Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Rousseaus, the Freitases, the Goulartes, and the Infamous Christmas Pageant

I wrote several years ago about a parochial school Christmas program at which I was the piano accompanist.   I don't really need to get into all the nitty-gritty details here, and so I won't. Suffice it to say that  the mother of the ailing Wise Man -- Luke Goularte -- knew he was not well and therefore should not have pushed him onto the stage in full Magi regalia.   It's damned hard to appear wise -- robe, crown, and myrrh or not, when one is in the throes of a norovirus or rota- virus, otherwise known as the stomach flu. Hell,  the kid could've been carrying around a copy of Gray's Anatomy, which might have been more appropriate than myrrh, since the title would at least have matched his skin tone, and he still couldn't have pulled off "wise," especially when he and everyone standing within the span of his breath knew he was about one-half of a burp away from a highly public catastrophe. Such would have been the case even if luck had been on "Balthazar's" side,  had the worst -of-the-worst not happened, and  had he not emptied his stomach of everything it held. From appearances, his poor, ailing stomach had been storing  partially digested food for days much in the manner a squirrel preparing for winter will store food in its cheeks.

In term's of David's mother's possible reasoning, "Balthazar" was the highest ranking role in the pageant in which any of  Mrs. Goularte's  children had ever been cast. She must have feared that, had she allowed her child to back out of his supporting role (not quite a lead, but at least not a bit part; after the fact, we all agreed he was was  the star of the pageant, intentional or otherwise) at the last minute, even with his 104-degree temp, all of the present and future Goularte children would have been relegated to livestock roles for as long as their association with the school were to continue.  While the role of Balthazar was not a lead by any stretch of the imagination, it was leaps and bounds ahead of  being assigned a  a livestock part, or, worse still, that of a bale of hay, which  actually was designated to a particular child whose mother  innocently brought daisies for a luncheon honoring Sister  Bernadette.  Sister Bernadette  was and presumably still is almost mortally allergic to daisies, and alternately cried and sneezed throughout the entire luncheon held in her honor.  The moral of this little parable is that, while nuns  take a vow of poverty, or at least I think they do, they take no such vow against revenge. Nuns have long memories, and if a person does anything at all to offend  a nun, one may expect long-term retribution from that nun and any and all allies she may have. In many cases, one would be relatively safe; most of the nuns I know have comparatively few allies. The sisters can barely tolerate with each other, much less get along with the population at large. Still, if one doesn't want his or her child to portray a hay bale in next year's Christmas pageant, one would do well to learn what flowers and other things set off allergic reactions with regard to specific nuns. The more important the nun, the more important it is to cater to her allergies.

I've taken far too long to make a relatively simple point here, which is that David Goularte's older brother, Luke, reenacted the role of Balthazar, the ailing Magi, on the night of one of the more memorable parochial school Christmas programs in  the history of  San Joaquin Valley Christmas programs.  According to arguably the most  efficient gossip mill to exist pre-technology (cell phones existed even  then,   but were dinosaur-like and typically were larger than most of the Goulartes' full-term babies, who were gestational diabetes by-products and thus weighed in at birth similar to or greater than newborn calves), barely seven-year-old Alexis Rousseau had deliberately chosen the song "American Pie" to fill the time when the contents  of Luke  Goularte's gastric system were being mopped from the auditorium stage to somehow add further humiliation to the Goularte family name. (Exactly how, after all that had happened,  a barely seven-year-old girl could further aid and abet in embarrassing  the Goularte family  falls under the category of a mystery wrapped in an enigma surrounded by a nutshell,  but we'll allow it for the sake of argument. Still, it would  seem as though the young boy and the mother who forced him, visibly ill, upon the stage, did quite well at dishonoring their own family name without sharing any of the credit with me.)  Anyway, Mrs. Goularte still held the cow/mastitis thing against me two years later, even as my mom was fighting the battle of her life with leukemia. The leukemia issue had little to do with the price of tea in China except to illustrate the level of animosity held by Mrs. Goularte. Even the idea that a barely-seven-year-old child and her twin brother were in grave danger to losing their mother to leukemia did not seem, by Mrs. Goularte's way of reasoning, to be sufficient reason to forgive, forget, and move along with life.

When much of the audience joined in to sing along  to "American Pie" as the vomitus was being cleared from the stage surface, the props, and the costumes of the other characters  as expeditiously as possible,  Mr. Goularte,  who enjoyed a rousing tune as much as did the next inebriated Azores dairyman, sang along with  the rest of those who participated,  and, I might add, according to my Aunt Victoria,  did so with gusto. Mrs. Goularte  took this not as being caught up in the moment or of making the best of a difficult situation  (it was, after all, the eldest Goularte child who had befouled the stage with vomitus) but rather  as disloyalty and dishonor directed  toward her [Mrs. Goularte] personally, since the child playing "American Pie" on the piano and the one who had inferred that she was  a cow were one and the same.

Mr. Goularte spent the twelve days of Christmas on the hospitality of the sofa in the dairy office.   All's well that ends well, though, or at least that's how the saying goes. At least three Goularte babies were conceived and born after the infamous Christmas program incident,  so some form of reconciliation had to  have been achieved. Whether or not mastitis was a factor in any future post-natal intervals isn't known to me, but I do know that I never again made the faux pas of alleging that David Goularte's mother, or,for that matter,  anyone else's mother, would have to be a cow in order to suffer from mastitis.


  1. Rousseau. Form the French line of the family I'm guessing. Somewhere along the line you will find Jean-Jaques "Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains." Great line. And Henri Rousseau, great painter.

  2. Jean-Jacques(who may have been French Canadian as we are) i'm not sure -- also wrote the hymn tune that the Mormons use for "Lord,Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing." Everyone else in th U. s. uses the tune for the song ,"Go Tell Aunt rhody the Old Gray Goose Is Dead." The song has about seven million verses, such as "The one she'd been saving to make a feather bed""She died in the mill pond standing on her head." "the gander is weepomg, the old graygoose is dead," and "The Goslins are crying, the old gray goose is dead."

    Sometimes the little Mormon kids sing the O;d Gray Goose words when "Lord dismiss Us With They Blesing is being sung/

  3. (Ahem)Irish French Canadian you mean. Jean-Jacques was Swiss French I think.
    Go Mormon kids! We used to slip in 'Act of contrition, me father went fishin' or the ever popular 'Our Father who fart in Heaven.'

  4. Pope Idol is under way at the Vatican. Irish online betting site.
    Bizarrely it's only 500-1 on the next pope being called Pope Paddy Power I. Couple of Spanish guys were speculating online as to the name of the next 'Papa'. Papa Smurf came out as favourite. Classic.

  5. i wish we could see a televised version of everything that goes on inside that convocation. It would need to come with subtitled translations of course. I wonder if the cardinals in general have enough language in common to even argue with one another. Many are highly educated and would thus have at least some language in common with others. but in other cases, it would be like arguing in makeshift sign language.

    Insome cases, they probably are holy men who try to do what they think is the right thing, but in other cases, it's probably little more than a power play.

    While I'm still something of a [highly skeptical] believer, cafeteria plan Catholic though I am, the whole papacy thing is hard for me to take too seriously,knowing how a pope is chosen. one cannot become a pope by living a Godly life. So much politicking has to be involved in being elected pope that there's no way a really humble person of God would have a ghost of a chance of being selectged.

    So all of that being said, why not just make popcorn and siat bzck and enjoy the process? An American 9of irish descent) pope would be cool, but so would the real thing, which would be an actual Irish pope. On a more serious note, z Basque pope might be good (Basques are possibly the most devout Catholics on the planet) but the Basque situation is fraught with more politics than most situations, and it would be tough for the poor pope, as he'd be damned if he addressed the issues and damned if he tried to leave the papacy out of the issues of Basque rights and nationalism.

    I wish my other half, if it couldn't be Irish or something else Celtic, was Basque instead of French Canadian. What have the French Cznzdians ever contributed to anything? they can't even claim Gordon Lightfoot. he's scottish by blood and very much English-speaking Canadian.

    Isn't that smoke signal of indicating a vote has or hasn't been successful a trip and a half? I remember when Benedict was elected, the talking heads were still arguing about whether the smpke was black or white when the cardinals all appeared on the balcony, indicating a pope was selected.

    1. We've got wall to wall coverage. We've just had the first black smoke. Whoopee doo.
      We're related to the Basques by the way, very, very distant cousins.
      The Canadians do claim Tecumseh, one of my heroes. Then there's Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. An Irish army did invade Canada once upon a time.
      You back in college yet? How's it going?

  6. Today I had two lectures and a double session of gymnastics and tumbling, rescheduled for an early time because the prof had a conflict. All went well.

    Basques are cool.

    We just don't get the papal coverage that you do over there.