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.