experience, most people usually stand there bewildered until some hungry family member takes pity and decides to step up to assist.  I am no protocol person, but on someone’s special day, the goal is to honor and celebrate their birthday.  Thus, it should already be decided long before the traditional song is sung, who will step up to assume command of “The Cutting Of The Cake.”

Point Number Two

Most often a Wedding is an expensive personal ceremony that ranks right up their with Presidential Ignauration Ceremonies.  All the planning, pomp and circumstance goes into planning weddings as though it were a re-enactment of “The D-Day Landing.”  After the traditional “cutesie moment” of the bride “smushing” cake into her new husband’s face and him doing likewise to his new wife, then, the marvelous machinery of the wedding celebration rockets into high gear and the wedding cake is quickly distributed to the masses.

Unfortunately, Birthday Celebrations are sometimes one of those “Fly By The Seat Of Your Pants” events that suggests you are making it up as you go along.  The best birthday celebrations always seem to collapse like a fallen cake at serving time.  One reason maybe the absence of the ingenious device – “The Cake Server” – a utensil shaped like a pizza slice with a laid back L shaped handle that allows the utensil to slide in under the cake and raise it triumphantly in one piece up into the atmosphere.

Without the cake server, people’s stomachs always override their sense of logistics and spoons and forks are stabbed at the cake like prehistoric cave people trying to free the charbroiled dinosaur bone from the family flame pit.  It is a given, that the piece of cake will wobble and collapse like a badly constructed tower, near, and sometimes actually in the plate.  My solution is to use a knife and a fork or spoon to actually “balance” the piece of cake to the nearby plate.  My crude forklift tactic usually prevents the cake from becoming a Tower of Babble re-enactment.

The Royal Imperial Professional College of Birthday Cake Taste Testers — of any country is kids. The Saldana and Roa kids enjoyment of The Good Morning Bakery of Palo’s birthday cake quickly attained a positive five-star rating from the M &Ms, to the vanilla flavor and the icing. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Of course, Marife and Randy’s birthday party went off without a hitch because Christy Warren is a natural born protocol officer.  I suspect my wife must have been a protocol officer at a Royal European Court in one of her past lives.

Thus, when it came time to blow out the candles Marife and Randy made their wishes and blew out the candles.

The Birthday Dignitaries – Marife Saldana Roa and Randy Abano gather around the birthday cake, while Ann Ann Natividad watches in the background. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Happy Birthday, Marife ! Happy Birthday, Randy !

Sam

Raise The Colors !

with 15 comments

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I love to see a flag flying in the breeze.

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  The Saldana Family proudly flies their Republic of the Philippines flag in Barangay Baras among the coconut and guava trees.

  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Thanks to my brother-in-law, Ramon Q. Saldana Jr.,in a matter of days, we had a beautiful, tall, functional flagpole in our front yard. 

In the United States of America when a military installation or a government agency is ready to begin business, there is a formal ceremony that focuses on the raising of the United States flag to announce the”official” commencement of operations. Even homes, in the United States, with a flagpole usually has some type of ceremony before the flag is raised for the first time. 

Once a flagpole is ready, you need to understand your feelings toward the flag that will rise up the standard.  If the banner is a national flag, then, you need to understand your emotions and beliefs about patriotism.

Patriotism involves your love of your country and the respect to honor the memory of the people who have sacrificed their lives for your country.  If you don’t love your country or feel little to no emotion for the people who have sacrificed their lives for your country; then, you have no business flying a national flag.

In observing my nephews and nieces, they have shown care, concern and compassion for their community and have demonstrated their responsibility in their schoolwork, which translates to me as responsible citizenship.  I’m proud to watch them show an interest in current events and Filipino history, which I also view as personal pride in their country. 

 

When you fly a national flag, you should always be aware of your nation’s flag protocol.  In the United States Armed Forces, I was taught customs and courtesies, which addressed guidelines for the use and display of the United States flag.  And, I know there are detailed procedures for the use and display of the US flag at embassies, consulates and official government agencies.  I would theorize that most governments probably have similar procedures and guidelines for the display and use of their national flags.

 

I explained to my nephews and nieces that proper display of the flag is their responsibility and suggested they ask a teacher or go online and research Republic of the Philippines protocol for the display of the national flag.

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  Ramon Q. Saldana Jr., and Marife Saldana Roa adjust the flagpole line. 

  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we raised the flag, Ramon and Fe asked me if we were going to do “a formal flag ceremony ?”  I smiled and answered, “I’m retired.  My days of military protocol are behind me.”  The truth is before putting together anything like a formal flag ceremony, I wanted to be sure that the flagpole and the flag would work without any flaws. 

 

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Christy Warren and Ramon Saldana hold the banner while Marife threads a tie through the top grommet to tie the banner to the flagpole line.

Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I had not tested the flag raising procedure, I didn’t want to risk the kids being assembled for a flag raising and have the line hang up so that the flag did not rise or discover that the grommets were not tied properly and have the flag come loose and fall to the ground.  My favorite “Uncle Sam” had taught me to always hope for the “Best Case Scenario” and to be ready to expect the “Worst Case Scenario.”  Without a “dry run” to test the procedure, I suggested that we just try to raise the flag the next morning.

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Ramon and Fe make sure the top grommet is securely tied to the flagpole line as a part of the process to raise the banner. 

Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I simply hoped that we would have the colors flying when the kids returned home from school the next day.

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Nephew Marlon Saldana climbs up a nearby guava tree to snatch the flagpole line which came loose from the bottom of the banner and did not allow it to rise in the first attempt.The failure revealed that the line should pass through the top grommet and the bottom grommet.  To keep the banner attached to the line, then, the bottom grommet would also have to be tied to the nylon flagpole line to allow the flag to rise with the line up to the pulley at the top of the staff.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

February 1, 2012, Christy, Ramon and Marife, three of the adult children of Ramon and Nenita Saldana, raised the colors in the front yard for the first time. I, of course, photographed the event.

Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong; will go wrong,” seems to pinpoint first time events.  The initial flag raising did not go smoothly.

 

None of us had ever tied a flag to the line before.  The tie at the bottom grommets of the flag did not hold and the bottom of the flag came loose as it was raised.

Fortunately, the flag did not touch the ground. U.S. Flag protocol states that if the flag falls and touches the ground, then, that flag must be destroyed.

When we attempted to lower the flag, too much of the line came through the pulley at the top and the line rushed through until the knot at the end of the line caught in the pulley.   My nephew, Marlon Saldana climbed up the nearby guava tree and retrieved the knotted line caught up in the pulley and brought the line back down.

By the second attempt, the glitches had been remedied and the colors rose up the line to the top of the flagpole.

8_RAMON ADJUST THE LINE AND CHRISTY STRAIGHTENS THE FLAG_6717

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramon Saldana examines the flagpole line to make sure  it passes through the grommets of the banner to allow the cloth to rise up the line.  Christy Warren straightens the material, so that the cloth should rise like the sail of a ship up to the top of the mast.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The colors raised – there was only one item missing – a breeze.

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The flagpole line raises the flag up to the top of the flagpole on the second attempt.  Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time passed. The kids returned home from school, but the flag was not flying. That fact was a disappointment. Unfortunately, there was no breeze.

The irony is ,it was about, a week and a half later before the flag waved.  Typhoon winds off of the ocean actually spawned enough of a breeze to unfurl the colors.

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The colors unfurl.  The Republic of the Philippines flag flies above the Saldana Family residence in Barangay Baras, Tanauan, Leyte. 

Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

If you pass through Barangay Baras, keep looking through the tall coconut trees.   When you see a flash of colors in the trees look for the flagpole.  The Saldana Family flagpole stands proud and unfurls the colors of the Republic of the Philippines against the sky.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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