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December 28, 2020

Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another tamale, our dear friends Mario and Petra, surprised us with our very own stash of Mexican tamales lovingly made by Petra. Made with ground corn, the “red” tamales were stuffed with shredded pork, and the “green” tamales were filled with Petra’s meatless mix of tomatoes, onions, green jalapeno chiles and a special Monterey Jack cheese. After steaming the tamales, they slid out of the corn husk wrappers onto my plate. Gorgeous!

But as holiday traditions have been nixed by the pandemic, so has the communal Christmas tradition of Mexican families getting together to make labor-intensive tamales assembly line-style. But Petra did not let the pandemic stop her from bringing happiness to her family.

For those who don’t make their own, though, there’s the other group activity -- standing in long tamale lines days before Christmas to purchase dozens upon dozens of this Holy Grail hot out of the steamers. I call it the badge of honor.

A week before, Louie made the trek to Maria’s Bakery in El Monte, 20 minutes away. The doors don’t open until 5:00 a.m., but lines start forming as early as 3:00 a.m. For years Louie has jumped out of bed hours before the sun has risen to get in line. He layers up for the long wait in the cold – an ordeal he doesn’t mind because he has a great time hanging out with other die-hard tamale lovers. But in the year of Covid, it took much longer to order. Everyone stood six feet apart and one person at a time was allowed inside.

And what did Louie do when he returned home with the tamales? He opened a bag, still hot to the touch, to savor a tamale at its best – fresh out of the pot.

And as I finish writing this entry, I can’t help mentioning the pouring rain outside. We have had a pretty dry winter. Until last night. Non-stop rolling thunder, intense lightning, and downpours woke me from my sleep at midnight. I got up and walked to the kitchen and saw Jacqueline standing at the window. Within seconds a freaky, but fantastic flash of lightning crossed the length of the window. But our window doesn’t have a view of the sky. It faces the trunk of a tall oak tree. How was it possible for lightning to appear so close? Could it have reflected off the clouds?

Then Jacqueline told me this morning that she had stood on the front porch last night to watch the full affect outside. It was perfect timing she said, “I was watching the last episode of Game of Thrones.”

The year 2020 will be remembered to the end.

This is your country, and it’s up to you to save it.” – English translation of a saying in Taiwan

Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives

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