A Christmas Carol
My father was one of seven kids from Kansas. During the Great Depression, he got married and the next day took the freights West. There he eventually joined the Coast Guard and at the end of WW II ended up in Newport Beach. He did well in real estate and luckier yet, did not lose it back during one of the many down cycles.
He and Mom lived full and good lives, and their kids, we four plus one foster brother, still are going strong. Our foster brother, Gary, came from a broken family and joined us at the age of 16.
At Christmas, I no longer am sure who my whole family is. Yes, I know it includes my brothers and sisters and their offspring and their offspring too. But it is more than that. My former wife lives near me in Laguna and our children navigate between us in a manner that works for all concerned. During holidays it can be tricky, but we all accommodate one another and go to the same music recitals together.
In time, I came to love another woman, Kim, who lives near me. She has her own two small children by adoption and they somehow are family too, and my own children—older—play patiently with them and show them tricks.
There is more. I have an extended family. It includes the Latino family who came to live with my wife and me when we had baby Number Two, Gabrielle, and who stayed. There are four of them. I sent their daughter, Margarita Aguilar, to Sage Hill High School, which I helped found, and because her last name starts with “A”, she became the very first graduate of that school. She is married now, much to our surprise, to a fine young man from Morocco, who she brings over for visits and who has his own extended family.
There is more. Six years ago, I began mentoring a 17-year-old black kid, Vince, whose own father was dead. He would come to me with his troubles and I would walk with him, listening and commenting. I thought I could help and he seemed to have great potential. Yet several months ago, I found out he had been lying to me for years. He did not go to the college he said he was; he did not do this or that or the other thing. This came to a head a month ago when he defiantly accused me of creating so many high expectations he had to lie. Jesus.
My daughters now are in college—one in London and one in Portland— and are coming home for Christmas. The one in London, Elizabeth, is defiant too; she wants to make her mark with or without whatever education I consider precious. Daughter Number Two, Gabrielle, is seemingly laid back and the family artist, yet intensely ambitious. And my son, Harrison, 16, seems so grown-up I sometimes believe he should be giving the advice.
I think we probably will end up at my brother Walkie’s house for a Christmas celebration, all of us, all of the above. There are too many of us to keep count and too many issues too unresolved to bear grudges and because we, all of us, we are family. Even Vince, who called three nights ago in a veil of his own type of tears. As they say, this is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.
Laguna Beach resident Michael Ray is a real estate entrepreneur.